Tag Archives: The Last Happy Day

Women & Hollywood: “Lynne Sachs Film Series Coming to Criterion Channel, “Film About a Father Who” to Make Streaming Premiere”

Women and Hollywood
Sept. 20, 2021. 
by Laura Berger
https://womenandhollywood.com/lynn-sachs-film-series-coming-to-criterion-channel-film-about-a-father-who-to-make-streaming-premiere/

Following career retrospectives at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020 and the Museum of the Moving Image in 2021, Lynne Sachs is being paid tribute to by the Criterion Channel. A press release announced that her films will join the channel next month along with a newly recorded interview with the filmmaker, exploring her works. Her latest feature, “Film About a Father Who,” a documentary about her own father, will be making its exclusive streaming premiere on the channel on October 13.

“The Criterion Channel is thrilled to present the exclusive streaming premiere of Lynne Sachs’ ‘Film About a Father Who’ this October. This raw and deeply personal excavation of the filmmaker’s complex family history will be accompanied by a number of Sachs’ experimental shorts, many of which also focus on exploring familial dynamics and family histories” said Penelope Bartlett, Director of Programming at the Criterion Channel.

Shot over a period of 35 years, “Film About a Father Who” is a portrait of Sachs’ businessman father, who had nine children with five women. The film is described as “her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.”

“Over the course of my 30-year career in the film industry, it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to move from seeing myself as a film student to a director,” Sachs wrote in a 2020 guest post for Women and Hollywood exploring the impact that artistic collaboration has had on her work. “As director, I acknowledge my dedication to my practice, the fact that I have made over 30 films ranging from three to 83 minutes long, the awards I’ve received, and the money I’ve been paid to do my job.”

Check out programming information about the film series below.

The Criterion Channel’s Directed by Lynne Sachs series programming includes:

Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 13:

FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO (2020)
Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.

Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 1:

E•PIS•TO•LAR•Y: LETTER TO JEAN VIGO (2021)
In a cinema letter to French director Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs ponders the delicate resonances of his 1933 classic Zero for Conduct in which a group of school boys wages an anarchist rebellion against their authoritarian teachers.

MAYA AT 24 (2021)
Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.

GIRL IS PRESENCE (2020)
During the 2020 global pandemic, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and her daughter Noa collaborated with Anne Lesley Selcer to create Girl is Presence. Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, the ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.

THE WASHING SOCIETY (2018)
Collaborating together for the first time, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker observe the disappearing public space of the neighborhood laundromat and the continual, intimate labor that happens there. With a title inspired by the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses, The Washing Society investigates the intersection of history, underpaid work, immigration, and the sheer math of doing laundry.

WIND IN OUR HAIR (2010)
Inspired by the stories of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, yet blended with the realities of contemporary Argentina, Wind in Our Hair is an experimental narrative about four girls discovering themselves through a fascination with the trains that pass by their house. A story of early-teen anticipation and disappointment, Wind in Our Hair is circumscribed by a period of profound Argentine political and social unrest.

THE LAST HAPPY DAY (2009)
During WWII, the US Army hired Sachs’ Hungarian cousin, Dr. Sandor Lenard, to reconstruct the bones of dead American soldiers. Sachs’ portrait of Lenard, who is best known for his translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin, resonates as an anti-war meditation composed of letters, abstracted war imagery, home movies of children, and interviews.

WHICH WAY IS EAST (1994)
When two American sisters travel north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, conversations with Vietnamese strangers and friends reveal to them the flip side of a shared history. Lynne and Dana Sachs’ travel diary of their trip to Vietnam is a collection of tourism, city life, culture clash, and historic inquiry that’s put together with the warmth of a quilt.

Deadline Exclusive: “Raw And Deeply Personal”: Octet Of Lynne Sachs Documentaries Coming to Criterion Channel

By Matthew Carey
August 13, 2021 5:43pm
https://deadline.com/2021/08/criterion-channel-director-lynne-sachs-streaming-debut-news-1234814823/

EXCLUSIVE: A collection of documentaries from acclaimed filmmaker Lynne Sachs is coming to the Criterion Channel in October. 

The streaming platform will showcase seven Sachs films beginning October 1, ranging from the 1994 short Which Way Is East to her most recent work, including E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo, an exploration of the French director’s classic 1933 film Zero for Conduct (Zéro de Conduite). 

On October 13, the Criterion Channel will exclusively stream her latest feature documentary, Film About a Father Who, which examines Sachs’ relationship with her unorthodox father, Ira Sachs Sr, whose children include Lynne and fellow filmmaker Ira Sachs Jr.

Film About a Father Who is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings,” the director has written. “With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.”

RELATED STORY

Cinema Guild Acquires Lynne Sachs’ Slamdance Docu ‘Film About A Father Who’

Penelope Bartlett, director of programming at the Criterion Channel, commented, “The Criterion Channel is thrilled to present the exclusive streaming premiere of Lynne Sachs’ Film About a Father Who this October. This raw and deeply personal excavation of the filmmaker’s complex family history will be accompanied by a number of Sachs’ experimental shorts, many of which also focus on exploring familial dynamics and family histories.”

Sachs’ work was the subject of a career retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image this year and at Sheffield Doc/Fest last year. Sachs has been the recipient of support from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation.

“Since the 1980s, Lynne Sachs has created cinematic works that defy genre through the use of hybrid forms and cross-disciplinary collaboration, incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, documentary and poetry,” according to the director’s website. “Her highly self-reflexive films explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. With each project, Lynne investigates the implicit connection between the body, the camera, and the materiality of film itself.”

The Criterion Channel programming will include a newly-recorded interview with Sachs discussing her work. Complete details on the Sachs’ documentaries coming to the platform: 

Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 13:

FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO (2020)
Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.

Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 1:
E•PIS•TO•LAR•Y: LETTER TO JEAN VIGO (2021)

In a cinema letter to French director Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs ponders the delicate resonances of his 1933 classic Zero for Conduct in which a group of school boys wages an anarchist rebellion against their authoritarian teachers.

MAYA AT 24 (2021)
Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.

GIRL IS PRESENCE (2020)
During the 2020 global pandemic, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and her daughter Noa collaborated with Anne Lesley Selcer to create Girl is Presence. Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, the ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.

THE WASHING SOCIETY (2018)
Collaborating together for the first time, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker observe the disappearing public space of the neighborhood laundromat and the continual, intimate labor that happens there.  With a title inspired by the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses, The Washing Society investigates the intersection of history, underpaid work, immigration, and the sheer math of doing laundry.

WIND IN OUR HAIR  (2010)
Inspired by the stories of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, yet blended with the realities of contemporary Argentina, Wind in Our Hair is an experimental narrative about four girls discovering themselves through a fascination with the trains that pass by their house. A story of early-teen anticipation and disappointment, Wind in Our Hair is circumscribed by a period of profound Argentine political and social unrest.

THE LAST HAPPY DAY (2009)
During WWII, the US Army hired Sachs’ Hungarian cousin, Dr. Sandor Lenard, to reconstruct the bones of dead American soldiers. Sachs’ portrait of Lenard, who is best known for his translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin, resonates as an anti-war meditation composed of letters, abstracted war imagery, home movies of children, and interviews.

WHICH WAY IS EAST (1994)
When two American sisters travel north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, conversations with Vietnamese strangers and friends reveal to them the flip side of a shared history. Lynne and Dana Sachs’ travel diary of their trip to Vietnam is a collection of tourism, city life, culture clash, and historic inquiry that’s put together with the warmth of a quilt.

Kino Rebelde to Represent Lynne Sachs’ Catalogue Internationally

http://www.kinorebelde.com/kino2020/lynne-sachs-retrospective/

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

vera@kinorebelde.com


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.

Retrospective – “Lynne Sachs: Between Thought and Expression” curated by Edo Choi, Asst. Curator, Museum of the Moving Image

https://canyoncinema.com/2021/02/17/lynne-sachs-between-thought-and-expression-five-program-retrospective-now-available-for-rent/

“For more than thirty years, artist Lynne Sachs has constructed short, bold mid-length, and feature films incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, and observational documentary. Her highly self-reflexive films have variously explored the relations between the body, camera, and the materiality of film itself; histories of personal, social, and political trauma; marginalized communities and their labor; and her own family life, slipping seamlessly between modes, from documentary essays to diaristic shorts.” (Edo Choi, Assistant Curator of Film, Museum of the Moving Image)

This five-part retrospective offers a career-ranging survey of Sachs’s work and includes new HD transfers of Still Life With Woman and Four Objects, Drawn and QuarteredThe House of Science: a museum of false facts, and Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam.

Note: The following programs can be rented individually or as a package. A new video interview and between Lynne Sachs and series curator Edo Choi is also available as part of the rental fee.

For rental and pricing information, please contact: info@canyoncinema.com

All films are directed by Lynne Sachs.
Program notes by Edo Choi.


Lynne Sachs in Conversation with Edo Choi, Assistant Curator at the Museum of the Moving Image



Program 1: Early Dissections
In her first three films, Sachs performs an exuberant autopsy of the medium itself, reveling in the investigation of its formal possibilities and cultural implications: the disjunctive layering of visual and verbal phrases in Still Life with Woman and Four Objects; un-split regular 8mm film as a metaphorical body and site of intercourse in the optically printed Drawn and Quartered; the scopophilic and gendered intentions of the camera’s gaze in Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning. These experiments anticipate the range of the artist’s mature work, beginning with her first essayistic collage The House of Science: a museum of false facts. Itself an autopsy, this mid-length film exposes the anatomy of western rationalism as a framework for sexual subjugation via a finely stitched patchwork of sounds and images from artistic renderings to archival films, home movies to staged performances.

Still Life with Woman and Four Objects (1986, 4 mins.)  New HD transfer
Drawn and Quartered (1987, 4 mins.) – new HD transfer
Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning (1987, 9 mins.)
The House of Science: a museum of false facts (1991, 30 mins.) – new HD transfer



Program 2: Family Travels
One of Lynne Sachs’s most sheerly beautiful films, Which Way Is East is a simultaneously intoxicating and politically sobering diary of encounters with the sights, sounds, and people of Vietnam, as Sachs pays a visit to her sister Dana and the two set off north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. The film is paired here with a very different kind of family journey The Last Happy Day, recounting the life of Sachs’s distant cousin Sandor Lenard, a Jewish Hungarian doctor who survived the Second World War and was ultimately hired to reassemble the bones of dead American soldiers. Here Sachs journeys through time as opposed to space, as she assembles a typically colorful array of documentary and performative elements, including Sandor’s letters, a children’s performance, and highly abstracted war footage, to bring us closer to a man who bore witness to terrible things. This program also features The Last Happy Day’s brief predecessor, The Small Ones. Program running time: 73 mins.

Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam (1994, 33 mins.) – new HD transfer
The Small Ones (2007, 3 mins.)
The Last Happy Day (2009, 37 mins.)



Program 3: Time Passes
Twenty years unspool over nine short films: portraits of Lynne Sachs’s children; visits with her mother, brother, niece and nephew; a tribute to the city where she lives; and scenes of sociopolitical trauma and protest. Nearly all shot on super 8mm or 16mm, and often silent, each work is at once a preservation of a moment and a record of change, seamlessly weaving together the candid and the performed gesture, the public and the private memory, in a simultaneously objective and subjective posture toward the passing of time. Program running time: 51 mins.

Photograph of Wind (2001, 4 mins.)
Tornado (2002, 4 mins.)
Noa, Noa (2006, 8 mins.)
Georgic for a Forgotten Planet (2008, 11 mins.)
Same Stream Twice (2012, 4 mins.)
Viva and Felix Growing Up (2015, 10 mins.)
Day Residue (2016, 3 mins.)
And Then We Marched (2017, 3 mins.)
Maya at 24 (2021, 4 mins.)



Program 4: Your Day Is My Night
2013, 64 mins. “This bed doesn’t necessarily belong to any one person,” someone says early in Your Day Is My Night. It could be the metaphorical thesis of this film, perhaps Lynne Sachs’s most self-effacing and meditative work. A seamless blend of closely observed verité footage, interpretive performance, and confessional monologues and interviews, the film doesn’t document so much as create a space to accommodate the stories and experiences of seven Chinese immigrants from ages 58 to 78 who live together in a “shift-bed” apartment in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Sachs’s quilted sense of form achieves a new level of refinement and delicacy in collaboration with her cameraman Sean Hanley and her editor Amanda Katz, as she works with the participants to exhume a collective history of migration and struggle.




Program 5: Tip of My Tongue
2017, 80 mins. Sachs’s richly generative Tip of My Tongue finds the filmmaker responding to her 50th birthday by gathering twelve members of her generational cohort—friends and peers all born between 1958 and 1964, and originating as far as Cuba, Iran, and Australia—to participate in the creation of a choral work about the convergent and divergent effects history leaves upon those who live it. From the Kennedy assassination to Occupy Wall Street, the participants reveal their memories of, and reflections upon, the transformative experiences of their lives. Set to an ecstatic, pulsing score by Stephen Vitiello, the film interweaves these personal confessions with impressionistic images of contemporary New York, obscured glimpses of archival footage, and graphically rendered fragments of text to create a radiant prism of collective memory. Preceded by Sachs’s frantic record of accumulated daily to-do lists, A Year in Notes and Numbers (2018, 4 mins.).


Thanks to:

Film Dienst – First person # 3: A conversation with filmmaker Lynne Sachs

Film Dienst
Saturday, February 6th, 2021
By Esther Buss 
https://www.filmdienst.de/artikel/46116/kracauer-blog-lynne-sachs-interview

A conversation with the US filmmaker Lynne Sachs about the importance of the autobiographical in her films

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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)

  1. 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. 

Filmcentric Reviews Two Short Documentaries by Lynne Sachs

Two Short Documentaries by Lynne Sachs: The Last Happy Day (2009) and The Washing Society (2018)
23 July 2020
By Filmcentric (Ewan the Cinema) 
https://filmcentric.wordpress.com/2020/07/23/two-short-documentaries-by-lynne-sachs/

One of the special focus strands of the Sheffield Doc/Fest online programme in 2020 was the experimental documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs, who has an extensive body of work across a number of different documentary interests. I watched two of her films out of the handful made available (some of the rest are still online for festival attendees, so I am determined to catch up with them), and present reviews below — or, maybe I should say, more impressionistic observances as I cannot claim they are as deeply considered as I would like.

The Washing Society (2018)
This isn’t a long film, clocking in at about 45 minutes, but it’s a curious blend of documentary and staged fiction. It films a number of New York laundromats, showing their working environments and including some comments by a number of the workers. However, it starts with a Black woman speaking an historical text and then places her in the space of a laundromat opening for the day, and throughout the film her presence functions as a sort of historical commentary making clear the racialised nature of this work, which is somehow so intangible and invisible to so many people. As the film progresses, the testimonies start to become more like monologues, rather more clearly delivered by actors, itself eventually seguing into a musical performance piece on the machines themselves.

CREDITS
Directors/Writers Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker; Cinematographer Sean Hanley; Length 44 minutes.

Seen at home (Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects streaming), London, Saturday 4 July 2020.

The Last Happy Day (2009)
I find it sometimes very easy to criticize documentaries for following a standard talking heads format, but of course Lynne Sachs doesn’t even approach anything resembling the clichés of the form. This medium-length piece does, however, use occasional on-screen captions to contextualize her story of a distant relative, the Hungarian Jew Sandor Lenard (aka Alexander Lenard), who fled shortly before the outbreak of World War II and eventually found himself in Brazil, where he undertook Latin translations, including of Winnie the Pooh (sorry, Winnie Ille Pu). That said, her experimental practice means that it’s difficult to pick out everything that’s going on here, and I imagine wider viewing of her oeuvre would help more in that respect, but there seems to be an idea of the painful ruptures of war and exile being healed at least somewhat by language, or perhaps the idea of translation (given that the language in question is hardly a widely shared one). It’s a family story, too, so children in Sachs’ own family appear on screen to read Lenard’s letters or comment on them (very eloquently, given their age). These are ideas that come out, not inaccessibly, but in a dense mixture of text and image and voice.

CREDITS
Director Lynne Sachs; Cinematographers Sachs and Ethan Mass; Length 38 minutes.

Seen at home (Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects streaming), London, Tuesday 21 July 2020.

In Their Own League – Exclusive Interview with Filmmaker Lynne Sachs

Exclusive Interview with Filmmaker Lynne Sachs
In Their Own League 
By Bianca ‘Bee’ Garner 
July 17, 2020
https://intheirownleague.com/2020/07/17/exclusive-interview-with-filmmaker-lynne-sachs/

Lynne Sachs is an extraordinary filmmaker with a distinct and unique approach to documentary filmmaking. Each one of her films is an exploration into a secret hidden world as well as an experiment with the medium of visual storytelling. Currently, the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival is running a ‘Directors in Focus’ showcase of Sachs’ work where you can catch pieces like “Your Day is My Night”, “The Washing Society” and her latest film “Film About a Father Who”.

It’s been a real delight to explore Sachs’ work as part of the festival and when the opportunity arose to speak to Lynne personally, I jumped at the chance. Here’s our interview where we discuss how she approaches documentary filmmaking, her friendship with Barbara Hammer and the art of editing. 

Bianca: Hello Lynne, lovely to chat to talk. I just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed exploring your work as part of the Sheffield Doc Fest “Directors in Focus”, you have such an unique approach to filmmaking. I find it to be this unusual blend of traditional documentary style filmmaking meets the avant-garde artistic style of filmmaking of allowing imagery and sound to tell the stories. How did you develop this approach and style of filmmaking, and what was it about documentary filmmaking that appealed to you as a filmmaker?

Lynne: I’ll guess I’ll start by admitting that I don’t even know if I would be able to make a traditional documentary, that might be because of when I invest myself into an investigation or a story I take such a deep dive and I am always looking for a visual or an oral method by which I can comment on that particular theme in a way that hasn’t been done before. Sometimes it’s the topic that guides me. 

The more conventional approach would be to have a template or a formula or maybe even a time-limit like 58 minutes so you would have time for the commercial breaks, then you would take your subject and frame it by those expectations. However, that approach never really interested me and I wonder whether I have the skill or the commitment to do that style of filmmaking. 

My desire to work in the documentary realm came from a convergence of the love of art and the love of politics. My background was as an undergraduate in history, I never expected to be an academic historian but it feeds my way of thinking. I wanted my creative juices to fly but the limitations of being a historian weren’t appealing to me.

Lynne Sachs, dir. of Film About a Father Who

Bianca: Did you always strive to have a personal connection with the people and the subjects you film?

Lynne: It’s very important to me to have a complex relationship with the people in my film, just like the one I would have normally with a friend. It takes work, and often in the field of filmmaking there’s the sense of jumping in as quickly as possible then leaving. You actually leave with this gift: the interaction you had with the people you filmed. You then own that gift, but those people don’t have that anymore. I think the whole process has to take a whole circle where you work to find the right participants for your film, you work on that film and then you come back to them after completion and during distribution. 

With “Your Day is my Night” we worked on that film for a couple of years and it became a live performance and I was bringing the people from Chinatown, to places in New York City where they hadn’t been before. I was organising cars for them as they were older people and we couldn’t expect them to travel via Subway. I wanted them to experience that pleasure, and two years after we had finished shooting we took the film and the live performance to a public library in Chinatown where we had an afternoon matinee where all of their friends came.

It was actually quite a sad moment because one of the participants in the film had died since we made the film, so when his face came up in the film everyone in the audience started crying. So, it was a memorial for him in a way. There are ways films can function outside the function of building your career or taking you to film festivals. I really feel committed about the idea of having movies been shown on all different kinds of screens.

Bianca: People often overlook the importance of sound and audio in filmmaking because film is a visual medium. What I find fascinating about your films is that often the audio doesn’t always match up to what’s being depicted on-screen. I think this is brilliantly showcased in your latest film “Film About a Father Who” where we see one version of your father being shown but the narration is discussing a different aspect of his character.

Lynne: I just want to touch on something I hadn’t thought about, the formal connection between the way you understand a human being and the way that film works, and how you process what you see and what you later discover. I think that’s very particular to this medium. We have this notion that the visual and the sound should be married but we all know that marriage is just an agreement that can fall apart. It’s through that use of ‘falling apart’ where we begin to see that what something appears like isn’t actually what it is in reality, and we build in doubt. 

I think doubt should be a part of any filmmaking experience, whether you’re talking about fiction or non-fiction, do we believe the ideology that is intact. If you’re a doubtful viewer in any way then you start to engage with it in a deeper way, you start to question everything and as a result you become more intellectually engaged. What I wanted to say about “Film About a Father Who” that there were times where maybe I was uncomfortable in a situation where I did have doubts, but I wanted to believe that things were more acceptable than they actually were and worked with how I thought a father should be. 

If you think about the foundations of who we think we are as children and the notions of how we fit into that micro community it’s usually pretty transparent. However, maybe that’s no longer the case today. I used to think my family was very atypical, but now that I’ve screened the film quite a lot of people have either come up to me or written to me to share their own experiences. I think our notions of family are now more evolved than how it was when I was a kid.

Ira Sachs Sr. w Painting in Film About a Father Who

Since making the film I’ve been able to have some really profound conversations with those who have watched it. Whether or not it’s your mother or father who have secrets it’s their way of protecting themselves, but it also leaves an imprint on us and we’re left with a sense of confusion about how we’re supposed to process this new information and emotions. 

Bianca: The impression I got from your film was that this was not only a self-discovery for you but also a self-discovery of who your father is. It was a self discovery of a family too.

Lynne: It took me a year of going through all the videos and super-8 films and I realise I had a lot of content about my father. The traditional approach to documentary filmmaking is that you take all the footage and make a character so people leave the movie thinking they really know that person. I thought about whether that was what I really wanted to do, as what I was really interested in was the interrelationships between people and the way we yearn for a part of our parents in ourselves and how we are always looking for stability. I know I have very distinct relationships with my parents and I value that in its own way. 

Bianca: What’s something you want the viewer to take away from “Film About a Father Who”?

Lynne: I’m very interested portraying the layers of expression especially in terms of being a woman, that include your anger and your rage as well as your ability to integrate forgiveness because I think it’s very hard to go on living your life if you hold onto the pain of your own rage. Forgiveness isn’t about saying that something didn’t happen, there are parts in my film where I realise that I’ve become very good at training myself to have forced amnesia. If you can find forgiveness and realize that the person who hurt you or made mistakes, made those mistakes because of the things they went through themselves that can help you move forward.

Photo collage from Film About A Father Who

I am also interested in showing my family’s story so others can investigate their own stories. I showed the film to a group of fifteen men in their 80s who were in a fraternity with my father and all idolised him. After the film, they said to me that they wished their daughters had made a film about them which surprised me. I think it was because the film elevated my dad to a full person and his entire life was told. He came to the premiere in New York and he was happy with the film. And he’s told me that he wants to do better in the future. 

Bianca: Another recent film of yours is “A Month of Single Frames”, a beautiful collaboration with the late filmmaker Barbara Hammer. How did that film come around?

Lynne: I met Barbara in the late ‘80s as we were both in San Francisco during that time. At that time and well into the 1990s, San Francisco was a mecca for experimental filmmakers. I think that’s the place where my style really evolved as it’s not a commercial film centre like New York or Los Angeles. There was a place called the Film Arts Foundation where you could go and learn different skills or edit your films on a 16mm flatbed and Barbara was there teaching a class. I took a weekend class with her and we hit it off! We became friends and both ended up moving to New York City. 

Twelve years ago, Barbara found out she had ovarian cancer. She was going through chemotherapy and we would take meals to her and talk to her. She actually lived a lot longer than she thought she would. During that time we became deep friends, and I think she appreciated that me and my husband (Mark Street) were not intimidated by the word ‘cancer’. She asked Mark and me to make a film with the material she gave us when she saw her life coming to an end. 

When she gave me the footage she hadn’t told me she’d also kept a journal. Her health was declining but she was quite active in terms of filmmaking in her last year, so I had to squeeze in my visits with her between chemotherapy and her trips to the Berlin Film Festival for a premiere of a film she made. And, when she went to Berlin in 2018 she lost one of her vocal chords so when we were recording her narration for the film we had to use an amplifier. What’s amazing about making a film is that it’s a sustained experience and a gift with that person you’re collaborating with. It was also a gift in the sense that we could share all that time together. 

Barbara passed away in March 2019, and I’d hadn’t yet written the text you see in the film. I really wanted a way so you could dive into the film on a personal level, and on a level where I could be talking to her, the audience, the Earth, to the future and to anyone who could be watching the movie. What’s so specific about film, that it can transport you back in history but can also propel you forward in time too. I wanted there to be an active presence which is why I talk to the audience. 

Bianca: That’s what is so special about “A Month of Single Frames” is that feeling of conversation between you, the audience and Barbara. In the way it felt like therapy and a precious way of capturing someone’s memory.

Lynne: We think of film as a closed system where you enter it but you don’t affect it although it may affect you in a psychological way. I wanted that system to be more open, the screen is no longer a closed system. 

Bianca: Do you think we’ve lost something special about the art of shooting on film compared to how we now seem to shoot everything on digital, especially in terms of the craft of editing?

Lynne: It’s funny that you mention editing because it made me recall Dziga Vertov’s “The Man With a Movie Camera” because many people believe that the director’s wife (Yelizaveta Ignatevna Svilova) really made the film, I believe her work helped give the film it’s rhythm. There’s an image of her in the film where she’s sat at the editing table and she looks like she’s sewing. This image reminds us that analogue film was constructed in a method that was very identified with women. There has been a revived interest in the materialistic qualities of the medium and the fact you can go from something three-dimensional to something two-dimensional.

In terms of my own filmmaking, “Which Way is East” was shot all on film and so was “A Month of Single Frames” and “The Last Happy Day” was digital and film. It’s a real mix. In terms of the images I shoot on Super-8 and 16mm, well I just like them better. Digital can be so pristine. There’s a sense of physicality to analogue film. Sometimes you see a strand of hair or dust, and that’s part of the real world that we’ve left behind like a fossil. 

“Film About a Father Who” is to be screened in Sheffield in Autumn, and online on Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects in parallel. The Filmmaker Focus- retrospective films are streaming now in the UK and their accessibility has been extended through August 31st.

Please see: https://selects.sheffdocfest.com/bundle/lynne-sachs-focus/

Watch Sheffield Doc/Fest : Lynne Sachs Live Q&A with Festival Director Cíntia Gil

DATE: Thursday, 2 July
TIME: 7pm (BST)

Sheffield Doc/Fest Director, Cíntia Gil is joined by director, Lynne Sachs to discuss her films and to take questions from the audience for a live Q&A.

Filmmaker Lynne Sachs, in conversation with Festival Director Cíntia Gil, discuss 5 films that form her Director’s Focus within the Ghosts & Apparitions strand and her upcoming international premiere of Film About A Father Who which screens as part of Doc/Fest in October. Lynne Sachs’ films explore the notion of translation as a poetic and political tool for widening the world. Together with the focus, Doc/Fest presents Sachs’ video lecture My Body, Your Body, Our Bodies: Somatic Cinema at Home and in the World, a fascinating journey through her themes and work.

Her films are currently available to watch on Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects and Doc/Player through August 31, 2020:

The Last Happy Day, 2009, 37’
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam in collaboration with Dana Sachs, 1994, 33’
Your Day Is My Night, 2013, 64’
The Washing Society, co-directed by Lizzie Olesker, 2018, 44’
A Month of Single Frames, made with and for Barbara Hammer, 2019, 14’

How Lynne Sachs Turns Spoken Word Into Cinematic Language

A long-overdue retrospective of the feminist artist and filmmaker demonstrates how she explores communication in her work.

By Serena Scateni
July 13, 2020
Hyperallergic 
https://hyperallergic.com/575385/lynne-sachs-sheffield-docfest-retrospective/

Lynne Sachs has always eluded easy labeling. Since her first short films in the late ’80s — the black-and-white character study Still Life With a Woman and Four Objects and the Laura-Mulvey-inspired observation on gendered bodies that is Drawn and Quartered — she’s eschewed traditional film grammar. She’s focused instead on capturing gestures, inches of skin, fragments of conversations, casual moments in time, personal memorabilia, and weaving them into unexpected patterns. This year, Sheffield Doc/Fest has celebrated Sachs with a long-overdue retrospective.

A recurring theme in Sachs’s filmography is the elliptical tension of translating spoken language into visual language. From her video travelogue of two clashing cultures in Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam (1994) to the visual haiku of Sound of a Shadow (2010), she grounds her work in using aesthetics to decipher how people communicate. For Sachs, translation is frequently as much a vessel for encountering others as it is a tool to mold her films’ forms. 

Two titles in the retrospective use this approach to give voice to the marginalized. The Washing Society (2018) documents both the contemporary and historical invisible labor in New York City laundromats, mostly performed by Black and brown women. Their repetitive gestures are performed in tempo to the words of the Atlanta black laundresses’ manifesto of 1881, and their unappreciated work is eventually exalted by artistic performances in the laundromats. Similarly, Your Day is My Night (2014) steps into the overcrowded apartments of immigrants in New York’s Chinatown. Their beds and common rooms are turned into stages on which they recount their pasts and talk about their current experiences. Sachs sublimes the personal into the theatrical.

Translation is more directly approached in Which Way Is East. Visiting her sister Dana in Vietnam, Sachs acts as both an outsider enchanted by the unfamiliar (while trying to avoid succumbing to Orientalist tropes) and a displaced explorer. She does not perceive her inability to speak Vietnamese as a barrier, even though communication would be arduous without Dana acting as an interpreter. Meanwhile, the peculiar The Last Happy Day (2009) explores the intricacies of the Sachs family genealogy. Sachs and her daughters peruse the letters of a distant cousin, Alexander Lenard, trying to piece his life together. The result is a fragmented series of floating imagery which gradually coheres into a portrait of an interesting man, a doctor who fought World War II and later translated Winnie the Pooh into Latin. 

Sachs’s mentor and friend Barbara Hammer inhabits A Month of Single Frames (2019), her moving tribute to the late filmmaker’s work and inspiration. Some of Hammer’s personal materials were given to Sachs with absolute freedom regarding what form they would take in her hands. With fondness, she merges 16mm film shot by Hammer during an artist residency at Cape Cod in 1998 with a 2018 recording of Hammer reading excerpts from her journal. On-screen text sporadically appears to further dialogue with the source material, and perhaps Hammer herself as well. It is cinema as a conversation between generations, and between the living and the dead. Translation is not merely a utilitarian mediation for mutual understanding, but also a political act. Sachs embraces variegated renditions of filmic language, recording the world, digesting it, and offering it to viewers in its performative beauty.

Lynne Sachs’s work is available on a variety of platforms.
https://hyperallergic.com/575385/lynne-sachs-sheffield-docfest-retrospective/

Screen Queens: Sheff Doc/Fest 2020— The Lynne Sachs Focus

By Fatima Sheriff
July 11, 2020
Screen Queens
https://screen-queens.com/2020/07/11/sheff-doc-fest-2020-the-lynne-sachs-focus/

Premiering Lynne Sachs’ latest feature, A Film About A Father Who, Doc/Fest 2020 has taken the opportunity to curate a few of the director’s most intriguing films. Spanning over decades of empathetic, experimental filmmaking, Festival Director Cintia Gil mentions that the overarching theme of these works is “translation”. Sachs elaborates that while her films often feature other countries and languages, the experience isn’t meant to feel seamless, but instead explore the sense of dépaysement, of being out of your own comfort zone, and revelling in that unfamiliarity and curiosity. 

Which Way is East (1994)
In which Lynne joins her sister Dana in Vietnam, and documents their travels north. Primarily she is connecting with the country: eating copious amounts of fruit, bonding with friends and strangers alike, examining the damage left behind from the war. There are layers beyond the direct translation of Vietnamese as peppered throughout are proverbs, which connect with the discussions and reveal how cultures perceive life differently. On another level she’s reconnecting and collaborating with a sister who she’s been separated from, and building a bridge between her own fictional, creative inclinations as a filmmaker and her sister’s political, non-fiction perceptions as a journalist. At 33 minutes, it feels like a whirlwind, footage zooming past on the roads, but one that really feels shared by all who feature in it. 

The Last Happy Day (2009)
This title is a quote from letters received by Sachs’ uncle referring to the day before the outbreak of WWI, marking a shattering of naïvité and the start of a century of disillusionment. In an incredibly liminal and fascinating piece of exploration, Sachs’ children tell the story of Sandor Lenard, a distant Hungarian cousin who fled a small town in Germany in 1938. 

Surrounded by death as he worked for the US to identify the broken bones of soldiers, his later project is intriguingly different: the translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin. A so-called dead language, that he said best expressed dread, was applied to the philosophical exploits of children’s characters. Having watched many young men become soldiers, seeing Sachs’ kids interpret his letters and his translation brings out a deeper meaning within them. It’s a patchy portrait of a mysterious man that brings about a sense of existential crisis and a permanent exile from security. 

Your Day Is My Night (2013) 
My personal favourite, a window into the world of Chinese immigrants in New York City, who rent “shift-beds” in order to afford to live and work there. It’s a carefully orchestrated blend of performance art to highlight the nocturnal, upside-down lifestyle and monologues perfected to best tell the stories of each inhabitant. One stand out is Huang, a wedding singer who lives with his father, who shares his unique passions and fears. It is a tactile, emotional approach with many dimensions that helps the viewer begin to comprehend these experiences, and brings this hidden side of the city to light. 

The Washing Society (2018)
Co-directed with playwright Lizzie Olesker, this team effort is the culmination of a performance piece named ‘Every Fold Matters’, detailing and valuing the efforts of laundry workers. This film is named after the original Atlanta Washing Society of 1881, where thousands of African American laundresses unionised and demanded better pay and agency over clients. This revolutionary spirit is carried on, as the film juxtaposes three actresses with three workers, folding and carrying thousands of garments a day, unappreciated and undervalued. Through the combination of conversation and performances, the intimacy and volume of their work is brought to light. 

A Month In Single Frames (For Barbara Hammer) (2018) 
As filmmaker Barbara Hammer was undergoing chemotherapy, she gave certain filmmakers free reign with her unpublished work. In this case, Sachs plays with the footage taken on Hammer’s month long residency at Cape Cod. Particularly hypnotic are past Barbara’s meticulous and beautiful attempts to capture new colours in the sun, the sea and the sand, and the spontaneous originality with which she saw the same cabin and its surroundings. Here the translation is very much inter-generational, as Hammer reads from her journal at the time, and we overhear discussions between the two. Sachs revisits this time of creativity in an organic way and carefully scrapbooks it into a philosophical homage.

Note: this particular film makes a beautiful double bill with Lynne Ramsay’s Brigitte which will be out on Doc/Fest Selects in the autumn. She profiles a prolific portrait photographer, trying to see what Brigitte sees in her subjects, and turns that mirror towards her own life and approach to art.   

Full film available as part of Doc/Fest Selects here.

Throughout all these works, the partnership between Sachs and her subjects shines. Often she remains in contact with them, continuing to campaign alongside them. The collection boasts celebrating “translation as a political and poetic tool” and through this glimpse into her career, it is clear that the bridges she builds last. By the end of her films, it feels like both an honour and a necessity to inhabit these spaces and listen to these stories.