Tag Archives: Tip of My Tongue

AM Costa Rica Announces CRIFF Kick-Off with Lynne Sachs Retrospective

Costa Rica International Film Festival kicks off this week
AM Costa Rica
Published on Wednesday, June 8, 2022
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

– The retrospective category has been dedicated to the American filmmaker and poet Lynne Sachs –

Displaying independent films from 37 countries and in 15 different languages, the tenth edition of the Costa Rica International Film Festival begins on Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Culture, the festival will take place in two parts. First from June 9 to 18 and then from June 29 to Aug. 26.

The categories of the festival include retrospective films, panorama, young people and pioneers of cinema, among others.

The retrospective category has been dedicated to the American filmmaker and poet Lynne Sachs, who has made 37 films, some of which have won awards or have been included in retrospectives at major festivals.

Sachs’s 2019 film, “A Month of Single Frames,” made with and for Barbara Hammer, won the Grand Prize at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in 2020.

In 2021, both the Edison Film Festival and the Prismatic Ground Film Festival at the Maysles Documentary Center awarded Sachs for her body of work in the experimental and documentary fields.

Last year the Festival displayed “Film About a Father Who” (2020), directed by Sachs, which is defined as “a poignant and moving film,” by Fernando Chaves-Espinach, director of the festival. “(Sachs) mixes fiction, documentary, experimental film, performance among others,” he said.

“Sachs demonstrates the energy of contemporary cinema and the multiple forms that this art takes, from an intimate and reflective perspective that dialogues with certain forms of filmmaking in our context,” Chaves said.

The festival will be held in several movie theaters in San José, as well as in different communities of the country in rural areas so that more people can enjoy the event, the ministry said.

In San José, the films will be shown at Cine Magaly, the Film Center of the Ministry of Culture and the French Alliance of the France Embassy in Costa Rica.

In rural areas, the festival will be presented at the CCM movie theaters, located in San Ramón and San Carlos in Alajuela Province, in Jacó Beach in Puntarenas Province.

Also, CitiCinemas movie theaters in rural areas will present the festival in Grecia in Alajuela Province, Limón City in Limón Province and Paso Canoas in Puntarenas Province.

In addition, the festival will be presented at Multiplexes in Liberia, Guanacaste Province.

The jury is made up of directors, producers and people of the film industry from Costa Rica and other places such as Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, Colombia, the Basque Country, Germany and Hungary.

The festival will award three mail films for their formal quality and content. In addition, the winning films will receive about $11,000 in prizes in the categories such as Best National Short; Best Costa Rican Feature Film, Best Central American and Caribbean Feature Film, among others.

People interested in participating in the festival can buy tickets, priced between $3 and $4, on the Festival weband Magaly Theater web.

Costa Rica International Film Festival Hosts Lynne Sachs Retrospective

June 2022



  • The tenth edition of the CRFIC is celebrated from June 9 to 18, in its first stage, and from June 29 to August 26, in a second itinerant stage, in communities outside the GAM.
  • The public will be able to enjoy 87 films in competition and screening, from 37 countries and in 15 different languages.
  • 69% of the films in programming are directed or co-directed by women.
  • With the presence in the country of the American filmmaker Lynne Sachs, the CRFIC10 pays tribute to her career.


The CRFIC Retrospective section is dedicated to the renowned American filmmaker and poet Lynne Sachs (1961), who has 37 films to her credit, including short films and feature films, some of which have won awards or have been included in retrospectives at major festivals. .

Regarding the Retrospective, the artistic director of CRFIC10, Fernando Chaves, mentioned that last year the Festival showed Film About a Father Who , a poignant and moving film.

“In this tenth edition of the CRFIC we have the honor of having its director, Lynne Sachs, as a guest of our retrospective,”  continued Chaves, “whom we are excited to present for her mixture of fiction, documentary, experimental cinema, performance and other media. ” 

According to Chaves, with this solid filmography, Sachs demonstrates the energy of contemporary cinema and the multiple forms that this art takes, from an intimate and reflective perspective that dialogues with certain ways of making cinema in our context. 

To close with a flourish, Sachs will hold a workshop where he will experiment with national artists.

Program includes:
• Film About a Father Who
• Con viento en el pelo
• Tip of My Tongue
• A Month of Single Frames
• Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor
• Epistolary: Letter to Jean Vigo
• Drawn & Quartered
• Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning
• Maya at 24
• Same Stream Twice
• Photograph of Wind
• Still Life with Woman and Four Objects
• House of Science: a museum of false facts
• Cuadro por cuadro



San José, Costa Rica, May 20, 2022- With a program of outstanding independent films from 37 countries and in 15 different languages, the tenth edition of the Costa Rica International Film Festival (CRFIC10) is held from May 9 to June 18, in a first stage, and from June 29 to August 26 in a second itinerant stage.

The CRFIC10 will be held in person in downtown San José, as well as in different communities in the country outside the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), with the aim of reaching larger audiences that can enjoy the alternative audiovisual experience proposed by the festival program of the Costa Rican Center for Film Production (Cinema Center). 

The artistic director of the 10CRFIC, Fernando Chaves Espinach, stated that “the Festival brings us the opportunity to confront ourselves with the most challenging, innovative and inspiring cinema that is being made today, with different languages and approaches, from very different countries. We have chosen winning films at renowned festivals such as Sundance, San Sebastián and Locarno, films nominated for Oscars and winners at other competitions, but we have also rescued titles that otherwise would not reach our theaters, true discoveries that show us the effervescence of contemporary cinema and its ability to shake us” .

The venues of the Festival will be located in the Magaly Cinema (the Main Hall and La Salita), the Gómez Miralles Hall of the Cinema Center, the French Alliance (in Barrio Amón) and the CCM San Ramón, CCM San Carlos, CCM Jacó rooms. , CitiCinemas Grecia, CitiCinemas Limón, Paso Canoas and Multiplexes Liberia.

In the itinerant stage, it will take place in the communities of Matambuguito, Shiroles, Boruca, Térraba, Sarapiquí and Grano de Oro.


The 10CRFIC program is made up of a careful selection of 87 international, regional and national films directed and co-directed, 69% by women, with varied content for audiences of all ages.

“We are proud to present a diverse programming in gender and geographical origin, which shows that cinema has never been monolithic in its language or in its origin; this programming allows us to articulate a defense of cinema as a diverse, complex art whose permanence as a vehicle of artistic expression requires spaces for debate and enjoyment such as festivals” , commented Chaves.

For the inauguration of the 10CRFIC, the curatorial team chose the feature film Utama (2022), by Bolivian director Alejandro Loayza Grisi. 

The feature film is a co-production between Bolivia, Uruguay and France and is set in the arid Bolivian highlands, where an elderly Quechua couple have lived the same daily life for years.

In the middle of a drought, Virginio (80 years old) gets sick and aware of his imminent death, he lives his last days hiding the illness from Sisa (81 years old).

Loayza Grisi (1985) began her career in still photography and later entered the world of cinema through film photography. 

As director of photography, he worked on the documentary series Planeta Bolivia, and on multiple short films such as Aicha, Dochera and Polvo. 

Attracted by the stories that can be told through moving images, he ventured into writing and directing his first feature film titled Utama. 

The competitive categories of the programming for this tenth edition are the following: Central American and Caribbean Feature Film Competition, with films from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and the Dominican Republic; and the National Short Film Competition, with eleven Costa Rican productions.

The 10CRFIC will award a statuette to three films that stand out for their formal quality and content, as well as 8 million colones (approximately US$11K at the exchange rate) in total in incentives and support to the filmmakers selected as winners of the Competitive categories: a 1 million colones prize for Best National Short Film, a 3 million colones prize for Best Costa Rican Feature Film, and a 3 million colones prize for Best Central American and Caribbean Feature Film, as well as two 500,000 colones prizes for special mention Jury Mention in Feature Films and Jury Mention in Short Films, respectively. 

The other sections of the program are: Panorama, Radar, Approach, Last batch, Young people, Memory, Pioneers of cinema and Retrospective.

The jury for the Central American and Caribbean Feature Film Competition is made up of Peter Taylor (Northern Ireland), programmer and curator, and currently director of the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival; Christina Newland (United Kingdom), journalist for Vice, Sight & Sound, BBC, Mubi and Empire, on topics such as cinema, pop culture and boxing; and Pablo Hernández Hernández, (Costa Rica), professor at the University of Costa Rica with a doctorate in Philosophy from the Universität Potsdam and specialist in Aesthetics, philosophy of art and culture.

The jury of the National Short Film Competition is Alexandra Latishev (Costa Rica), a filmmaker who graduated from the New Film and Television School of the Véritas University; Juan Soto (Colombia), editor, director and archivist, who currently works at the Filmoteca de Catalunya as Film Preservation Project Manager; and Vanesa Fernández (Basque Country), director of the Zinebi Festival and coordinator of the Degree in Audiovisual Communication at the University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV/EHU). 

For their part, the CRFIC Industry juries are Gudula Meinzolt (Germany), with training and experience in cultural management and cinema in areas such as research, promotion, organization of festivals, distribution, exhibition and co-production; Karolina Hernández (Costa Rica), founder and general producer of Dos Sentidos SA and coordinator of the Audiovisual Production area of the Office of Communication and Marketing of the Tecnológico de Costa Rica and professor at the University of Costa Rica; and Zsuzsi Bankuti (Hungary), who since 2020 directs the Cutting Edge Talent Camp, since 2022 is the interim director of Open Doors, and also works as an international strategy consultant for the Doha Film Institute, the Torino Film Lab and Cinemart. 

PRESSKIT: bit.ly/CRFIC10presskit 
ITENERARY:  bit.ly/CRFIC10grid
FULL SCHEDULE:  bit.ly/CRFIC10films

“A Conversation with Experimental Director Lynne Sachs: Film About a Father Who, her upcoming project and the power of looking at a horizon”

The Emanon
Sarah Lawrence College
May 10, 2022
by Ethan Cotler ‘23

Figuring out the unique grammar of your life can be difficult. People, situations, can give us question marks with no answers and ellipses that lead to nothing. Lynne Sachs, a Memphis-born experimental filmmaker, attempted to answer some of these questions in her own life with the 2020 documentary, Film About a Father Who. She offers an in-depth look at her father and titular character.  

Ira Sachs Sr. is an enigmatic hotelier out of Park City, Utah, with an unmissable mustache and a penchant for colorful button-ups. His approach to love parallels in eccentricity. He despises loving like a “swan,” the idea of mating with a single soulmate for life. Sachs Sr. chose instead to surround himself with a steady flow of young women and went on to marry—and divorce—a number of them. Many of Lynne Sachs’ childhood peers were enamored by the bravado and Hefner-esque life her father led. But this way of life caused tension at times with those closest to him, to say the absolute least. 

Beginning in 1984, Lynne Sachs chronicled moments in Sachs Sr.’s life for thirty-five years and those in his mother’s, ex-wives’, children’s, and others close to him. Her mission was to elucidate his tucked-away interior life, not just to an audience but to herself. Two years after the release of the film and two years younger than when Sachs began this project, I got to speak with her about it and her greater body of work. Sachs gave a lecture at Sarah Lawrence in the fall of 2021—for those who took Tanya Goldman’s “Experimental Documentary”course. I sat in my apartment in upstate New York and called Sachs, who was in a hotel room in Paris. She’d left her Brooklyn home for a few weeks to attend a screening of her work. In our hours of conversation, what stuck with me the most was what she said about the image above. Sachs stated that it is “the most important in all of Film About a Father Who.” A scene that wasn’t even filmed by Sachs, instead by her father. It’s a tranquil look at three of her siblings as children playing in a creek. For a film that follows a bon vivant and his unorthodox lifestyle, I was taken aback that this scene was the most important. 

The scene occurs once in each of the three acts, all different segments of the same shot. Why? Well, it’s part of what makes this film, like each of her films, have a unique “feeling”—or “grammar”—to them. “Grammar,” as a metaphor, is illustrated in another wonderful scene in act one. I told her,

I really loved that scene in Film About A Father Who.

In it, Sachs, her brother, and her sister sit on her childhood bed talking

about how [your father] doesn’t have a grammar and your mother does when you’re living with each of them. Do you feel that your work as a filmmaker has some sort of grammar behind it? Or is it just question marks when you go into each project? 

I think that what really, really distinguishes an experimental film from a more conventional film, whether you’re talking about a documentary or a narrative or any other form, is a refusal to embrace a formula around grammar or a template—the grammar of cinema. Because people say things like, “well, a great documentary is character-driven,” or they say “you can’t break the 180-degree rule when you’re shooting,” or you must have the exposition sort of identified and articulated in a narrative film by fifteen minutes in.

There’s all these rules about the shape of things. The way shot-reverse-shot insinuates that two people are in the same room and doing things simultaneously. If you know about making films, you know that they’re probably not, but it relies on an assumption on the part of the audience that the grammar of the film will be accessible and key to that—key is familiar.

So then you jump over to something that is more playful, experimental, distinctive in terms of each work, having its own cosmos. And you think that the audience at first might be a little disoriented because the audience doesn’t understand its distinctive grammar, but through the shaping, evolution of the film, the audience starts to register how meaning is constructed. And I think that’s really exciting. And I think that is an opportunity to constantly reinvent how you work with the medium of film. When I hear about someone who says, “well, I bought this software that helps you to write your screenplays, it comes with a template.” 

I think, okay, if it comes with a template, then you are going to construct time in a certain kind of way. You’re going to create your characters in a, probably, formulaic way. So I’m scared of that kind of stuff. I think it’s problematic. So, then you asked that in relationship to Film About a Father Who, and I think that every family has its own grammar as well and that the grammar is significant because it guides you in terms of how you relate to people of different generations or new members of your family. It has to do with how transparent you are. What it means to do something like tell a lie, or what is a white lie? How many different people in your family do you tell white lies to, to protect them?

What does a white lie really mean? People either withhold information or you shift information because you think the truth is going to be complicated or intimidating or painful. So you were asking about the punctuation marks—are my films question marks? I do actually like when people leave my films, asking questions of themselves or questions of society or questions more ontologically about how we construct meaning. I like that. I think that’s an opportunity for being changed by a work of art. Or perhaps being just slightly shifted by it.

There was kind of a shift at the end of the film when you bring in your sister—the one that had been removed from you for so long. A lot of stories about your father- there’s some sort of way you and your other siblings in your minds might have justified them a lot of times, but in that one, there’s no justification for what happened.

Sachs’ half-sister went on a pre-college trip with a best friend from high school, staying in a ski lodge with Sachs Sr. At the end of the vacation, her best friend announced that she had fallen for and would continue to live with her father.

 I felt like that really changed the perception of the film.

Sometimes we do that with things that upset us. We create justification in order to move forward, but then it keeps gnawing at us. So if we finally come to terms with our own anguish with the recognition that the reality is not what we want it to be, but it is there and that we can’t make any more excuses for it. Then I think it’s like a cathartic experience, even if it is difficult. 

Also what I loved about that film is I felt you’re really comfortable not only behind the camera but also in front. Your [1987] short film, Drawn and Quartered, you talked about how you at first edited out your face because you were so embarrassed [to show yourself nude], but then you ultimately decided to put it back in. And I felt like that was a moment of growth? 

In English, we say, “oh, don’t you feel exposed.” We the word exposed on a physical level, and we use it on a psychological level.

So at that point, I was not very secure with showing my body, and I felt vulnerable and I felt too observed. But then later I made a film called the The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts, and I take my clothes off a little, other people do too—it’s a lot about the body.

But what was more of an exposed feeling was the writing. The idea of that you write about things that go on in your body and the grit of it all, the pus, the urine, and all those things. But the thing is, by exposing that, you’re actually saying I’m just like everybody else. I’m a woman. My body’s like all the other women; we’re just shaped a little different. It’s when you open up and expose the narrative of your life and all the compromises that come with that–that’s even more revealing. So there’s all these layers of what it means to be exposed. 

As you’ve made films throughout your career, have you felt you’ve been able to be more comfortable [in front of the camera], or was this something from the beginning you felt— 

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, definitely not. Sometimes I go back — not that I do this very much —  and look at my progress reports from elementary school. And my teachers would say, “Lynne is a good student, but she’s so shy.” I wasn’t a very forthright child. I wasn’t the first person to raise their hand, you know, in those situations. But I think it’s come to me, and I think part of it is, let’s say, making a film like Film About a Father Who. I was so profoundly nervous about making this film.

It’s not just because I was exposing myself to you or to anyone else in the audience, but I was exposing myself, my life to myself. Does that make sense? I’ve never explored this word in this way. You are really making me think! Like I was saying, “Hey, this is really how it is,” because you can get very wrapped up in the day-to-day activities of your life and not really allow yourself to think in an analytical way, an emotional way about how, how you’ve lived your life. And so the film gave me that chance. I realized as I was making Film About a Father Who that two things happen when you’re interviewing and when you’re trying to write.

If I’m talking to one of my siblings and I’m asking them to tell me about how they feel about something, they’re looking to me, and I’m saying, “yes, yes,” and I’m nodding, and I’m affirming as if that’ll fit perfectly into my edit, you know, [like] that’s exactly what I needed. So I found that if we went together into a very dark place, like a closet, there wasn’t that constant affirmation and perhaps, manipulation. So that’s one thing. But then the other thing had to do with the writing and the construction of a voiceover or narration was that I kept censoring myself. So I used a method that has really proven to be super helpful. That was to just record my thoughts in this kind of unfiltered way and then to send it to a transcription service. And then you come back, and you have 20 pages of text. That was how I did it since I kept writing in my moleskin diary and scratching it all out.

I know you got your start with feminist filmmaking. Seeing Film About a Father Who, I wondered was there any sort of [internal] conflict? 

I was actually editing Film About a Father Who during the Me Too movement. So I was cognizant of the fact that I was talking about a man who led a life, well, he’s still alive, in which he had a certain kind of power over different women in his life. Maybe not in the workplace, but you know, in his personal life. And I knew that there were contradictions, but I felt that I was not only making it as a feminist but also as a daughter. You look at your parents as role models, but you also look at your parents for ways to be completely different.

They’re your first models of how to exist in the world and for how to define what their sexuality is—how they define the meaning of their gender. And so either you adhere to that, or you move away. And for example, in Film About a Father Who, I think my brothers were all positioning themselves in very different ways in terms of their own identity as men. I think that they were confronting those things in just as complicated ways as we as daughters were. I mean, my brother Ira said he thinks the gist of the whole movie is a kind of search for a new or refined definition for masculinity in the 2020s.

So I was trying to deal with that all the time to move between my rage at my dad, but also my attempt to forgive him or to recognize his flaws.

I also found it interesting that from the beginning of your career, you started filming people in a unique way, compared to traditional documentarians that do shot-reverse-shot and have them look at a certain place. Whereas I feel like a lot of people that you film will look right at the camera or look right at you. How did you even think to do that? Break that rule. 

Oh, you really picked up on something. That happened particularly in a film called Investigation of a Flame 

(a 2001 documentary by Sachs that illuminates the story of the Catonsville Nine, who were Catholic activists in 1968 who peacefully yet poignantly burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War.)

When I was shooting that film, most of it, not all of it, I shot by myself. I was shooting it, but I was also using it as an opportunity to get to know these incredible anti-war activists, people who had been fighting the fight—the good fight. And even breaking the law in an absolutely nonviolent way as a statement against the Vietnam war. So I was on my way to interviewing someone near Boston. And a friend of mine who worked for National Geographic [said to me], “How are you going to shoot that by yourself? Because where will they look?” But that’s part of a grammar, that conceit, that idea that you have to look like three-quarters off. I think it was Errol Morris, the documentary filmmaker, who came up with a camera which he reconfigured so that people could simultaneously look at him while he was shooting and appear to be looking off at something. He invented some form of refraction to kind of work against that formula for setting up a relationship that isn’t about that the director controlling—[even though] we know the director is controlling. I mean, one of my very favorite places to do interviews is in the car because I think when people look off at a horizon line, even if the car isn’t moving, they become very introspective. Have you ever noticed all the deep conversations you might’ve had in a car? 

Yeah. No, I never thought about that. There must be something with like the horizon—

The horizon, the sort of hermetic solitude—removed from the rest of the world but not really. You’re not in a silent chamber. You’re actually watching the world go by. But people become very— what’s the word? Meditative. 

I definitely remember you having a couple of interviews where a person is looking out a window, looking outside.

I’ve been criticized for that. Oh my God. I had an interview in Investigation of a Flame where I’m interviewing this man. And then I look out the window— the camera looks out the window. And a lot of people were surprised that I kept that. They said, “why didn’t you just put in ‘B-roll’?” But I actually hate the term B-roll. I can’t stand it. It’s so disrespectful of the image, but also, I wanted the shot to convey that I was listening to him. I mean, I thought it was honest. I was listening to this man so intensely that I needed to not look at him. I needed to take in what he was saying.

I think that’s so interesting that you hate that term “B-roll.” Because I definitely feel like for a lot of your films, what makes them so good is that you have like an eye for beauty in all moments. No moment is B-roll. 

I think that I said it was “disrespectful to the image,” but it actually doesn’t allow for the dialogue or the voiceover to have multiple layers of meaning. It just provides a little bit of distraction. I mean, I would say if the idea of B-roll, as in filler, is all you can do, just put in black.

The attention to dialogue is evident in each of Sachs’ films. Her 2013 documentary, Your Day is My Night, documents the lives of Chinese immigrants living in Manhattan’s Chinatown. In a scene where a middle-aged man gives another a back massage, he apologizes for bringing trashed mattresses into their shared living space. He likes to clean them and give them back to people in need. Sachs cut back and forth from a close-up of his hands gingerly rubbing the other’s back to a close-up of his face as he speaks, the window reflecting in his glasses. The audible rhythm of the massage combined with the focus on the scene presented—no, B-roll—makes it feel immersive. It made me linger on every word, every sound. 

Sachs cares greatly about the spoken word but also the written. Many of her films intersect both of these mediums. Her 2020 abstract short film, Girl is Presence, silently follows her daughter arranging items from shark teeth to film strips while a poem is recited as a voiceover. For this short, she collaborated with poet Anne Lesley Selcer. I thought it was intriguing that Sachs, being a documentarian who tend to concern themselves with prose-oriented storytelling, has such a strong interest in poetry. Though, it is not surprising because Sachs herself is a poet. In 2019, her first book was published, Year by Year Poems (Tender Buttons Press) which inspired her 2017 documentary Tip of My Tongue.

I know you write poetry as well.

Yeah, I think there’s an interesting intersection between film and poetry that isn’t just about two different disciplines coming together, but it’s a way of listening. So poetry is like a confrontation with or a disruption of more conventional ways of constructing meaning, of organizing sentences. Poetry asks you to think in more associative ways and in speculative ways and redefines words you thought you knew. It asks you to listen in this kind of super-engaged way. And I also like that poetry thinks about the words in collision with each other and overlapping each other like the songs of words and even the fact that we break lines based on sound and based on rhythm, which is not how prose works. And that’s also how I like to edit, for example, dialogue in my films. I like to think about the ways that things are iterated, not just a cause and effect. Like I say this, and then you say that, and then I say this back to you. So I think poetry pushes you to engage with the oral experience in really revealing ways. I have recently, like in the last four or five years, integrated poetry more and more into my own film work, like with “Tip of My Tongue.” Then I made quite a few films in collaboration with other poets, like Bernadette Mayer or Paolo Javier.

Watching your films, I felt like there was a unique flow to the dialogue a lot of times.

One thing that’s been helpful over the years is I often shoot images separate from recording sound. So when you shoot what we call video image or digital, it’s like the sound and the picture usually, as they say, it sounds so terrible, [are] “married.” So you get the image, and you get the sound, and people tend to privilege the hearing of clear, clean sound in order to convey information. But if you let that go, you can allow dialogue to transform into sound effect. Like in conventional filmmaking, you have a track which is dialogue, a track which is effects, and a track which is music. But if you think of it all as an opportunity for dialogue to become music or for a sound effect to register almost like voice, then you start to get surprises that I think are super interesting.

That just reminded me of like- I love that opening of The Washing Society, where it was cutting to different [exteriors of] laundromats [around New York City]. I just remember watching that, and, you know, I had the volume turned up. And I felt like each laundromat, each area, had its unique sounds to it and really flowed into each one quite nicely, but then became distinct.

Thank you for saying that. In that film and about five others, I’ve worked really closely with Stephen Vitiello, who’s a wonderful sound artist and performer. We started working together on Your Day is My Night in 2013. Then he worked with me on Tip of My Tongue ,  Drift and Bow and Film About a Father Who. I’ll send him sounds from laundromats, then he’ll send me back musical pieces, and they’re usually much longer than the image. So then I have to find more image. And so it’s really like a back and forth the whole time. It’s never simply that he just creates the music track.

That’s the main methodology [for] him making music for your films? You’ll send him soundbites, and he’ll send you music?

Sort of. A lot of times, I’ll send him an image, and then he’ll come up with something, or he’ll say, “listen, [I] sent you all these sounds I made.” He also uses instruments. Sometimes he’ll hire a clarinet player, and then they’ll make these longer pieces, and then I love the piece so much that I think I have to meet him with more image. For me, the places where we have his music are very evocative and also places for thinking so that my films aren’t too much dialogue. I call them a sound vessels so that you can be in this place of resonance without exposition or information or anything like that, listening in a more relational way.

So, sometimes he’ll send you music, and you’ll actually respond by filming more?

Yeah. Yeah, sometimes. 

I think that’s awesome. 

It’s a lot of pressure, but I try to rise to the occasion.

I think in that way it makes the films breathe a little more, you know, so that you have some kind of scene where you have all this activity and energy and conversation, and then you have, a time that’s more sort of more cerebral. It’s not like a rest time. In fact, I think the audience has to kind of work with what they’ve just experienced in the previous scenes. That’s what I think happens in those sections.

Also, I see that you’re very interested in the ephemeral with a lot of your work. I’m wondering, for something as permanent a medium as film is, what is your interest in that?

Hmm, that’s really a lovely question. So, I guess I explored that most… I’m going to think about a couple of films, but I don’t know if you’ve seen them. Did you see Maya at 24?


Maya at 24 is a four-minute short film she released in 2021, which captures her daughter, Maya, at ages 6, 16, and the titular, 24. It’s comprised almost entirely of three paralleled scenes of Maya running in circles around a camera at each of those ages. Sachs shot it in black and white film on her 16mm Bolex. 

So I was thinking about this while my daughter was spinning around me and then later as I was watching those moments on film.  There on the screen are aspects of her that are no more—like I can’t touch anymore, that I can’t access anymore. But film itself can remind me; it’s almost like saying film is the antidote to the ephemeral? It’s sort of saying, “well, nothing is ephemeral because we can contain it and put it in our computer or put it in a can,” but yet it is also constantly reminding us that it no longer is. Did you see a Month of Single Frames? 

No, but that’s the one about Barbara Hammer? 

Yeah. You know, Barbara Hammer’s work? 

A little bit. I’m not too knowledgeable of her, though. 

Well, she was definitely a mentor of mine and a dear friend—she was never a teacher—but I admired her. She was exactly the same age as my mom is, and she was a powerhouse, “lesbian, experimental filmmaker,” that’s what she called herself. And when she was dying, a year before that, she asked me and some other people to make films with materials she had never been able to finish. And so the film that we made, which is a Month of Single Frames, or that I made in homage to her, is also about the ephemeral because it’s a recognition of the mortal coil as well as the changing landscape that you’ll see in the film. The landscape is- has- will always change. So it’s only there to hold onto and to touch in that exact moment. It’s like the Heraclitus, you know, “you can’t step in the same [stream] twice.” And so, it is always passing us by. I’m working on a new film now called Every Contact Leaves a Trace. It’s about people who’ve left imprints on me, but that expression comes from a forensic study. That if you come into my home or space and you take something from me, you leave something of yourself, a residue. So I’m interested in that. What happens when a tangible,  touch-based experience is investigated, which is sort of like, how do we confront the ephemeral?

So for that film, Every Contact Leaves a Trace. Are you trying to take like a neutral stance and pull in people that have had any sort of contact with you—negative or positive? 

I actually only have a pool of 550 people. 

That’s a lot, though.

 But I’m not using all of them. No, I’m not. They are people who, at one point, gave me a card. We had a haptic intersection. It could be a doctor. It could be someone from like a hardware store. I have both of those types of people. I met a man on the border between the United States and Mexico, right in Tijuana. We met for about an hour. He gave me his card. So, I’m actually constructing scenarios in my mind about those. Yeah, it’s kind of similar; you said “ephemeral.” It’s like a passing in the night. That man left something with me. Maybe I left something with him. I don’t know. That happened in 2014, but I have these cards going back all the way to the ’90s. I’m interested in not so much the trajectory of their lives but in the detritus of the moment. I might do kind of playful reenactments. I’m not quite sure.

Like Lynne Sachs’ use of business cards to recall moments with strangers, near the end of the interview, I brought out stills from her films to recall scenes. The image I brought for Film About a Father Whowas one of my favorites, but the one I had the most trouble understanding. It’s the image you have seen twice thus far—Sachs’ siblings playing in a creek. I was first drawn to it by the use of color and light. Then, when I noticed she repeated it across the film it made me believe it had to hold more significance than I understood. Though, I was not prepared for how important. I said to her,

I noticed that you repeated this image in Film About a Father Who.

 Oh, thank you. Okay. I love that you brought that up. What happens in Film About a Father Who is that I have a seven-minute shot that my dad recorded with his own camera. So it’s the world and his children perceived by him. In many films that one makes, you talk to people, and they tell you exactly how they feel about things. But that was really a challenge for me with my father. So, to see the world through his lens, through his eyes, was such an opportunity for me to think about the positive things that he brought to his children. I had that material, and at first, I absolutely dismissed it because it had been completely degraded by time, by the weather, by the fact that the material had been in a garage for decades. Then I looked at it again, and I realized it was the most important image in all of Film About a Father Who. Because it has this compassion, but also as an image, it’s like the classical golden triangle. It’s constructed graphically like what you’re taught in design school or in drawing class—to create this perpetual motion inward towards the center through a triangle. And so, I was interested in using that as a marker three times in the film, but it’s not exactly the same shot. It’s different parts of the same seven-minute shot. Each time you, as the viewer, have a different level of engagement. The first time the children are sort of archetypal children playing in the water. The second time you know that they’ve grown up and you’ve seen them in other places, and you’re able to have a kind of comprehensive understanding of life live;  they have become thinking, engaged adults. The third time that you see it, you bring a kind of gravitas. Like these people have been through some pain. They have wisdom; they have interesting and complex interactions. So I’m interested personally in how you change as viewer because each time you see that frame, you are slightly more knowing. By the end, you’re almost omniscient, but in the beginning, you’re just engaging with it as material image.

 That was so profound. I absolutely love that explanation. 

It was really a reversal because I was so dismissive of that shot, and then I was so enthralled by it. There’s one other shot in Film About a Father Who that’s kind of like that. At the very end, there’s this static-y black and white shot where you only see the silhouette of my father, and he’s going off towards the horizon line. It probably was at the end of a tape and was damaged in some way. But I liked that it was pared down to these high contrasts blacks and whites, and that was it. It is my father, but it could become your father or anyone in your life you’re trying to hold onto.

You can find many of Lynne Sachs’s films on the Criterion Channel, Fandor, DAFilms and Ovid:

Criterion Channel: https://www.criterionchannel.com/film-about-a-father-who

DAFilms: https://americas.dafilms.com/director/7984-lynne-sachs

Fandor: https://www.fandor.com/category-movie/297/lynne-sachs/

Ovid: https://www.ovid.tv/lynne-sachs

Lynne’s Films Currently Streaming on Criterion, DAFilms, Fandor, & Ovid

Film About a Father Who available on Criterion Channel: https://www.criterionchannel.com/film-about-a-father-who

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 
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

Sachs Films To Be Featured on Ovid.tv – February 9th, 2022

February 2022 Ovid Newsletter

OVID in February Includes 32 Films with 10 Exclusive Streaming Premieres

Five French cinema classics, acclaimed Asian cinema, films by Charles Burnett and Shirley Clarke, and much more!

OVID.tv is proud to announce its February slate of thirty-two (32) streaming releases, including ten (10) exclusively streaming on OVID.

OVID’s February slate celebrates Black History Month with eight classic films exploring the Black experience at home and abroad. These include the 1948 documentary STRANGE VICTORY (branded communist propaganda at the time of its release), COME BACK, AFRICA, and Charles Burnett’s memorable slice of life drama MY  BROTHER’S WEDDING.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, OVID is proud to premiere five classic French films in February. The fun begins with three films by the French filmmaker and screenwriter Marc Allégret: the swooning 1955 melodrama SCHOOL FOR LOVE (starring a young Brigitte Bardot), the 1955 D.H. Lawrence adaptation LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER, and the delightfully fluffy 1953 farce JULIETTA.

A week later, OVID offers up two seldom-seen films by Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, central figure of the French New Wave, author, actor, and co-founder of Cahiers du Cinéma: the racy 1960 film A GAME FOR SIX LOVERS (featuring music by Serge Gainsbourg) and the 1961 political thriller LA DENONCIATION (THE IMMORAL MOMENT).

Other titles in OVID’s February slate include Shirley Clarke’s Beat classic THE CONNECTION, the delightful Hong Kong genre farce VAMPIRE CLEANUP DEPARTMENT, Ilan Ziv’s eye-opening EXILE, A MYTH UNEARTHED, and five more indelible short films by OVID favorite Lynne Sachs.

Details on all films coming to OVID in February are below.

Wednesday, February 9

And Then We Marched
Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2017
Filmmaker Lynne Sachs shoots Super 8mm film of the first Women’s March in 2017 in Washington, D.C. and intercuts this recent footage with archival material of early 20th Century Suffragists marching for the right to vote, 1960s antiwar activists and 1970s advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment.

A Biography of Lilith
Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 1997
In a lively mix of narrative, collage and memoir, A Biography of Lilith updates the creation myth by telling the story of the first woman. Lilith’s betrayal by Adam in Eden and subsequent vow of revenge is recast as a modern tale with a present-day Lilith musing on a life that has included giving up a baby for adoption and working as a bar dancer. Interweaving mystical texts from Jewish folklore with interviews, music and poetry, director Lynne Sachs reclaims this cabalistic parable to frame her own role as mother.

Tip of My Tongue
Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary, 2017
To celebrate her 50th birthday, filmmaker Lynne Sachs gathers together other people, men and women who have lived through precisely the same years but come from places like Iran or Cuba or Australia or the Lower East Side, not Memphis, Tennessee where Sachs grew up. She invites 12 fellow New Yorkers – born across several continents in the 1960s – to spend a weekend with her making a movie. Together they discuss some of the most salient, strange, and revealing moments of their lives in a brash, self-reflexive examination of the way in which uncontrollable events outside our own domestic universe impact who we are. (Anthology Film Archives Calendar).

A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)
Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2019
In 1998, experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer took part in a one-month residency at a Cape Cod dune shack without running water or electricity, where she shot film, recorded sound and kept a journal. In 2018 she gave all of this material to Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with it.

A Year in Notes and Numbers
Directed by Lynne Sachs, Documentary Short, 2017
A year’s worth of to-do lists confronts the unavoidable numbers that are part and parcel of an annual visit to the doctor. The quotidian and the corporeal mingle and mix. Family commitments, errands and artistic effusions trade places with the daunting reality of sugar, cholesterol, and bone.

The Flow Chart Foundation presents “Films + Poems = Lynne Sachs”

Films + Poems = Lynne Sachs
The Flow Chart Foundation
Monday, September 13, 6 – 7PM (EDT), via zoom

Filmmaker/poet Lynne Sachs will share a selection of short films and read selections from her poetry collection Year by Year Poems (Tender Buttons Press). This free public event precedes an encore presentation of our Text Kitchen workshop—Frames & Stanzas: Video Poems, which begins the next day, Tuesday, Sept. 14.

The Flow Chart Foundation explores poetry and the interrelationships of various art forms as guided by the legacy of American poet John Ashbery. Through programs for both general and scholarly audiences showcasing innovative work by a diversity of artists of various kinds, The Flow Chart Foundation celebrates Ashbery and his art as an inspirational and generative force. We see poetry in particular as a conduit to exploration, questioning, and resistance to the status quo, and work to offer new ways to engage with it and its interplay with other artistic modes.

On Year by Year: Poems:
“The whole arc of a life is sketched movingly in this singular collection. These poems have both delicacy and grit.  With the sensitive eye for details that she has long brought to her films, Lynne Sachs shares, this time on the page, her uncanny observations of moments on the fly, filled with longings, misses, joys and mysterious glimpses of a pattern of meaning underneath it all.”  —Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait of My Body and Against Joie de Vivre

“The highly acclaimed filmmaker Lynne Sachs is also a captivating and surprising poet. Year by Year distills five decades into lyric, a lustrous tapestry woven of memory, wisdom, cultural apprehension and the delicate specificities of lived life.”  —Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs and When the World Was Steady

“In Year by Year, Lynne Sachs selects and distills from larger fields of notation, acute scenes representing her life and the world she was born into. Her measured, spare account brings her to an understanding and acceptance of the terrible and beautiful fact that history both moves us and moves through us, and, more significantly, how by contending with its uncompromising force, we define an ethics that guides our fate.” —Michael Collier author of Dark Wild Realm

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. 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. 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. In tandem with making films, Lynne is also deeply engaged with poetry. In 2019, Tender Buttons Press published Lynne’s first book Year by Year Poems.

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. 

The Flow Chart Foundation’s “Text Kitchen” with Workshops by Lynne Sachs


The Flow Chart Foundation’s Text Kitchen hands-onWorkshops provide writers and other art-makers opportunities for deep exploration into poetry and interrelated forms of expression.


Frames and Stanzas: Video Poems—encore presentation!
a virtual filmmaking and poetry writing workshop with Lynne Sachs

Tuesday, September 14 & Tuesday, September 21, 2021 (registration includes both sessions)
6:30pm – 9:30pm (EDT) on Zoom

In this two-part virtual workshop, Sachs will share insights and experiences she has in bridging poetry with cinema. Participants will explore and expand the intersections between still/moving images and written/spoken words over the course of two three-hour evening meetings (participants must be able to attend both sessions). Lynne will guide the workshop on a creative journey that will include writing several poems in conjunction with shooting moving or still images using an iPhone and simple editing software. Lynne has always been fascinated by the conversation between large-scale public events beyond our control and our subsequent, internal responses to those experiences. Her workshop will build itself around this public/private convergence. 

Participants are encouraged to join us for a free, public presentation of Lynne’s short films and poetry taking place virtually at 6PM (EDT) on Monday, September 13th. More info here.

Workshop fee (includes both three-hour sessions): $80


Frames and Stanzas: Video Poems
a virtual filmmaking and poetry writing workshop with Lynne Sachs

Thursday, June 10 & Thursday, June 17, 2021 (registration includes both sessions)
6:30pm – 9:30pm (EDT) on Zoom

When award-winning Brooklyn filmmaker and poet Lynne Sachs first discovered The Flowchart Foundation’s enthusiasm for poetry as a conduit for an interplay with other artistic modes, she knew that we would be a great place to offer a workshop that would nourish a deeply engaged dialogue between the written word and the image.

In this two-part virtual workshop, Sachs will share insights and experiences she has in bridging poetry with cinema. Participants will explore and expand the intersections between still/moving images and written/spoken words over the course of two three-hour evening meetings (participants must be able to attend both sessions). Lynne will guide the workshop on a creative journey that will include writing several poems in conjunction with shooting moving or still images. Lynne has always been fascinated by the conversation between large-scale public events beyond our control and our subsequent, internal responses to those experiences. Her workshop will build itself around this public/private convergence. 

We encourage those with backgrounds in either or both poetry and image-making to sign up. Participants will need only a smartphone for creating their short films. Because creative collaboration between participants is a vital part of the experience, Lynne will carefully pair participants based on a questionnaire sent after registering. Note that this is not a tech-focused workshop, though some basic tech instruction will be shared.

Lynne’s virtual workshop will include the screening of some of her own recent short film poems, including “Starfish Aorta Colossus” (2015), “A Month of Single Frames” (2019), “Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home” (2020), and “Girl is Presence” (2020) as well as excerpts from her feature “Tip of My Tongue” (2017).

Join us in this 2-week multimedia investigation of the sounds, texts, media images, home-made movies, and sensory experiences that all come together in a video poem. We could not be more delighted to be launching the Text Kitchen workshop series with this event. 

Workshop fee (includes both three-hour sessions): $80 [event SOLD OUT]

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. 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. 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. In tandem with making films, Lynne is also deeply engaged with poetry. In 2019, Tender Buttons Press published Lynne’s first book Year by Year Poems.

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. 

Filmmaker Magazine: The Longhand Film

The Longhand Film
Filmmaker Magazine
by Courtney Stephens
in IssuesReflections
on Jul 12, 2021

For the past six years, I sought out amateur travel films made by women in the first half of the 20th century, which I collected in an all-archival essay film, Terra Femme. In the process, I watched dozens of hours of footage of everything under the sun: biblical gardens, women doing laundry, ice fields, a tapir, mounds in a cemetery. Occasionally, there is a handwritten intertitle. “Crossing the Equator” reads one, and the filmmaker has added little serif marks to the letters in “Equator.” What follows is footage shot onboard a boat during a line-crossing ceremony, in which Poseidon and his goons haze anyone crossing for the first time by slathering them in shaving cream and throwing them in a pool—an equatorial baptism. Elsewhere, title cards show up with facts (“Had lunch here”) or bits of acquired wisdom (“Camel wisdom: if you stand behind them, they can’t spit on you, if you stand in front, they can’t kick you.”). By turn spectacular, mundane and cliched, the films also feature hand-drawn maps and shots of signage or tourist pamphlets. The effect is of a moving image scrapbook, annotating journeys through vanished worlds. 

With the advent of home movie cameras in the 1920s, products quickly came on the market that allowed amateur filmmakers to make printed intertitles with borders and decorative fonts. Premade title sets were also advertised, a few feet of leader that could be affixed to the head of a film, with stock titles like “Symphony in Color” and instructions on what should be shot—in this case, spring blossoms. Other suggested subjects included airports, auto races, birthday parties and a scenario called “Hold the Phone” in which a housewife has her phone call interrupted by a “child crying, a salesman at the door, a collector, etc.” In contrast to this preordained content (and the predestined activities of female lives), women’s travel films are comparatively anarchic, seemingly driven by an urge to capture chance events, then collate the world according to them, with private notations and other forms of text stitching them together. Their haphazard arrangement and personal touches set them firmly apart from professional travel documentaries of the time. These were not aspirational endeavors, nor were many of the women I researched involved in the (male-dominated) amateur cine-club circuit. These films seem, by and large, to have been private documents, intended for the friends and families of their makers or for the makers themselves. 

In his essay “In Defense of Amateur,” Stan Brakhage noted that the word in Latin meant “lover” and wondered why, by 1971 (when he published the piece), it had acquired a derogatory connotation. He extols the dedication of the home-movie maker, who photographs “the events of his happiness and personal importance.” Brakhage sees himself and other experimental practitioners as successors to this tradition. (He is in agreement here with Quentin Tarantino, who once stated, “I like holding on to my amateur status.”). As an experimental film canon took shape in the 1970s and ’80s, filmmakers like Hollis Frampton and Fred Worden used handwriting to call attention to the nature of word and image in a film, and to create palimpsestic studies of the different drafts living inside a finished work in films like Frampton’s Poetic Justice and Worden’s How The Hell I Ripped Jack Goldstein’s Painting In The Elevator. Brakhage himself “signed” many of his films by scratching cursive letters into successive frames of celluloid leader—when projected, the frames write the filmmaker’s signature across the screen in light. In 2021, we have seen the near-elimination of the line between professional and amateur. We use screens to scribble on Instagram stories and dash off memes. But handwriting continues to show up purposefully in experimental and nonfiction films, even as longhand writing becomes increasingly obsolete (cursive is no longer taught in many primary schools). What does handwriting convey when it shows up in a film? What is its relationship to past modes of vernacular writing? How does written text imbue or even subvert the information it conveys? 

In The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting, Anne Trubek points out that early writing was primarily a form of counting. Cave paintings are less works of self-expression, it is believed, than tallies of goods—an early form of data visualization. Many of the Mesopotamian tablets that have survived are receipts, the minuscule marks of ancient cuneiform recording a trade of linen under the rule of a particular king or providing a list of temple holdings. It would be several millennia before the notion of personal handwriting, and the belief that it reveals attributes of the individual, entered the public imagination. For the centuries in between, written scripts operated more like fonts, and the point was to adhere to them. The Romans wrote inscriptions in capitalis, the classically balanced serif script to which, perhaps, the filmmaker makes homage in her embellished “Equator” (and from whence we get the term capital letters). The geographically distinct scripts that proliferated in Europe through the Middle Ages were so ornate they were often unintelligible across regions. They were conformed to diligently by the monks who copied books and manuscripts and, following the advent of the printing press in the 15th century, found themselves in demand as tutors of penmanship. Formal calligraphy had a new application in Europe: the drawing up of documents and bureaucratic papers in the conquest of territories.

The analysis of character through handwriting came about in the 19th century and was briefly linked to the occult and divinatory practices like palmistry. But it gained steam as an empirically tested collection of truths that could bridge science and religion by revealing how the soul shows itself scientifically through writing. These ideas especially took hold in France, where to this day it is common to ask job applicants to provide handwriting samples, which are then analyzed by graphologists, or handwriting experts. Strong-willed people cross their t’s with force; low-hanging g’s and y’s are evidence of sadness. Pioneering graphologist Jean-Hippolyte Michon wrote, “Who can doubt that every word is the spontaneous and immediate translation of thought? And who can doubt that handwriting is as spontaneous and immediate a translation of thought as speech? All handwriting, like all language, is the immediate manifestation of the intimate, intellectual and moral being.” That the written word is the uninterrupted route from self to page is essentially the logic behind the signature, that mark of the unique self that binds us irrevocably to time—to debt, marriage and more. It becomes physical evidence, and this instant memorialization of the moment of writing links the pen to the camera, which can only ever film the present moment. 

Handwriting often shows up in fiction films, as when a character reads or writes a letter or makes a written confession, as in Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest. Usually, it is a way of conveying internal emotions to the viewer or simply a means of moving the story forward. In nonfiction filmmaking, it could easily be seen as a neutral technology—just another way of making words, an ornamental flourish. But longhand writing carries with it more than just the information it conveys. In it lies the mystery of the author, a person living and writing in time. While the history of writing calls to mind learned volumes and chiseled inscriptions, and all the forms of perpetuity that humans have sought after, it is conspicuous evidence of frailty and disputation, of the provisional nature of factual knowledge. Authors die or change their minds. Libraries burn. Buildings fall. Ink fades.

Handwriting often shows up in films that feature nudity. In Mona Hatoum’s 1988 epistolary short Measures of Distance, we hear letters read aloud from the filmmaker’s Palestinian mother, exiled in Beirut. Arabic writing is layered upon what we learn are nude pictures of the mother taken by the daughter on a previous trip, before the current war that prevents Mona from returning. The mother’s letters, read aloud, tell of car bombs and the circumspect eye of her husband. She writes, “You asked me in your last letter, if you can use my pictures in your work. Go ahead and use them, and don’t mention a thing about it to your father. You remember how he was shocked when he caught us taking the pictures in the shower during his afternoon nap…. He still nags me about it, as if I had given you something that only belongs to him.” What is illicit in the film are not the naked pictures but the secret intimacy, forged in the text that overlays them. The letters speak to the constraints of female life; the fact of writing is a form of resistance.

In Maryam Tafakory’s short I Have Sinned A Rapturous Sin, made 30 years later, the filmmaker’s arms, but not her face, can be seen writing Farsi in chalk on black fabric. The words are lines from Sin, the poem by Forugh Farrokhzad (who would also direct the immaculate film The House Is Black). The lines, published when the Iranian poet was only 19, describe a bliss found in submission, beginning:

I have sinned a rapturous sin / in a warm enflamed embrace / sinned in a pair of vindictive arms / arms violent and ablaze

As she writes, Tafakory whispers the words aloud in a voice of urgent defiance. English subtitling in the form of cascading typed text fills up pockets of black in the frame, like echoes of the handwritten pleasure. The filmmaker writes me via email, “typed text and handwriting are different voices for me: handwriting is more quiet, a little shy and secretive. often cryptic or blended into the image. it can be dismissed or lost. my handwriting is always in farsi. typed text is more rigid, has a louder and more arrogant tone with fake authority and/or contradictory remarks. my typed text is mostly in english.” The scenes of writing are contrasted with footage of male commentators, offering their own take on female sexual energies: “In order to reduce her lust and unbridled passion, woman should eat lettuce.”

Written text is by its very nature an act of friction. In Goodbye to Language, Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D feature, the author Mary Shelley is depicted writing outdoors, her quill squeaking buoyantly on the page, as if to suggest that the loss of the written word is the loss of a kind of intercourse. Scratching words into celluloid is analogously erotic, like grazing skin with a needle. It’s also incredibly time-consuming. For just a few seconds of a word onscreen, one must carve the same word into hundreds of individual frames of film. The end effect is something coarse and alive. In 1967’s White Calligraphy, Takahiko Iimura carved an entire eighth century Japanese fable into black leader, one character per frame. It is too rapid to read and becomes pure choreography—a flurry of line and curvature. Writing is, after all, a form of drawing, and character languages carry in them earlier modes of representational sketches. In Su Friedrich’s film Gently Down the Stream from 1981, the filmmaker relays a series of dreams she had, interspersed with impressionistic images. “Wander through / large quiet / rooms” read the first three frames, in what appears to be liquid chalk but is revealed to be inscription on the film itself. The shifting allography (ways of making letters) suggests the mutability of dream space, in which one is some sense both writer and reader. The text HOWLS in sharp capitals when a woman cries out or gets tidy and nearly translucent when another shivers. From the handwriting analysis perspective, is variation the equivalent of the soul engaging in open play? An old book on handwriting analysis says that the letter t alone can tell you a lot about a person. A high t means you’re vain, a looped cursive t means you’re sensitive, a low stem on the looped t means you’re sensitive, but you try not to show it. Try to be less sensitive, the book advises. But the film is uninterested in this kind of external analysis. The self is a conjurer. When the dreamer makes a second vagina next to her first one, she wonders: Which is the original? 

As a viewer, waiting for words in the frame causes a shift in the images. In Friedrich’s film, highlights on the surface of a pool start to look like letters attempting to form, which also carries an edging, erotic charge. “I lie in a gutter giving birth to myself,” the text finally declares. In the films of Nazlı Dinçel, hand-scratching (and typing, and hammer-punching) agitates the surface of explicit images as a way of claiming them. In her series of “Private Acts” films, the filmmaker recalls forbidden scenes: early experiences masturbating with a showerhead and other forms of autoeroticism, first sex following a divorce. These recollections are scratched into haptic imagery—the thumbing of a flower stamen is as charged as the jerking off of an anonymous penis—firmly imposing her own articulation of events upon tender scenes, an act against shame.

In another scene from Goodbye to Language, a voice asks from offscreen, “To live one’s life? Or to tell it?” The line is quoted by Moyra Davey in her 2016 video Hemlock Forest. Davey says that when she asked her son if he keeps a diary, he replied that he’d rather live his life than narrate it. Handwritten ruptures threaten to destabilize the image, to force time into review even as it unfolds. But they also open the frame to a different kind of truth-telling, which comes from earned knowledge and intellectual itinerancy. They are interested in what gathers over time, similar to a coral reef or the marked-up margins of a book. Language time differs from visual time because what is written has already happened, has been experienced, processed and transformed into words. Handwriting adds to this the accumulated time of the physical being, beginning with the years it took the child to learn to write. 

Films use handwriting to summon the pasts that lie dormant in the present, not only for individuals, but within the physical landscape. Hope Tucker’s The Sea [Is Still] Around Us is what the filmmaker calls a salvage ethnography. The 2012 short film uses postcards sent from Corinna, Maine, over the course of the 20th century. The text is laid over contemporary shots of Corinna’s buildings and landscapes while Tucker’s quivering hand holds the postcard itself in the frame, showing earlier versions of the contemporary places. The chronology of postcards describe decades of industrial exploitation, starting with fragments of text from the years before the mill came—“I have a dandy tan on”—which give way to descriptions of choked waterways and overdevelopment. What began as handwritten messages transitions to typewritten text. One can’t be sure if this mirrors what is on the back of the cards we are shown, but the switch is clearly meant to suggest the same mechanization imposed upon the land.

Longhand is the mark of the living human; mechanical type is the mark of The Man. It is near-consensus among historians of type that something was lost in the transition to networked writing systems—not only in the loss of intimacy between the writer and the word, but the loss of intimacy found in vernacular modes of writing such as the postcard, with its shorthand convivialities. “Aloha!” reads a postcard from Hawaii sent in 1961 (and acquired by me at a thrift store a half-century later). “Mickey Rooney stayed here while visiting Honolulu. Most of the movie actors and actresses stayed here. Warm today 80 degrees. Looks like rain but when it rains it lasts about five minutes. Just a drizzle. Liquid sunshine. Los Angeles tomorrow.”

But then tragedy falls into our lives: A loss, an illness, a pandemic interrupts the route we were on, remapping our geographies. All proximities become personal. In Instructions on Parting (2018), the filmmaker and artist Amy Jenkins documents a period in her life during which, in rapid succession, she became pregnant, then lost her sister, her mother and her brother, all to cancer, in a matter of a few years. The intensities of this time period are punctuated with notes of handwritten grief, stated frankly, ellipses between locations during an intense series of transits between dying family members in an endless succession of final visits. What can be told to the page is different than what can be spoken aloud, and this holds true of spoken voiceover. 

In 2017’s Tip of My Tongue, Lynne Sachs, on the event of her half-century birthday, gathers people born the same year but from other parts of the world, to think through the major historical events of the past 50 years as refracted through place and perspective. The film opens with a sequence of notations scanned from notebooks. Jotting and crossed-out phrases alight on the screen, then burn out like coals in time. They echo the feeling of living through historic events, when what is happening feels too fast to ever quite grasp except in retrospect. Plato wrote that written words can do nothing more than remind one of what one already knows or has already experienced, and the film is an homage to orality, the idea of writing as a prompt for performance and dialogue. As Socrates quipped, “If you ask a piece of writing a question, it remains silent.” 

Baseball marginalia from James Benning’s private collection are linked to the diary of a would-be assassin in American Dreams: Lost and Found (1984), an iconographic exploration of the American social landscape. The scrolling cursive text at the bottom of the screen belongs to the diaries of Arthur Bremer, who, intent on shooting president Nixon, found an easier target in Democratic candidate George Wallace (Wallace survived). Hank Aaron memorabilia are presented in the upper quadrant of the frame, while the soundtrack offers key audio from the era: “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” advertising jingles, news coverage, rock ballads. This approach of multivalence through ephemera has the effect of being both lovingly culled and openly incomplete, acknowledging its own limits through the sheer specificity of what has been chosen for inclusion. We get the contours of a subtractive intelligence, collating debris and sifting through transmissions, striving not for completion but for insight. Benning’s cursive hand shows up again in 1992’s North on Evers. This time, it’s his own diaries that scroll over the physical landscape, often disappearing behind darker patches in the frame, then reemerging over grass or a window, like thoughts that dip into the arcane and return unfazed. He visits some friends in San Antonio. “They have a four year old daughter,” the words announce over sand. “I like kids at that age. They want to learn so bad.”

A figure walks through what appears to be a smoldering forest in Sky Hopinka’s Fainting Spells (2018), whose form makes homage to Benning. The film is an imagined conversation between someone younger asking someone older to tell them the story of how the ho-chunk began using the Xąwįska (Indian pipe plant) to revive people who have fainted. Text scrolls across land and sky, though maybe this terrain is less a place, like Benning’s America, than a substrate upon which knowledge is remembered:

“Night is falling and the spirits can see us. / It’s time to go home. / You had told me, ‘When you see the red / oaks, follow the water. / Then, when you find a fork in the river there / will be a lovely piece of land. / Remove everything that shines from your / hands, from your neck, from your body, and / swim to the nearest shore.’ / Xąwsįska, you’ve fainted again.”

Magnetic poles determine the earth’s latitude lines and the equator, but lines of longitude are a human invention, drawn onto the earth arbitrarily. A conference to decide where to place the Prime Meridian took place in 1884, at which representatives from several nations (the colonizing ones) met in Washington, D.C., to agree upon a common zero longitude line. Each nation had used its own navigation for maritime maps—on French maps, deviations of longitude were measured from Paris and so on.  But the equally essential point of the conference was to standardize time zones so that clocks around the world would sync. At the time in America, neighboring cities sometimes had different times of day, making train schedules rather complicated. The record of the conference attendees vying for a longitude zero that centered themselves reads a bit like a Monty Python script. The delegate of France shoots down the British delegate’s pretext for a longitude zero cutting through Greenwich, England (that the British Empire had the largest tonnage of world shipping), as “entirely devoid of any claim on the impartial solicitude of science.” In other words, it would simply be a flex on the part of Great Britain. The conference adjourns with Greenwich as longitude zero, initiating Greenwich mean time. One imagines the world’s globe-makers updating their globes, drawing the longitude lines on by hand. Imperial perspective has been subsumed into the appearance of objectivity. Writing in its earliest form: a transaction receipt. 

In Kevin Jerome Everson’s short film Partial Differential Equation (2020), a college student fills a chalkboard with a long mathematical proof. Differential equations include a changing, unknown variable, often stemming from the physical world. What is the force on the object? Where is it going? Partial differential equations are concerned with the multiplicity of factors at play in a given situation: position, temperature, orientation. These variables can end up encompassing almost everything, and solutions can blow up to infinity as they evolve in time, becoming unsolvable. We never learn what is being represented in the equation on the chalkboard. It takes more than eight minutes to write it out, filling the chalkboard (but safely by the end of the 16mm reel).

Those who read in languages that move left to right on the page, like English, tend to experience screen motion the same way: a car driving toward screen right has the sense of forward momentum and progress. Movement toward screen left is going somewhere else, as in Behrouz Rae’s short film Untitled. When the filmmaker draws a line in pencil “backward” across a world map in a book labeled Retreat of Colonialism in the Postwar Period, he charts his own path from his native Iran to his adopted home, the United States. Mapmaking is a way humans assert control over the physical world. Like the drawing up of contracts, it was an essential tactic of imperialism. Drawing one’s own path into an atlas, or making a moving image version of one, is an alternate form of mapmaking. Both add another variable to the two-dimensionality of the map—the variable of time. The use of handwritten language in non-narrative cinema is similar. Language, in these genres, is often used to deliver facts and information, which are supposed to have no point of view. But by including their own written hand, the filmmaker uses these tools as a means of finding out what the filmmaker themself knows, embracing the infinite contingencies that have acted upon them, and which may even be encoded in their handwriting. I find my own to be inconsistent; the graphology book tells me that variability is the result of a desire for change. 

“One day, time will make every road map in the known universe obsolete and useless.  And then we’ll all get lost,” says Bill Brown in his short documentary Roswell (1994), filmed on desert roads in and around New Mexico. Brown isn’t so much interested in whether a UFO crashed in Roswell in 1947 as he is in the burden of space and time that acts upon those on earth. What must it have been like for that UFO captain, navigating above the big blank desert without a map? Phrases of spoken voiceover are occasionally scrawled in strong Sharpie letters in the filmmaker’s “secret diary”: “ON THE ROAD TO CORONA I REMEMBERED (the page is turned) A REALLY SAD STORY…” A solitary woman, living out on the land during pioneer days, would write love letters, then release them into the open wind. The narrator speculates that one of these letters reached an alien starboy, who came to New Mexico looking for her. Maybe, he speculates, the Roswell crash is less a terrestrial mystery than a cosmic tragedy: the story of a woman who almost had the chance to outrun her own fate by vanishing in a UFO. A woman who, through desperation or optimism, wrote tender greetings into a void—to no one in particular. 

Mimesis Documentary Festival to host “Film About a Father Who” and “Day Residue” workshop

Mimesis – Documentary Festival
August 2021

Opening Night: Lynne Sachs + Workshop

Film About a Father Who
by Lynne Sachs (2021, 74’)Wednesday 4 August 6:00 PM
Boedecker Cinema

Drawing on a painstaking personal archive of images, home movies, and interviews, Film About A Father Who is a rare kind of cinematic portrait: one that succeeds in expanding our understanding of the filmmaker, her protagonist, and their relationship through its structure, aesthetic, and method. A beautiful accumulation of time, contradictions, and a multitude of perspectives reflects the all-too-familiar operatic dynamics of family.

This screening will be followed by a conversation with the artist and a reception with light refreshments.

Recorded by Marc Vidulich.

Mimesis Documentary Festival, Aug 4 2021
Q & A with filmmaker Lynne Sachs for Opening Night screening of “Film About a Father Who”
moderated by Maryam Muliaee, PhD
Post-doctoral AssociateDepartment of Critical Media PracticesUniversity of Colorado Boulderwww.maryammuliaee.comEditor, MAST journal www.mast-journal.org

  1. Can you talk a little about the process of archiving for Film About A Father Who in the course of three decades? My emphasis is on the word archiving (rather than archive) with an interest in the process, duration and change — a quality that also involves encounters with the unexpected and unplanned. I can imagine it must be an incredibly enormous amount of footage, images and sounds that needed your considerable time, patience and focus for re-listening, re-watching and final selection. How did you manage these demanding processes of archiving, organizing and reviewing your materials within three decades?
  2. There is sometimes this wrong assumption that films made up of home movies and family footage are hard to be directed or involve less direction. However, as a director you have sculpted the film with incredible attention to details. Your orchestration of the materials and visual rhetoric are so strong, thoughtful and distinct, revealed as an individual touch. How did you direct the film, and come to decision(s) about selection, order and function of home movies and family footage in your film?
  3.  There is an aesthetic of fragmentation in your film. You also mentioned to cubist paintings in your statement referring to your film and way of portraying your father. This fragmentation brings in dynamic variation, multiplicity and process – embodied in your way of engaging a variety of different materials (in terms of format, quality, time, order, aspect ratio, cut, collage, etc.); in a fragmented and unfinished image of your father; in the voice and view of multiple narrators the viewers encounter such as siblings some of whom remained disconnected for twenty years. I also find a meaningful association between this fragmental or fragmentary aesthetic and the way memories are always in pieces, ephemeral and collective. Can you talk more about the aesthetic of fragmentation (or variation) in your film, and why does it matter to you as a filmmaker?
  4. While the film title gives this assumption that your main protagonist is a man — obviously your father — I was surprised by and enjoyed far more and many encounters with women in the film, from your grandmother to your mother, your sisters and your father’s other wives, and of course yourself as a woman (as well as a mother and a daughter). Discovering this distinct feminist standpoint through which you connect the viewers more strongly with the female characters in the film was so remarkable for me. Can you talk about this feminist touch?
  5.  Can you talk about your use of aging/decaying videotapes? How did you find it aesthetically important or meaningful to deploy the disintegration of videographic materials? What is at stake in their tactile qualities (e.g. blurriness, incoherence, failure and dispersion) and how have their grainy textures helped your film narrative or aesthetics?

Workshop: Day Residue
A filmmaking workshop on the every day with opening night artist Lynne Sachs.
Thursday 5 August 9:30 – 11:00 AM
Grace Gamm Theater

According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams, our day residue is composed of the memory traces left by the events of our waking state. In this workshop, we explore the ways in which fragments of our daily lives can become material for the making of a film poem. While many people in the film industry rely upon a chronological process that begins with the development phase and ends with post-production, our Day Residue workshop will build on an entirely different creative paradigm that encourages artists to embrace the nuances, surprises and challenges of their daily lives as a foundation for a diaristic practice.

The workshop will include screenings of some of Lynne’s recent short film poems, including Starfish Aorta Colossus (2015), A Month of Single Frames (2019), Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home (2020), and Girl is Presence (2020) as well as excerpts from her feature Tip of My Tongue (2017).