Each semester, the MassArt Ciné Culture (MACC) Screening Series brings to campus a diverse group of filmmakers and moving image artists for screenings, panel discussions, master classes, and performances.
Most Ciné Culture cinematheque screenings are held in MassArt’s Design and Media (DMC) Center Lecture Hall on Thursday evenings. Cinematheque screenings are now open to the MassArt community and the larger public, and are generally followed by discussions / Q+A sessions with the visiting filmmakers, in person or via Zoom livestream in the Lecture Hall.
The Fall 2023 installment of the Ciné Culture series is programmed and moderated by MassArt Film/Video Professor and Department Chair Tammy Dudman. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ciné Culture series was established in 2018 by filmmaker and former MassArt Film/Video department professor Soon-Mi Yoo, and is made possible witht the support of MassArt’s Office of Academic Affairs.
A Note from Lynne
The only moment I have felt any hope since the intense conflict in Palestine/ Israel reignited in October whatsoever was during the screening of my film “States of UnBelonging” at the Ciné Culture screening at Mass College of Art on the exact day that the national Free Palestine student walk-out was called. The day felt both charged and appropriate, a day in which many people were apprehensive about coming together to talk about the violence and despair we were in and continue to witness in the Middle East. Yes, we were nervous but we decided to go forward in showing “States of UnBelonging”, a 2005 film that still sadly speaks to the incredible tensions in that part of the world.
To my, and I think our, surprise and relief, the conversation was deeply felt by what seemed like all 25 (I am guessing the number) of the students, faculty and members of the public. Here are a few reasons that I think things worked out so well:
I think that having invited and encouraged the Muslim students in the class to vocalize their own thoughts and experiences in a formal way gave them acknowledgement and stature from the very beginning.
Asking everyone to speak in an ordered and thoughtful way meant that people listened carefully and knew when they would be speaking based on the configuration of the seating. Once we did that, no one needed to speak up to be heard, and everyone added their own nuanced feelings.
In this way, those students who have not yet begun to engage with the current global turmoil seemed to feel more curious, more engaged, and more prone to carving out their own opinions and feelings in the future.
There was a sense that every thought mattered, whether you were an expert or a newcomer to the discussion.
I felt nourished by the experience of spending that evening in the Mass Art community. The students are so lucky to have the amazing faculty and staff support, caring about them in a profound and deeply meaningful way. As one of the Muslim students said that evening, he felt heard, and that is simply because people on that campus are listening and encouraging others to do the same.
Experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs donates films to Hunter College Libraries
Feminist, artist, experimental documentary filmmaker, and poet Lynne Sachs’ donation of DVDs to Hunter College Libraries completes the Libraries’ collection of Sachs’ films on DVD. The films are available for CUNY students, staff, and faculty to borrow. Scroll down to see the list.
I asked Lynne about her teaching experience at Hunter College. Here is her reply:
“I started at Hunter in September 2001, and of course you know what happened that month. My relationship to the school has been consistent and meaningful for all of these years. In that first semester, I witnessed the way that the school became a real home and place of solace for the students, especially the international ones. Every class was like a therapy session, blending the emotional and intellectual into a single impactful experience (or at least that’s how it is in my memory). I was also at Hunter for the very first conversations around their IMA Grad program which has turned into a deeply respected and supportive community.”
Lynne taught the follwing classes:
Graduate courses in the Integrated Media Arts MFA program: The Accident that Pricks: Family and Photography Day Residue: Hybrid Media and Performance Film as a Collaborative Art Frames and Stanzas: Film and Poetry Non Fiction Graduate Seminar
Undergraduate Courses: Introduction to Film and Media Developing the Documentary Sound for Film and Video Film 1
Lynne Sachs’ films have been featured in a number of retrospectives, including one at The Museum of Moving Image, Lynne Sachs: Between Thought and Expression, organized by assistant curator Edo Choi. In a review of the retrospective, Kat Sachs (no relation), highlights themes of Sachs’ work and the personal and experimental approach the filmmaker takes to communicate through the medium of film.
“A Reality Between Words and Images: Films by Lynne Sachs,” a program screening in October, 2022 at e-flux Screening Room featured six of the filmmaker’s works. In a review of the program on Screenslate.com, the author discusses the filmmaker’s exploration of the subjects.
A retrospective of Lynne Sachs’ work was included in the Ghosts and Apparitions section of the virtual Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2020. Reviews of the retrospective appeared on Hyperallergic and ubiquarian. In an interview in Modern Times Review, the filmmaker discusses her films in the Sheffiled Doc/Fest. Two of the films in the Festival, The Washing Society (co-directed with playwright Lizzie Oleskar) and Your Day is My Night, investigate the experiences of immigrants working in service jobs, a timely subject during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A two-part interview with the experimental filmmaker is available on A Masters Edition episode of Docs in Orbit. “In part one of the conversation, Lynne Sachs discusses how feminist film theory has shaped her work and her approach to experimental filmmaking. We also discuss her collaborative process in her films, including her short documentary film A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES (for Barbara Hammer). Part two discusses her latest feature-length documentary film, FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO (2020).”
Films by Lynne Sachs available at Hunter College Libraries
Film about a father who Sachs, Lynne, film director, director of photography, narrator, on-screen participant.; Sachs, Ira, Sr., interviewee, on-screen participant.; Sachs, Ira, cinematographer, on-screen participant.; Shapass, Rebecca, editor of moving image work.; Vitiello, Stephen, composer (expression); Allen, Kevin T., remix artist.; Cinema Guild, publisher. 2021?
The washing society Olesker, Lizzie, filmmaker.; Sachs, Lynne, filmmaker.; Hanley, Sean (Film producer), director of photography.; Katz, Amanda, editor of moving image work.; Vitiello, Stephen, composer (expression); Holloway, Jasmine, actor.; Santa, Veraalba, actor.; Ching, Valdes-Aran, actor.; Torn, Tony, actor.; Canyon Cinema Foundation (Firm), film distributor. 2019
Tip of my tongue Katz, Amanda.; Sachs, Lynne, film director, author, participant.; Cinema Guild, film distributor. 2018
Your day is my night= 你的白天是我的黑夜 / Argot Pictures ; a film by Lynne Sachs ; produced by Lynne Sachs and Sean Hanley ; directed by Lynne Sachs. ; Your day is my night = Ni de bai tian shi wo de hei ye Argot Pictures (Firm), film production company.; Cinema Guild, publisher.; Sachs, Lynne, film director, film producer, screenwriter.; Robles, Rojo, screenwriter.; Hanley, Seán, film producer, editor of moving image work, director of photography.; Cao, Yi Chan, performer, interviewee (expression); Chan, Linda, performer, interviewee (expression); Che, Chung Qing, performer, interviewee (expression); Ho, Ellen, performer, interviewee (expression); Huang, Yun Xiu, performer, interviewee (expression); Lee, Sheut Hing, performer, interviewee (expression); Santa, Veraalba, performer, interviewee (expression); Tsui, Kam Yin, performer, interviewee (expression); Mass, Ethan, editor of moving image work.; Vitiello, Stephen, composer (expression) 2013
The last happy day : with 4 short films Sachs, Lynne. film director.; Mass, Ethan, director of photography.; Lenard, Hansgerd. interviewee (expression); Lenard, Andrietta. interviewee (expression); Gerendas, Israel John. actor; Moss, Donald. actor; Fagen, Lucas. actor; Reade, Isabel. actor; Street-Sachs, Maya. actor; Street-Sachs, Noa. actor 2011
Spend the weekend with Tender Non-Fictions, a program of films by experimental feminist filmmaker Lynne Sachs, who has been prolifically creating works for cinema for four decades. Her non-fiction films, represented here in 11 works of varying lengths, powerfully evoke the curiosity and richness of a life lived through art.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Sachs defies easy classification. Instead, her work is best understood collectively as a sprawling adventure playground, stretching across continents and blending influences across the borders of distinct art forms.
From 1984 to 2019, Lynne Sachs shot film of her father, a bon vivant and pioneering businessman. This documentary is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.
In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had an artist residency in a shack without running water or electricity. While there, she shot film, recorded sounds and kept a journal. In 2018, she gave all of her images, sounds and writing from the residency to Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material.
In 1994, two American sisters – a filmmaker and a writer – travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. Together, they attempt to make a candid cinema portrait of the country they witness. Their conversations with Vietnamese strangers and friends reveal to them the flip side of a shared history.
Delving into the religious and political conflicts of the Middle East is never goiny to be easy, but Lynne Sachs spends three years making an effort. She attempts to make a portrait of Israeli filmmaker Revital Ohayon, a mother and peace activist who was killed near the West Bank.
Available on DAFilms: https://americas.dafilms.com/director/7984-lynne-sachs Drawn and Quartered The House of Science: a museum of false facts Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam States of UnBelonging Same Stream Twice Your Day is My Night And Then We Marched Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor The Washing Society A Month of Single Frames Film About a Father Who
Available on Fandor:https://www.fandor.com/category-movie/297/lynne-sachs/ Still Life With Woman and Four Objects Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning The Washing Society The House of Science: a museum of false facts Investigation of a Flame Noa, Noa The Small Ones Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam Atalanta: 32 Years Later States of UnBelonging A Biography of Lilith The Task of the Translator Sound of a Shadow The Last Happy Day Georgic for a Forgotten Planet Wind in Our Hair Drawn and Quartered Your Day is My Night Widow Work Tornado Same Stream Twice
Available on Ovid:https://www.ovid.tv/lynne-sachs A Biography of Lillith Investigation of a Flame The Last Happy Day Sermons and Sacred Pictures Starfish Aorta Colossus States of Unbelonging Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam Your Day is My Night Tip of My Tongue And Then We Marched A Year of Notes and Numbers
On this twenty-second episode of OLL OBOUT OVID!, on this ONE HUNDREDTH episode of THE SCREEN’S MARGINS, Witney and B have a very special guest! Here to talk with them about her films, which are being showcased on Ovid.tv, is none other than experimental documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs! Among the films discussed in the first half of their chat are SERMONS AND SACRED PICTURES (1989), WHICH WAY IS EAST: NOTEBOOKS FROM VIETNAM (1994), STATES OF UNBELONGING (2005) and YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT (2013), which are currently on Ovid. The second half of the conversation will be released on February 9th, when five more of Lynne Sachs’ films are released to the service. We hope you enjoy, and thank you for your time!
About Lynne Sachs Lynne Sachs makes films, installations, performances and web projects that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together poetry, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with each and every new project. Between 1994 and 2009, her five essay films took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany — sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions.
Recently, after 25 years of making experimental documentaries, Lynne learned something that turned all her ideas about filmmaking upside down. While working on Your Day is My Night in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York City, she came to see that every time she asked a person to talk in front of her camera, they were performing for her rather than revealing something completely honest about their lives. The very process of recording guaranteed that some aspect of the project would be artificial. She decided she had to think of a way to change that, so she invited her subjects to work with her to make the film, to become her collaborators. For Lynne, this change in her process has moved her toward a new type of filmmaking, one that not only explores the experiences of her subjects, but also invites them to participate in the construction of a film about their lives.
Her films have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, Toronto’s Images Festival and Los Angeles’ REDCAT Theatre as well as a five-film retrospective at the Buenos Aires Film Festival. The San Francisco Cinematheque recently published a monograph with four original essays in conjunction with a full retrospective of Lynne’s work. In 2014, Lynne received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Film and Video.
About Ovid With the help of an unprecedented collaborative effort by eight of the most noteworthy, independent film distribution companies in the U.S., Docuseek, LLC launched an innovative, new, subscription video-on-demand service, OVID.tv.
OVID.tv will provide North American viewers with access to thousands of documentaries, independent films, and notable works of international cinema, largely unavailable on any other platform.
OVID’s initial offerings fall into roughly three categories: a) powerful films addressing urgent political and social issues, such as climate change, and economic justice; b) in-depth selections of creative documentaries by world-famous directors; and c) cutting-edge arthouse feature and genre films by contemporary directors as well as established masters. And new films in all three areas will be added to the OVID collection every two weeks.
OVID.tv is an initiative of Docuseek, LLC, which operates Docuseek, a streaming service for colleges and universities which was established in 2012, streaming a library of over 1600 titles.
The eight founding content partners are:
BULLFROG FILMS The leading U.S. publisher of independently produced documentaries on environmental and related social justice issues, in business for more than 45 years, it currently distributes over 750 titles.
THE DGENERATE FILMS COLLECTION dGenerate Films distributes contemporary independent film from mainland China to audiences worldwide. They are dedicated to procuring and promoting visionary content, fueled by transformative social change and digital innovation.
DISTRIB FILMS US An independent distributor of international feature films, Distrib Films US is known for its strong collection of French and Italian fiction feature films.
FIRST RUN FEATURES Founded in 1979 by a group of filmmakers to advance the distribution of independent film, First Run has been honored with a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art for its significant contributions.
GRASSHOPPER FILM A distribution company founded in 2015 by Ryan Krivoshey, dedicated to the release of independent, foreign, and documentary film.
ICARUS FILMS A leading distributor of documentary films in North America, with a collection exceeding 1000 titles. It recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
KIMSTIM A distribution company dedicated to the release of exceptional independent, foreign, and documentary film.
WOMEN MAKE MOVIES Women Make Movies (WMM), a non-profit feminist social enterprise based in New York, is the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women.
Welcome to the 99th and final podcast from THE SCREEN’S MARGINS of the year! What a year it’s been, and what better way to round out 2021 than by…okay there’s nothing special, it’s just B Peterson and Witney Seibold talking good film that’s available on Ovid.tv, aka the premise of OLL OBOUT OVID! We talk Alain Renais’ 1956 tribute to libraries, Madeline Anderson’s documentation of Civil Rights activism and activists, Lynne Sachs’ experimental explorations of history, language and the documentary form itself, Jill Li’s chronicling of a democratic movement in Southern China, and more besides! We hope you enjoy, and thank you for your time.
Cryptofiction is excited to present five films by Lynne Sachs including: “Which Way is East” (1994); “Investigation of a Flame” (2001); “States of UnBelonging” (2005); “Your Day is My Night” (2013); and “Epistolary: Letter to Jean Vigo” (2021).
Lynne discovered her love of filmmaking while living and studying in San Francisco where she worked closely with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, and Trihn T. Min-ha. During this time, she produced her early, experimental works on celluloid which took a feminist approach to the creation of images and writing— a commitment which has grounded her body of work ever since.
From essay films to hybrid docs to diaristic shorts, Sachs has produced 40 films as well as numerous projects for web, installation, and performance. She has tackled topics near and far, often addressing directly the challenge of translation — from one language to another or from spoken work to image. These tensions were investigated most explicitly between 1994 and 2006, when Lynne produced five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany—sites affected by international war–where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions.
Over her career, Sachs has been awarded support from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation. Her films have screened at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, the Walker and the Getty, and at festivals including New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, Punto de Vista, DocAviv, and DocLisboa. Retrospectives of her work have been presented at the Museum of the Moving Image, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana, and China Women’s Film Festival. Her 2019 film “A Month of Single Frames” won the Grand Prize at Oberhausen Festival of Short Films in 2020. In 2021, both the Edison Film Festival and the Prismatic Ground Film Festival at the Maysles Documentary Center awarded Lynne for her body of work in the experimental and documentary fields.
Cryptofiction: Interview with Lynne Sachs
Cryptofiction is an international distribution and production platform based in London, UK.
With over 25 years of combined experience as filmmakers and over a decade as distributors, our team is devoted to bring the attention and viewership deserved by the remarkable and courageous titles that we represent. In addition to distribution services, we offer a wide range of production support for rising and established moving-image makers.
We are dedicated to supporting and representing independent cinema from around the world.
Our top priority is to foster excellence amongst an intergenerational community of visionaries and to help younger talent meet and rise in conjunction with established filmmakers. Our on-demand platform is a virtual extension of our distribution agenda. Dedicated to supporting and promoting excellent independent cinema from around the globe, we have carefully curated an exciting set of programs consisting of a mix of young and established filmmakers. As part of our ongoing programming, we offer a new range of films and thematics every 3 months. Unlike similar commercial platforms, we do not and will not operate on a subscription basis. Our viewers are encouraged to browse and watch their desired programs whenever they wish. We are hoping this platform would become a viable means to generate passive income for the remarkable artists and filmmakers that we represent.
In addition to our on-demand services, we run an annual virtual film festival also dedicated to global intergenerational discourses on relevant thematics and contemporary issues. Supplementing these platforms are a series of one-off events and surprise programmings that bring timely attention to the work of filmmakers as unique socio-political struggles arise.
Mania Akbari (b. Tehran, 1974) is an internationally acclaimed artist and filmmaker. Her provocative, revolutionary and radical films were recently the subject of retrospectives at the BFI, Lon- don (2013), the DFI, Denmark (2014), Oldenburg International Film Festival, Germany (2014), Cyprus Film Festival (2014) and Nottingham Contemporary UK (2018). Her films have screened at festivals around the world and have received numerous awards including German Independence Honorary Award, Oldenberg (2014), Best Film, Digital Section, Venice Film Festival (2004), Nantes Special Public Award Best Film (2007) and Best Director and Best film at Kerala Film Festival (2007), Best Film and Best Actress, Barcelona Film Festival (2007). Akbari was exiled from Iran and currently lives and works in London, a theme addressed in ‘Life May Be’ (2014), co-directed with Mark Cousins. This film was released at Karlovy Vary Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2014) and Asia Pacific Film Festival (2014). Akbari’s latest film ‘A Moon For My Father’, made in collaboration with British artist Douglas White, premiered at CPH:DOX where it won the NEW:VISION Award 2019. The film also received a FIPRESCI International Crit- ics Award at the Flying Broom Festival, Ankara.
http://www.kinorebelde.com/lynne-sachs-complete-filmography/ Kino Rebelde has created a retrospective that traces a delicate line connecting intimacy, power relations, violence, memory, migration, desire, love, and war in Lynne’s films. By looking at each of these works, we can see a director facing her own fears and contradictions, as well as her sense of friendship and motherhood. Moving from idea to emotion and back again, our retrospective takes us on a journey through Sachs’ life as a filmmaker, beginning in 1986 and moving all the way to the present.
With the intention of allowing her work to cross boundaries, to interpret and to inquire into her distinctive mode of engaging with the camera as an apparatus for expression, we are delighted to present 37 films that comprise the complete filmmography, so far, of Lynne Sachs as visual artist and filmmaker. Regardless of the passage of time, these works continue to be extremely contemporary, coherent and radical in their artistic conception.
About Kino Rebelde
Kino Rebelde is a Sales and Festival Distribution Agency created by María Vera in early 2017. Its exclusively dedicated to promotion of non-fiction cinema, hybrid narratives and experimental.
Based on the creative distribution of few titles by year, Kino Rebelde established itself as a “boutique agency”, working on a specialized strategy for each film, within its own characteristics, market potential, niches and formal and alternative windows.
This company supports short, medium and long feature films, from any country, with linear or non-linear narratives. They can be in development or WIP, preferably in the editing stage.
The focus: author point of view, pulse of stories, chaos, risk, more questions, less answers, aesthetic and politic transgression, empathy, identities, desires and memory.
Kino Rebelde was born in Madrid, but as its films, this is a nomadic project. In the last years María has been living in Lisbon, Belgrade and Hanoi and she’ll keep moving around.
About María Vera
Festival Distributor and Sales Agent born in Argentina. Founder of Kino Rebelde, a company focused on creative distribution of non-fiction, experimental and hybrid narratives.
Her films have been selected and awarded in festivals as Berlinale, IFFR Rotterdam, IDFA, Visions Du Réel, New York FF, Hot Docs, Jeonju IFF, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Sarajevo FF, Doclisboa and Viennale, among others.
María has a background as producer of socio-political and human rights contents as well as a film curator.Envelope
Lynne Sachs (1961) is an American filmmaker and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. Her moving image work ranges from documentaries, to essay films, to experimental shorts, to hybrid live performances.
Working from a feminist perspective, Lynne weaves together social criticism with personal subjectivity. Her films embrace a radical use of archives, performance and intricate sound work. Between 2013 and 2020, she collaborated with renowned musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello on five films.
Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in each new project.
Between 1994 and 2009, Lynne directed five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany – sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own perception.
Over the course of her career, she has worked closely with film artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Barbara Hammer, Chris Marker, Gunvor Nelson, and Trinh T. Min-ha.
A conversation with the US filmmaker Lynne Sachs about the importance of the autobiographical in her films
From the beginning of your career as an artist and filmmaker you were in one way or another present in your films: as a body, as a voice, or with certain‚ chapters’ of your own (family) history. Why was this personal or autobiographical approach important to you, why is it still relevant?
Presence in a film comes in a variety of forms. When I used to cut the actual film footage with a guillotine splicer, I felt that my finger prints on the celluloid were the beginning of my engagement with both the celluloid material and the moment that it signified through the images I had collected with my camera. Of course, that haptic connection has now disappeared with the intervention of the digital. Still, in our current time, every image or sound that you collect, be it your own or a found one, is a document of a thought. During the first decade of my filmmaking practice, almost every film I made included some image of my own body, sometimes clothed, sometimes not. It almost became a joke in my family. ”Oh, there she is again!” But, for me, this was a way to subvert the subject/object paradigm of the camera. I needed to flow back and forth, as if through the mechanism of the lens itself. The presence of my body paralleled the presence of my words, whether experienced aurally as voice-over or on the screen through my hand-written gesture. Today, we all recognize the inundation of media in our lives. With the sensation of feeling this material as either an assault or caress (depending on your mood as you scroll through your cell phone just before going to sleep at night), each of us must find a way to register awareness and critique.
Although you choose a personal approach, you represent yourself (and others) more in a fragmented way than as ‚authentic’ characters. What is the idea behind this?
Seeing my work through your eyes is a revelation, actually. I would not have articulated my approach this way, and yet I completely agree with your assessment. I have never identified with storytelling and, in turn, the effort to create a character. This homage to narrative tradition I find reductive and limiting, in the same way that I would find writing a conventional feature film script to be deeply restrictive. One of the words I despise most in today’s parlance is the word “template”. When I discovered that there are templates for writing feature film screenplays, I felt like weeping. When one uses the word “personal” to describe their work, I think they are claiming ownership for all aspects of the creative process, from the structure to the content. Yes, I do feel an affinity for a more fragmented depiction of another person because I want to make clear that my ability to understand is determined by my point of view. These fissures give someone watching the film the possibility of providing the glue, the connections, the linkages that always circle back to their own life experiences.
How do you deal with the double position of being the author and the figure of your films at the same time?
Sometimes I make films that are very clearly an outgrowth of my own identity as a white Jewish woman born in the United States in 1961. I can’t change any of that and I can’t simply hide one part and flaunt another. Other times, I make films that don’t make those ingredients so apparent, even though they are always there. Even when my voice, my writing or my body are not there, we all know that my position is influencing every decision I make, how person is framed, how a sound is heard, which music is included, which images are given the space to thrive and which are punished for their very existence.
When speaking about her autifictional novel The Cost of Living, the British writer Deborah Levy characterized her literary (female) subject as a person who is not herself, but who is ‚close’ to her. Who are you in your films?
Deborah Levy’s sense of her own presence in her work is very intriguing, even candid. This reminds of a cultural theory observation by filmmaker, poet and teacher Trinh T. Minh-ha in her essay “Speaking Nearby” (1992) which I quote here:
“There is not much, in the kind of education we receive here in the West, that emphasizes or even recognizes the importance of constantly having contact with what is actually within ourselves, or of understanding a structure from within ourselves. The tendency is always to relate to a situation or to an object as if it is only outside of oneself. Whereas elsewhere, in Vietnam, or in other Asian and African cultures for example, one often learns to “know the world inwardly,” so that the deeper we go into ourselves, the wider we go into society.”
Trinh was a professor of mine in graduate school. I am convinced that her practice of transposing her understanding of herself to her earnest, but always recognizably incomplete, effort to project on others had an enormous impact on my work.
In your films about family members like your father in Film About a Father Who (2020) or The Last Happy Day (2009), which tells of a distant cousin of yours, you sometimes seem to dissolve as the authorial voice, or to put it another way, you pass on your voice – for example to your siblings or children. Is this also a form of giving up some of the power that one has as a narrative authority?
Hmmmm. This makes me think very hard about my process. That’s what a good interview does. Thank you for giving me this chance to be introspective. On one level, I am very committed to a non-hierarchical way of working, one that does not privilege my perspective over another person’s. On another level, perhaps I am ashamed of expressing my thoughts or feelings in a singular voice so I depend on others to prop me up. Both of these films are part of a triptych of films, the third of which is States of UnBelonging (2005). The intention with this three-part endeavor was to grapple with the ways we can and cannot understand another human being. States of UnBelonging looks at a woman in Israel-Palestine who was total stranger to me. The Last Happy Day is a fragmented portrait of a distance relative, so one degree closer, in a way, to me. Film About a Father Who is, obviously, about my dad. That was supposed to be the easiest, and ultimately it was the most difficult. Closeness and intimacy somehow became an obstacle. I end up relying on others to give me clarity.
In A Month of Single Frames, your film with images, sounds and notes by the now deceased experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, I was very taken with your expanding the First Person Singular. What gave you the idea of this grammatical shift?
Oh, I am thrilled to be talking about voice, language and grammar all in one question. In A Month of Single Frames I decided that I would use the expanded Second Person that includes an ambiguous “you”. It could be the “you” that we usually find in a correspondence with another person. Or, it could be the “you” that embraces all of us in one sweeping address. When I write the word you, the viewer might think I am talking to Barbara Hammer, who is no longer alive but through cinema can be included in this dialogue. Or, the viewer may feel that I am addressing them. It’s kind of wonderfully unclear, which might be an accident or might be intentional. I will never tell.
This is how I see you. This is how you see yourself.
You are here. I am here with you.
This place is still this place. This place is no longer this place. It must be different.
You are alone. I am here with you in this film. There are others here with us. We are all together.
Time less yours mine
(On Screen text by Lynne Sachs from A Month of Single Frames)
For some time, personal or autobiographical narratives are strongly present in documentary filmmaking. How would you explain the strong interest in the personal in these times?
My interpretation of this current enthusiasm for the personal narrative has to do with our interest in knowing who is speaking to us. So much media in our lives is delivered to us without this clarity of positionality. We are forced to discern and to guess how who someone is affects what they are saying to us. Maybe it is refreshing to have this kind of transparency.