Category Archives: synopsis


12 min., 2024

In the wake of the overturning of Roe v Wade, “Contractions” takes us to Memphis, Tennessee where we contemplate the discontinuation of abortion services at a women’s health clinic. We listen to an obstetrician and a reproductive rights activist who movingly lay out these vital issues. We watch 14 women and their male allies who witness and perform with their backs to the camera. In a state where a woman can no longer make decisions about her own body, they can only “speak” with the full force of their collective presence.

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ended a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion in the United States. Twenty-one states now ban abortion outright or earlier in pregnancy than the standard set by Roe v. Wade, which governed reproductive rights for half a century. The woman’s health care facility in this film no longer offers abortions.

Intimate confessions, paired with experimental choreography outside a woman’s clinic in Memphis, offer a glimpse into post Roe v. Wade America.

Lynne Sachs

Dr. Kimberly Looney

SaBrenna Boggan
Chase Colling
Shana J. Crispin
Kimberly Hooper-Taylor
Coe Lapossy
A. Lloyd
Audrey May
Vanessa Mejia
Natalie Richmond
Krista Scott
Neal Trotter
J. Wright
Nubia Yasin

Emily Berisso
Laura Goodman
Lynne Sachs

Sean Hanley

Anthony Svatek
with assistance from Tiff Rekem

Studio recording
Doug Easley

Sound mix
Kevin T. Allen

True/ False Film Festival, Premiere, Columbia, Missouri Feb. 2024
Cosmic Rays Film Festival,  March 2024
Ann Arbor Film Festival, March 2024

She Carries the Holiday in Her Eyes

She Carries the Holiday in Her Eyes (2023)
4 min., silent

Performers: Barbara Friedman and Laetitia Mikles

A picture of parallels and swirls, two women touch with eyes closed, use cameras in motion, discover a holiday of optics. “I have seen an individual, whose manners, though wholly within the conventions of elegant society, were never learned there, but were original and commanding, and held out protection and prosperity; one who did not need the aid of a court-suit, but carried the holiday in his eye.” – from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Manners”

Filmed at Yaddo
Saratoga Springs, NY

“A Hard Act to Follow” / An Essay by Lynne Sachs

A Hard Act to Follow:  A Daughter’s Cinematic Reckoning with Her Father
By Lynne Sachs
With editing advice by Alexandra Hidalgo
July 8, 2022

I’ve been making experimental documentary films since the late 1980s, beginning with Sermons and Sacred Pictures (1989) all the way through to Film About a Father Who (2020)—a total of 37 films, ranging in time from 90 seconds to 83 minutes. Over the years, I have made non-fiction and hybrid works that continue to shift my point of view from shooting from the outside in, to shooting from the inside out. That is to say, I make a few films that allow me to “open the window” on a person, group of people or place that I know little about in order to develop a deeper understanding or answer a gnawing question through my filmmaking. Then, I turn the camera back on myself and my immediate surroundings to produce more personal, introspective films. This back and forth positioning is a critical pivot that is fundamental to my own commitment to working with reality. I can only ask the people who allow me to witness all the vulnerable manifestations of their lives to enter my filmic cosmos if I too have gone to a similarly exposed place myself. 

Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs learning to swim, 1965. Photo by Ira Sachs.

Film About a Father Who is my cinematic reckoning with my father Ira Sachs, a bohemian entrepreneur living in the mountains of Utah. In making this film, I forced myself to follow this sometimes daunting edict. Together shooting my images and writing my narration made me come to terms with what I had always concealed and what I needed to reveal. In order to bring the film to life for you, my readers, I have added what I uttered in the film’s narration whenever it blends in a generative fashion with what I’m discussing.  

Every Thursday was Bob Dylan day. Dad didn’t care about the lyrics or the harmony, only the melody. He was a hippy businessman, buying land so steep you couldn’t build, bottling mineral water he couldn’t put on the shelves, using other people’s money to develop hotels named for flowers.  He worked from a shoe box, and as little as possible. 


Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs with her father, sister Dana and brother Ira, Jr. in Memphis, 1965. Photo by Diane Sachs.

Born in 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee, my father has always chosen the alternative path in life, a path that has brought unpredictable adventures, multiple children with multiple women, brushes with the police and a life-long interest in trying to do some good in the world.

He did not define himself by his work, but rather what he did the rest of the time, like drifting down a mountain or devouring the news and doing what you do to make children, who happen to become adults.

To own a mountain from which there is nothing you can do but come down, nowhere to build. What happens when you own a horizon?

Shooting from the Inside Out

My film takes a look at the complex dynamics that conspire to create a family.  There is nothing really nuclear about all of us, we are a solar system composed of nine planets revolving around a single sun, a sun that nourishes, a sun that burns, a sun that each of us knows is good and bad for us. We accept and celebrate, somehow, the consequences. In 1991, when I was thirty years old, I decided that the best way for me to come to terms with my relationship with my father would be to witness his life, to record my interactions with him and his interactions with the rest of my family and perhaps the world.


Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs with daughters Lynne and Annabelle Sachs in San Francisco, 1991.

I’ve never quite known where the “inside’ is with my father.  Over the decades, I’ve organized many recorded interviews—a time, a place, and a structure so that he would feel it was the right moment to tell me where he lives when he is alone—driving in his car, looking out from his living-room window at the Wasatch range, listening to the quiet of an evening snowstorm.  My father speaks more intimately of the trees and the steep slopes that reach up around him than he does of his closest human companions.  He swears to me that he does not dream, so in “real life” he conjured his own fantastical situations.

Dad had twin Cadillac convertibles.  He didn’t want his mother to know he was so extravagant, so he painted them both red. He could pull up in either one and she would never know the difference.  For a long time, neither did I.

The first time I saw both cars parked together, I was shocked that he had two. It was his secret, but now I was also keeping it.

He had his own language and we were expected to speak it. I loved him so much that I agreed to his syntax, his set of rules.

Rather than admit his propensity for buying one new toy after another, my father did whatever he felt like doing and assumed we, his children, would be there to support him.  We were good kids, so we participated knowingly in all the shenanigans that made his world spin the way he wanted it to spin.


Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs in Oakland, California, 1991. Photo by Lynne Sachs.

Never in all the years of making this film did my father find an ease with speaking about or even acknowledging his convulsive, peripatetic childhood.  That past is a country he left behind. For most of my adult life, I’ve been familiar with the obvious facts and people—his mother, high school, jobs, children—but I honestly could not figure out how these scattered events came together to become my father.  The mature, rational “me” whispered: “You don’t have the right or the need to put all of the pieces together.  Let him stand on the present. The details of his past are not critical to your life.” Each and every time that I flew from my home in Brooklyn, New York to his home in Park City, Utah, or that he visited me, I filmed.  As a result, I had hours and hours of material on 8mm and 16mm film, video, and digital that I needed to climb my way through.

How the Camera Witnesses our Changing Bodies

Still, I was scared to do this.  What would I find? How could I crack his, and thus our, finely constructed amnesia? Watching our old movies during the editing process, I sometimes missed the people we were, or caught a glimpse of a man I pretended to know, but somehow didn’t.  There is something so apt about the expression “Hindsight is 20/20.” The more I forged my way forward in time, the more I learned about my father’s compartmentalized life, Slowly, I began to realize that what I needed to articulate were the fissures, the images that I would never be able to capture because he was performing a complicated life on so many stages at once, and I was only privy to a few of them.

While my “subject” was growing older, his skin taking on new wrinkles and folds, much of the technology I was using to record our lives would change completely every few years. Over the course of my three-decade “production” period, I shot 16 mm film, using the same Bolex camera I purchased in 1987 for $400. But, I also relied upon an evolving array of video tape and digital formats. Indeed, Film about a Father Who includes an archeological palimpsest of 20th and 21st Century technologies, including: VHS camcorders; Nagra 1⁄4” audio tape records; HI-8; mini-DV; Digital Single Lens Reflex and Osmo cameras; Zoom digital recorders; and, cell phones.   


Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs on road trip across the country, 1989.  Photo by Lynne Sachs.

My camera witnessed. My microphone recorded. No matter which apparatus I held, I always knew that nothing was really what it seemed.

When I was 24, I took a trip with Dad and my sister Dana to Bali, where he had invested in a small hotel. This was supposed to be the first time when would have his complete attention. One afternoon, Dad took us on a drive. Like so many times during our childhood, we had no idea where we were going or why. We arrived at the airport and from the car window we saw a very young woman, a girl, walk out of the terminal.  We were so hurt, so infuriated that we immediately got on a bus and went to the other side of the island, only returning in time for our flight home. As it turned out, she was not just another weekend date whose name we would never even learn. This was Diana [my father’s very young girlfriend who eventually became his second wife]. It took me six years to seek out her perspective.

Making this film forced me to come to terms with those images that gave me aesthetic pleasure and those images that I called “ugly” but somehow conveyed a new level of meaning.  At the beginning of my logging process, I dismissed much of the of the older tapes, particularly the ones that my father had shot on his consumer grade VHS camera. They were too sloppy or degraded by time and the elements, be they hot or cold. Later, with my editor Rebecca Shapass at my side, we revisited this material and realized that these off-the-cuff images offered us a critical opportunity to see the world through my father’s eyes.  If Dad was not going to reveal his understanding of the world via a more typical documentary-style interview, I would have to rely on this material to understand his point of view.  With the Bali footage, for example, you can hear slivers of conversation between my dad and me shot at night as he happened to be staring up at the moon.  When you listen carefully to our words, you pick up the aural texture of our relationship in a way that more image-centered material would not reveal.  This discovery actually pushed me to go back to all of my outtakes, to scavenge amongst the disregarded NG (no-good) bins in search of the unfiltered sounds from my past. I could hear raw kindnesses, assertive admonitions, and subtle avoidance that were, in a sense, more natural and certainly more haunting.

I was born in the 1960s as were my sister Dana and my brother Ira. By the time I was 10 years old, my parents were divorced. In 1985, my father began what I’ll call a series of other family scenarios, with a new wife, and lots of girlfriends—both simultaneously and consecutively. There was no point in trying to keep count and initially I had no documentation of these other lives my father was leading.  By 1995, I had four new siblings; and by 2015, we became aware that there were two more secret sisters. I was already in the thick of making Film About a Father Who (I even had the title), but I had to find a way to shape my narrative to allow for all of these new, significant people.


Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs, Sr. with girl friends in Park City, Utah, 2005.  Photo by Ira Sachs, Jr.

Pushing Myself to See Beyond the Surface

I decided to seek out each of my siblings (beginning with my sister Dana born in 1962 and ending with my youngest sister Madison, born in 1995) and three of six of their mothers (including my own), knowing that the only way I could construct a group portrait of our father would be to include my five sisters and three brothers. From the beginning, I was inspired by German author Heinrich Boll’s 1971 polyvocal novel Group Portrait with Lady, in which a narrator interviews 60 people in order to better understand one woman.  With a nod to Picasso’s Cubist renderings of a face, my exploration of my father embraced 12 simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. I hoped that my film could ultimately see beyond the surface, beyond the persona our father had constructed, his projected reality.

In the fall of 2017, I hired two professional camera people and a sound recordist to join me on the day before Thanksgiving at my brother Ira’s apartment in New York City for the first-ever gathering of all my siblings. While everything else in the film had been shot by someone in the family, I hoped that this formal “set up” would produce an anchor for the narrative, an opportunity for all of us to get to know each other better and to reveal our feelings about our father and his evolving family. We shot for four hours, and the experience was, for the most part, cathartic. But, as I looked through the footage with my editor, I noticed that everyone was extremely aware of how I, in particular, responded to their words. Even a quiet sigh or a subtle raising of an eyebrow seemed to indicate to them what I was thinking. This, I believe, is a common scenario in documentary filmmaking, one that mirrors the dramatic paradigm in which actors look to directors for an affirmation that they have done a good job. It took me a year to accept that this singular, more contrived, scene was significant in terms of who was there in the same room, but did not take the film to the place I needed it to go.

Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs in conversation with newly discovered sister Julia Sachs, 2018.  
Photo by Rebecca Shapass.

And so, throughout the following year, I either flew my siblings to Brooklyn or went to meet them where they lived. In almost every case, I convinced my sisters and brothers to go into a completely darkened space with me. We often sat in closets. It was weird and very intimate. As I recorded their voices, resonating through my headphones, I knew I was listening to them in a deeper way than I had ever done before. There in the dark, they each accessed something new about our father that they had never articulated before.

We’re pretty candid about who Dad is and we’ve seen him through a lot, but we’re also able to shift what we might recognize as who he really is to what we want him to be. 


Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs, 2018. Photo by Rebecca Shapass.

My father’s life was clearly going to be a “hard act to follow.”  Yes, I had felt empowered to shoot with him for this protracted period of time, but every time I sat down to look at my footage something would get in my way.  I would tell myself that all the material was so poorly shot there just wasn’t enough to make a movie.  Or I was too busy teaching, or taking care of my children, or anything else that came to my mind.  Ultimately, what I think stopped me each time was fear of the story I wanted to tell. Finally, I as a daughter and a filmmaker, I realized that I needed to work with a person who could help me muddle through half a century of material. Never in my entire career as a filmmaker have I hired a professional editor to work with me on a film.  Instead, I either cut my movie myself or invite former students (or students of former students) to join me on this post-production phase of a project.  In 2017, I invited Rebecca Shapass, a marvelous undergraduate student from a class on avant-garde film, to work with me as my studio assistant.  At the time, Rebecca was 22 years old, exactly the same age as I had been when I started shooting my “Dad Film” (as my family referred to it).  Within just a few months, I realized Rebecca was the perfect person to collaborate on my project.  Her profound empathy, her patience, and her sophisticated aesthetic sensibility made for the perfect combination of qualities I needed in an editor who could help me log, transcribe and shape all of my material.

Finding My Voice

Still, one of the biggest and most intimidating aspects of making this film would be finding a way to translate my own interior thoughts—be they loving, rage-filled, compassionate or simply contradictory—about our father into a convincing, not too self-conscious, voiceover narration.

As we moved from being girls to women, my sister and I shared a rage we never knew how to name.

From the very beginning, I knew that Film About a Father Who would be an essay film that would include my own writing. One of the reasons the film took so long to make was that every time I sat down to put a pen to paper, I became intimidated by the process. I felt embarrassed by my anger, apologetic about my embarrassment, and frustrated by my awkward inability to accept the whole range of emotions I wanted to express. I also had no idea how to shape my newly discovered periods of bliss and confidence that I had found with my father, especially since I had given birth to my own daughters and was more insightful about the challenges of being a parent.

In January 2019, I had a three-week artist residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York. In my application, I explained that I had been working on one personal essay film, dare I say it, for most of my life, but that I needed a quiet, somewhat isolated place to write down my thoughts. I guess Yaddo thought it was a worthy endeavor, as they invited me to join about 12 other artists during that time. Lucky for me, I suppose, this was a particularly icy period in Upstate New York; taking long walks in the woods, as I had expected to do each day, was so risky that it was prohibited. I had no excuse but to write. For the first few days of the residency, I diligently placed my notebook on my empty desk, opened it to the first available page, pulled out my lovely fountain pen (which I hoped would inspire eloquence) and eventually wrote down a few words. Next, I read the words—usually around 20 at most—over and over again. Then, I would scratch them out and start again. At least, I thought to myself, I am not using a computer where the delete button beckons, seduces, and devours. There were still traces of dwindling assertions and quotidian doubts.

After a few days of anguished horror vacui, I realized that this conventional, familiar way of writing was never going to work, at least for this film. As if like a flash of light, or a jolt of electricity, it dawned on me that I had other tools available that might help me to generate the words for which I was so desperately looking. At around 4:30 p.m., just as my dwelling in the woods was starting to get dark, I unpacked my Zoom audio recorder, put on my headphones, closed all the doors to remind myself that I had absolute privacy, plopped myself on my bed with a bunch of pillows, and began to speak into the microphone. At first, it felt awkward and humiliating, so there in the dark I decided to make myself feel even more alone. I closed my eyes and let go. I am a person who is, more often than not, consistently self-aware and polite. I say what I mean, but I sometimes cover up how I really feel with an acute attention to grammar and kindness. Now, in this funky isolation, this makeshift recording studio, this anything-goes-at-last sensation of solitude, I let loose and the words poured out. Over a period of 10 days, I recorded hours of material—oral histories, in a sense—that were generated by me as daughter, artist, and director. To my surprise, I was actually able to apply the newly discovered “in the dark” approach to recording with my siblings to the way that I listened to my own thoughts.

When I began transcribing the words I had spoken, I found the task both painful and laborious. Speaking these candid words pushed me to my limit, into another zone of introspection. Then it occurred to me that in this high-tech, service-oriented world in which we all live, I could solve this problem quite easily. I sent my audio files to a transcription service and within 36 hours a typed document file of an inchoate narration arrived in my email inbox. I spent the second half of my residency reading and editing my own words, almost as if they had been created by someone else. There, before me, almost magically, but then again not, was the skeleton for my film, the narration.

I actually believe that my enthusiasm for recording in the dark is an outgrowth of the current image-crazy culture in which we live. Each of us, in our own way, attempts to cultivate and control the various forms of media that feign to mirror who we are. By turning out the lights, we can begin to go beyond and below the epidermal, eventually connecting with and releasing our inner thoughts.

Unlike the rest of the world, one of the qualities that most intrigues me about my father is his total disregard for how he looks on camera.  Throughout our shooting together over many years, he never thought one way or another about what he was wearing, whether or not his hair was brushed, or who was in the frame with him.  At first this aspect of his personality convinced me that he was going to be an easy subject of documentary study.  Only later did I realize that in order to “get into his head” I needed to see the world from his point of view.


Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs photographing family in Park City, 1991. Photo by Lynne Sachs

Seeing the World Through My Father’s Eyes

In the late ‘80’s and ‘90s, Dad carried a video camera around with him all of the time. After about a year editing together in my studio, Rebecca and I realized that we needed to take a closer look at these images to get into my dad’s head in a deeper way.  With this frame of reference in mind, we found two pivotal images that ultimately became key visual metaphors for the entire film.  The first image, which appears very early in the film and then continues later in two other places, is of three of my younger siblings playing in a stream bed on the side of a mountain property my father had recently purchased. It appears that the shot was produced with a tripod, as it is perfectly steady for the entire seven minutes.  For me, it is sublime. I do not exaggerate.  No doubt accidently, my father photographed what art historians would call the golden triangle of classical painting.  As my two half-brothers and one half-sister play and pretend to carefully move a garden hose across some rocks, I can hear my father speaking to them with affection and cautious scolding.  Even at a distance of about twenty feet, you can feel the parental intimacy, the children’s simultaneous desire to please and do exactly what they want.  As if worn and tattered by the thirty years this tape spent on a shelf in my father’s garage, the footage has been reduced to three pastel colors.  Now a mother myself, I can see how this image captures all of the love a parent can express for their children, here it is contained by the film frame and the raw aura of the setting.

Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Quarry explosion outside Park City, Utah, circa 1990.  Photo by Ira Sachs, Sr.

In one other initially disregarded image, I found the essence of my father’s relationship to the natural landscape he both loves and yearns to control, even, dare I say it, exploit. This is short shot during which you watch the top of a mountain above a limestone quarry in the moments just before explosives are used to blow up the ground.  You can hear my father in all of his excitement counting down the seconds before the highly anticipated event.  In the same voice that another person might prepare for the lighting of candles on a child’s birthday cake, my father gathers his gaggle together to watch the transformation of a mountain side into sellable commodity.  For me, the duality of the visual moment encapsulates so much of what makes my father the adventurous appreciator of all things natural and the clever business man who was always looking for something that might generate some cash.

To explain every ambiguous situation would be to dissolve the cadence of our rhythms. No balance, no scale, no grid, no convention, no standard aspect ratio, no birthplace, no years, no milestones. This is not a portrait. This is not a self-portrait. This is my reckoning with the conundrum of our asymmetry. A story both protracted and compressed. A story I share with my sisters and brothers, all nine of us.  My father’s story…. Or at least part it.

Through an accumulation of facts coming together over time, I discovered more about my father than I had ever hoped to reveal. From this perspective, Film About a Father Who captures my naïveté transformed into awareness, my rage transformed into forgiveness. But, there is also another vantage point I can now better understand. As the mother of two adult daughters, I can see the way that my actions have left an imprint on their psyches, their sense of self and self-worth.  I am steadfast in my own commitment to engaging with them in full transparency, admitting my mistakes, and taking them along for the long ride ahead. It may not have been by his example, but I did learn through my relationship with my father how important it is for a child to be brought into their parents’ lives as fully as possible.

Interview with Lynne Sachs / Costa Rica International Film Festival, Lynne Sachs Retrospective

Interview with Lynne Sachs
Costa Rica International Film Festival, Lynne Sachs Retrospective
Interviewed by Roberto Jaén – Director, Curator of the Preambulo project of the Costa Rican Center for Film Production
June 17, 2022

The American filmmaker and poet Lynne Sachs was honored by the tenth edition of the Costa Rica International Film Festival. 10CRFIC paid tribute to Sachs in a retrospective on her work featuring 14 of her films, characterized by Sachs’ poetic, intimate, experimental and reflective tone. In this interview, she tells us how she began her craft and her love for cinema.

Executive Production: Film Center of the Ministry of Culture
Production Coordinator: Vania Alvarado
Producer: Luis Alonso Alvarez
Photography: Jorge Jaramillo
Camera assistant: Diego Hidalgo and Gabriel Marín
Direct Sound: David Rodríguez
Editing: David Rodriguez – Diego Hidalgo
Interviewer: Roberto Jaen

Costa Rica International Film Festival: Opening the Family Album – A workshop with Lynne Sachs

Opening the Family Album
Costa Rica International Film Festival
San José, Sala Gomez, Costa Rica Film Archive
Part of Lynne Sachs Retrospective
May and June, 2022 with in-person meetings June 11 and 12

Opening the Family Album is a three day (two hours each day) workshop in which we will explore the ways in which images of our mother, father, sister, brother, child, cousin, grand-parent, aunt or uncle might become material for the making of a personal film.  Each participant will come to the workshop with a single photograph (both in hand and digital) they want to examine.  During the workshop, you will write text in response to this image by incorporating storytelling and performance. In the process, we will discuss and challenge notions of truth-telling and language. Your final work will then be a completed film with sound or a film with live narration. Previous filmmaking and editing experience is appreciated but not required. Participants may use their own digital cameras or cell phones to make images and sounds.  Please register early so that you can be part of our first meeting which will be virtual.

      This workshop is inspired by the work of Italian novelist Natalia Ginzburg, whose writing explores family relationships during the Fascist years and World War II. Ginzburg was a prescient artist who enjoyed mixing up conventional distinctions between fiction and non-fiction: “Every time that I have found myself inventing something in accordance with my old habits as a novelist, I have felt compelled at once to destroy it. The places, events, and people are all real.”

       All of the films made in this workshop will be presented publicly on our last day of meeting.

“Thought, Word, Image: Introduction to Lynne Sachs Retrospective” / Costa Rica International Film Festival

“Thought, Word, Image: Introduction to Lynne Sachs Retrospective”
Costa Rica International Festival of Cinema, 2022
Written by Fernando Chaves Espiniche, Artistic Director
Translated from Spanish by Maria C. Scharron

There are films that seem small but on screen they expand until we are overwhelmed. That is what happens with the images and words that Lynne Sachs pieces together: her films seem fragile, transparent, but they hit us with the force bestowed by the mind behind them.

Since the late 80s, this American artist has been building a group of work that expands and blurs the limits of fiction, documentary and the experimental expressions of cinema art. In more than 40 films, between feature films, short films, performances, web projects and installations, Sachs has demonstrated to be one of the most authentic voices of American experimental cinema. She provokes, challenges, and proposes.  Her movies give the impression of simplicity, which the emotional and intellectual weight betrays. Even when the films are straightforward, they raise deep questions that make them expand beyond their short duration.

But, what does someone like Lynne Sachs have to say about the Costa Rican and Central American context? Although her movies are intimate, Sachs’ films speak about what we call universal themes: home, memory, time, family, and cinema as a device to inquire into everything. It is her modest scale, (and we already mentioned that this should not distract us from her incisive glance), which lead us to think about other ways to approach cinema as producers, critics and spectators. Something is burning in these images of Sachs’, something that motivates us to imagine another way of narrating: the drive to film everything, transforming it all with voice, editing, thought and rhythm.

In Films About a Father Who (2020), which we had the pleasure to show in the 9th Cosa Rica International Festival de Cine, the director dissects her father’s presence with deep empathy and an objective eye. The debris of memory accumulates around a very complex figure. This challenges our understanding of him, but without leaving affection and tenderness behind. Personal history is made of small fragments recorded and filmed throughout the years, an accumulation of interactions and moments that reveal, even through their apparent banality, a compromise with the world and its inhabitants. By putting them together and letting the editing do its work and make them speak, these fragments expose other truths, they open fissures to other intimacies.

Sachs also sketches these family portraits through gestures: in Maya at 24 (2020), her daughter runs around her at ages 6, 16 and 24. Filmed in 16mm, it fuses the emotional landscapes of each age –ages, by the way, that are crucial in a woman’s life–, letting herself be surrounded by love and energy. Lynne is at the center of this gesture: this act also touches and affects her.

We also have to talk about the material nature of film itself, which brings us closer to, we could say, the manual process of transforming those images into a narrative-poem-gesture that summons us and invites us to get involved with these lives. The passage of time is inscribed in these films; the film is affected by light, movement, time and manipulation. Even in digital films we can still feel the presence of the artist’s touch, which is key. Sachs’ works are an invitation to dive deep into the vast archive of images and sounds that we generate, not only to dig into our childhood or hidden stories, but to find ourselves in the process.

It’s weird. With Sachs’ films, we end up feeling like we already know her, that we have talked to her for hours and hours. As in any conversation, one topic leads to another, images repeat, ideas come and go. But as every word turns, another angle reveals itself. In this sense, the power of the minimum inscribes Sachs’ work in a long history of women who have used the moving image as a tool to find themselves, to transform their bodies and their environments and register the beat of a century that learned to see itself through cinema. In Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor (2018), we witness the visits Lynne made to the pioneers of experimental cinema: Carolee Schneeman, Barbara Hammer, and Gunvor Nelson. Visits to the places they called home. They speak about their body and their body of work. They share pieces of their thoughts so we can participate in a different way with their films. Lynne Sachs’ films are an exercise in memory, an expanding memory. From the minimal to the immense, from gesture to revelation. Like glimpses, her movies invite us to be part of a poem: we are just another verse that rhymes with changes of direction, scattered dialogues, the movement of objects and the cuts that link moments that without Lynne’s diligent gaze we would never have found. At CRFIC we are thrilled to present this cinema of what is possible, of what is close. We want to converse with Lynne and her films, and we are fortunate she has opened that door for us.

Translated from the Spanish Original by Maria C. Scharron

“Pensamiento, palabra, imagen” de Fernando Chaves Espinach
Director Artístico, Costa Rica Festival International de Cine

Existe cierta clase de cine que parece pequeño
pero que, en la pantalla, se expande hasta
abrumarnos. Así sucede con las imágenes y
palabras que hilvana Lynne Sachs: parecen películas
frágiles, transparentes, pero nos golpean con
la contundencia que les confiere el profundo
pensamiento que las genera.
Desde finales de los años 80, esta cineasta
estadounidense ha estado construyendo una obra
que expande y confunde los límites de la ficción, el
documental y las expresiones experimentales del
arte cinematográfico. En más de 40 películas,
entre largometrajes y cortometrajes, así como
performances, proyectos web e instalaciones,
Sachs ha demostrado ser una de las voces más
auténticas del cine estadounidense experimental.
Provoca, desafía y propone. Sus películas aparentan
una sencillez que su carga emocional e
intelectual traiciona; incluso cuando son directas,
plantean hondas preguntas que las expanden más
allá de su breve duración.

Pero, ¿qué dice alguien como Lynne Sachs a un
contexto como el costarricense y centroamericano?
Incluso cuando son íntimas, las películas de
Sachs hablan de lo que llamamos temas “universales”:
la casa, la memoria, el tiempo, la familia y el
cine como dispositivo para indagar en todo
aquello. Asimismo, es en su modesta escala, que
como ya hemos dicho, no debe distraer de su
incisiva mirada, que nos mueve a pensar otras
formas de acercarnos al cine como realizadores,
críticos y espectadores. Algo arde en estas imágenes
de Sachs que nos impulsa a imaginarnos otra
forma de contar: es la voluntad de filmarlo todo y
transformarlo con la voz, la edición, el pensamiento,
el ritmo.

En Film About a Father Who (2020), que tuvimosel placer de mostrar en el 9CRFIC, la directoradisecciona la figura de su padre con profundaempatía y una mirada objetiva. Los escombros dela memoria se acumulan en torno a una figuracompleja que nos reta a comprenderlo, sin dejarde lado los momentos de cariño. La historia personalse conforma de pequeños fragmentos grabadosy filmados a lo largo de los años, una acumulaciónde interacciones e instantes que revelan, apesar de su aparente banalidad, un compromisocon el mundo y con sus habitantes. Al unirlos ydejar que la edición les permita hablar en conjunto,los fragmentos emanan otras verdades, abrengrietas a otras intimidades.

Sachs también esboza estos retratos familiarespor medio de los gestos: en Maya at 24 (2020), suhija corre a su alrededor a los 6, 16 y 24 años,filmada en 16mm, fusionando los paisajes emocionalesde cada edad –edades, por otra parte,cruciales en la vida de una mujer–, dejándoserodear por su amor y su energía. Lynne está en elcentro de ese gesto: el acto la trastoca a ellatambién.

Hay que hablar también de la materialidad del
filme mismo, que nos aproxima al proceso manual,
diríamos, de transformar estas imágenes en una
narrativa-poema-gesto que nos convoca y nos
invita a inmiscuirnos en estas vidas. En las películas
está inscrito el paso del tiempo; la cinta se deja
afectar por la luz, el movimiento, las horas y la
manipulación. También en lo digital se nota esta
“mano de la artista”, que es clave. La obra de
Sachs es una invitación a hundir las manos en el
vasto archivo de imágenes y sonidos que generamos,
no solo para excavar momentos de nuestra
niñez o historias ocultas, sino para encontrarnos
en ellas.

Es raro. Con el cine de Lynne Sachs uno siente quela conoce, que ha conversado con ella por largashoras. Como en cualquier charla así, un tema llevaa otro, se repiten imágenes, ideas van y vienen.Pero en cada giro de la palabra, se devela otroángulo posible. En ese sentido, ese poder de lomínimo inscribe la obra de Sachs en una historiaextensa de mujeres que han tomado la imagen enmovimiento como herramienta para encontrarse,transformar su cuerpo y su entorno, y registrar elpulso de un siglo que aprendió a mirarse en el cine. En Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor (2018), vemoslas visitas que Lynne hizo a Carolee Schneeman,Barbara Hammer y Gunvor Nelson, pioneras delcine experimental, en los lugares que han llamadohogar. Hablan de su cuerpo y de su obra. Noscomparten algunas piezas de su pensamientopara que participemos de otro modo en sus películas.

Así, el cine de Lynne Sachs es un ejercicio dememoria, de una memoria que se expande. De lomínimo a lo inmenso, del gesto a la revelación.Como en destellos, sus películas nos invitan aformar parte de un poema: somos un verso más,que rima con los giros, los diálogos sueltos, elmovimiento de los objetos y los cortes que unenmomentos que, sin la mirada acuciosa de Lynne,jamás se hubieran encontrado. En el CRFIC nosilusiona presentar este cine de lo posible y de locercano. Queremos conversar con Lynne y susfilmes, y para nuestra dicha, nos ha abierto lapuerta.

“Thought, Word, Image”
by Fernando Chaves Espinach
Artistic Director, Costa Rica International Film Festival 

Lynne Sachs will give a workshop on autobiographical family portraits at La Casa Encendida (Madrid)

Lynne Sachs will give a workshop on autobiographical family portraits at La Casa Encendida
May 24-26, 2022
La Casa Encendida (Madrid)


Lynne Sachs will give a workshop on autobiographical family portraits at La Casa Encendida
Posted on 04/26/2022 – 12:37:22

The director of “Film About a Father Who” will give this theoretical-practical workshop from May 24 to 26, and will present a monographic session of her work on May 25.

The training program of the cultural center La Casa Encendida (Madrid) will receive the visit of the American filmmaker Lynne Sachs next May, who will give a workshop on the autobiographical family portrait . According to La Casa Encendida, in the workshop “we will explore the ways in which the images of our mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, grandfather, aunt or uncle can become material for the making of a personal film. Each participant will come the first day with a single photograph that she wants to examine. She will then create a cinematic rendering for this image by incorporating narration and acting. In the process, we will discuss and question the notions of expressing the truth and the language necessary for it.”

This workshop is inspired by the work Family Lexicon by the Italian novelist Natalia Ginzburg, whose writing explores family relationships during fascism in Italy, World War II and the postwar period. Ginzburg was a perceptive artist who unified the usual distinctions between fiction and nonfiction: “Whenever I have found myself inventing something according to my old habits as a novelist, I have felt compelled to destroy it immediately. The places, events and people are all real.”

Lynne Sachs is the creator of genre-defying cinematic works through the use of hybrid forms and interdisciplinary collaboration, incorporating elements of essay film, collage, performance, documentary, and poetry. Her highly self-reflective films explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and larger historical experiences. Sachs’s recent work combines fiction, nonfiction, and experimental modes. She has made more than 25 films that have been screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto Images Festival, among others. They have also been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts, and other national and international institutions. The Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (BAFICI), the New Cinema International Festival in Havana, and the China Women’s Film Festival have all presented retrospectives of her films. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and is a part-time professor in the Art department at Princeton University.

The workshop will be given in English and Spanish, an adequate level of the language is recommended. Students will have free access to the screening of the Monograph of the filmmaker Lynne Sachs, on Wednesday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m.


Lynne Sachs impartirá en La Casa Encendida un taller sobre el retrato autobiográfico familiar

Publicado el 26/04/2022 – 12:37:22

La directora de “Film About a Father Who” impartirá este taller teórico-práctico del 24 al 26 de mayo, y presentará una sesión monográfica de sus trabajos el 25 de mayo.

El programa formativo del centro cultural La Casa Encendida (Madrid) recibirá el próximo mes de mayo la visita de la cineasta estadounidense Lynne Sachs, quien impartirá un taller sobre el retrato autobiográfico familiar. Según apuntan desde La Casa Encendida, en el taller “exploraremos las formas en que las imágenes de nuestra madre, padre, hermana, hermano, primo, abuelo, tía o tío pueden convertirse en material para la realización de una película personal. Cada participante acudirá el primer día con una sola fotografía que quiera examinar. A continuación, creará una representación cinematográfica para esta imagen mediante la incorporación de la narración y la interpretación. En el proceso, discutiremos y cuestionaremos las nociones de expresar la verdad y el lenguaje necesario para ello”.

Este taller está inspirado en la obra Léxico familiar de la novelista italiana Natalia Ginzburg, cuya escritura explora las relaciones familiares durante el fascismo en Italia, la Segunda Guerra Mundial y la posguerra. Ginzburg fue un artista perspicaz que unificó las distinciones habituales entre ficción y no ficción: “Cada vez que me he encontrado inventando algo de acuerdo con mis viejos hábitos como novelista, me he sentido obligada a destruirlo de inmediato. Los lugares, eventos y personas son todos reales”.

Lynne Sachs es la creadora de obras cinematográficas que desafían el género mediante el uso de formas híbridas y la colaboración interdisciplinaria, incorporando elementos de la película de ensayo, el collage, la actuación, el documental y la poesía. Sus películas altamente autorreflexivas exploran la intrincada relación entre las observaciones personales y las experiencias históricas más amplias. El trabajo reciente de Sachs combina los modos de ficción, no ficción y experimental. Ha realizado más de 25 películas que se han proyectado en el Festival de Cine de Nueva York, en el Sundance Film Festival, en el Images Festival de Toronto, entre otros. También han sido exhibidas en el Museum of Modern Art, el Whitney, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts y en otras instituciones nacionales e internacionales. El Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (BAFICI), el Festival Internacional Nuevo Cine en La Habana y el Women’s Film Festival de China han presentado retrospectivas de sus películas. Actualmente vive en Brooklyn, Nueva York y es profesora a tiempo parcial en el departamento de Arte de la Universidad de Princeton.

El taller será impartido en inglés y castellano, se recomienda un nivel adecuado del idioma. Los alumnos tendrán acceso libre y gratuito a la proyección del Monográfico de la cineasta Lynne Sachs, el miércoles 25 de mayo a las 19.30.


7 min., 2022
a film by Lynne Sachs with poetry by Paolo Javier

A market and playground in Queen, New York, a borough of New York City, become the site for the shooting of a film inspired by Paolo Javier’s Original Brown Boy poems. Wearing the tell-tale masks of our daunting now, five New York City performers search for a meal while speaking in verse. The film itself transforms into an ars poetica/ cinematica, a meditation on writing and making images in the liminal space between a global pandemic and what might come next.

Paolo Javier is a poet who thinks like a filmmaker. I am a filmmaker who thinks like a poet.  In Swerve, we’ve come up with our own kind of movie language, or at least a dialect that articulates how we observe the world together as two artists using images, sounds, and words.  The first time I read Paolo’s sonnets in his new book O.B.B. aka The Original Brown Boy, I started to hear them in my head, cinematically.  In my imagination, each of his 14 line poems became the vernacular expressions of people walking through a food market full of distinct restaurant stalls.  I re-watched Wong Kar-wai’s “Happy Together” –  a favorite of both of ours – and immediately thought of the Hong Kong Food Court in Elmhurst, Queens, a gathering spot for immigrant and working-class people from the neighborhood who love good cuisine.  As we all know, restaurant owners and workers experienced enormous economic hardship during New York City’s pandemic.  Nevertheless, the market and the playground across the street become vital locations for the shooting of my film inspired by Paolo’s exhilarating writing.  Together, we invited performers and artists Emmey Catedral, ray ferriera,  Jeff Preiss, Inney Prakash, and Juliana Sass to participate in a challenging yet playful endeavor. They all said “Yes!”. On a Sunday this summer, they each devour Paolo’s sonnets along with a meal from one of the market vendors. Wearing the tell-tale masks of our daunting now, they speak his words as both dialogue and monologue. Like Lucretius’s ancient poem De rerum natura/ On the Nature of Things, they move through the market as Epicureans, searching for something to eat and knowing that finding the right morsel might very well deliver a new sensation.  The camera records it all. “Swerve” then becomes an ars poetica/ cinematica, a seven-minute meditation on writing and making images in the liminal space between a global pandemic and what might come next.

Made with the support of cinematographer Sean Hanley, sound recordist Mark Maloof, editor Rebecca Shapass, and production assistants Priyanka Das and Conor Williams.

Premiere: BAMCinemafest June, 2022

Screenings: Museum of the Moving Image “Queens on Screen”
Chicago Underground Film Festival
Camden International Film Festival
Woodstock Film Festival

On the set of Swerve

This film is currently only available with a password. Please write to to request access.


“’SWERVE is shot in Elmhurst, Queens, a richly diverse immigrant space that saw its residents endure our country’s ground zero phase of Covid-19. SWERVE brings tremendous visibility to an Asian food court and workers otherwise invisible and ignored by the city. Some of the film’s performers have lifelong ties to the nabe. Together we all honor the resiliency of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, underscoring the vitality of poetry and cinema in these fraught times’”  – interview with poet Paolo Javier in QNS/ Queens News Service by Tammy Scileppi
QNS/ Queens News Service: “‘SWERVE’: NYC performers wax poetic in a new film shot in Elmhurst” byTammy Scileppi , June 23, 2022

“SWERVE is a lovely, serene cinematic meditation on postmodern/avant-garde/post-colonial poetry construction in general and specifically it’s a terrific incitement to read Javier’s book and seek out more of Sachs’s fascinating body of work” – Herbert Gambill, Mystery Catalogue
Mystery Catalogue:  “New Lynne Sachs Short “Swerve” Debuts at BAMcinemaFest” by Herbert Gambill, June 23, 2022

“Sachs and Javier make a meal out of zipping around table to table where a pandemic may have kept some customers away, but as people begin feeling their way back into the world, the sensations of reconnecting are conveyed in phrases that may come across as no sequiturs individually but coalesce into something greater as the feeling behind intonations and delivery transcend the statements themselves.” – Stephen Saito, Moveable Fest
Moveable Fest: Interview: BAM CinemaFest 2022 on Crafting a Clever Turn of Phrase with “Swerve” by Stephen Saito, June 24, 2-22

Movie Blogger: Review: Swerve (Short Film, 2022) by Paul Emmanuel Enicola, June 24, 2022

The Filmstage: Exclusive Trailer for Lynne Sachs’ Swerve Brings Poetry to Elmhurst, Queens by Jordan Raup, June 2, 2022

Hometown Source:  Short Redhead Reviews for the Week of June 24, 2022

WBAI-FM Cat Radio Café: Lynne Sachs & Paolo Javier on ‘Swerve’ (a film), Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer, July 12, 2022

Filmwax Radio: Lynne Sachs and Paolo Javier in conversation with Adam Schartoff, Ep 722: Lynne Sachs & Paolo Javier • Rebeca Huntt, June 17, 2022

Book Launch for Paolo Javier’s O.B.B.

Please join us on Sunday, October 17, @ 2pm ET to celebrate the publication of O.B.B. a.k.a. The Original Brown Boy, by Paolo Javier, and the debut of Lynne Sachs’ short video, Swerve, which adapts poems from the book. The reading will take place at the Moore Homestead Playground in Elmhurst, Queens—a neighborhood park and location of Sachs’ video—and Javier will be joined by Stephen MotikaAldrin Valdez, and the cast and crew members of Swerve—Emmy Catedralray ferreiraInney PrakashJeff PreissJuliana Sass, and Priyanka DasSwerve will be playing as a video installation inside of HK Food Court, located across from the park at 8202 45th Avenue, from 12 noon to 6 pm.

This event is generously funded by NYFA’s City Artist Corps Grant and co-sponsored by the Queens Museum. Free and open to the public! The Moore Homestead Playground is located on the corner of Broadway, 45th Ave, & 82nd St, and off the Elmhurst Ave R train and Q60 and Q32 bus stops.

“Thoughts on Making Films with Barbara Hammer ” Published in Camera Obscura

“Thoughts on Making Films with Barbara Hammer” by Lynne Sachs Published in Camera Obscura, Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies Duke University Press
Volume 36, Number 3 (108)
Dec. 2021

Link: Making-Films-with-Barbara-Hammer?redirectedFrom=fulltext

This personal essay articulates filmmaker Lynne Sachs’s experiences working with experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer. Sachs conveys the journey of her relationship with Hammer when they were both artists living in San Francisco in the late 1980s and 1990s and then later in New York City. Sachs initially discusses her experiences making Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor (US, 2018), which includes Hammer, the conceptual and performance artist Carolee Schneemann, and the experimental filmmaker Gunvor Nelson. She then discusses her 2019 film, A Month of Single Frames, which uses material from Hammer’s 1998 artist residency in a Cape Cod shack without running water or electricity. While there, she shot film, recorded sounds, and kept a journal. In 2018, Hammer began her process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her images, sounds, and writing from the residency to Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material. Through her own filmmaking, Sachs explores Hammer’s experience of solitude. She places text on the screen as a way to be in dialogue with both Hammer and her audience. This essay provides context for the intentions and challenges that grew out of both of these film collaborations.

Barbara Hammer and I met in 1987 at a time when the Bay Area was affordable enough to become a mecca for alternative, underground, experimental filmmaking. She taught me the fine, solitary craft of optical printing during a weekend workshop, thus beginning a friendship that eventually followed us across the country to New York City. We were able to see each other often during the last few years of her life. Between 2015 to 2017, Barbara agreed to be part of the making of my short experimental documentary Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor (2018) a three-part film that includes Carolee Schneemann and Gunvor Nelson. I met all three women in the late 80s and early 90s in the San Francisco  experimental film community and kept in close touch with each of them, both in person and through virtual correspondences, for many years. All three were renowned artists and beloved friends, just a generation older than I, who had embraced the moving image throughout their lives. From Carolee’s 18th Century house in the woods of Upstate New York to Gunvor’s village in Sweden to Barbara’s West Village studio,  I shot film with each woman in the place where she found grounding and spark.

Barbara believed that I would see her at her best on a Tuesday, the day of the week in which she would be most energetic after her chemotherapy treatments. That afternoon, I “directed” Barbara to run along a fence as fast as she could toward the camera, without realizing that I had calibrated the f/stops on my camera to reveal the shadow from the fence across her body, creating a fabulous series of stripes in the resulting image. I returned to Barbara’s studio during another chemo period. As we stood together holding our cameras, I thought about her films Sanctus (1990) and Vital Signs (1991), which she was making when we first met in San Francisco. In Barbara’s prescient words, these films “make the invisible, visible, revealing the skeletal structure of the human body as it protects the hidden fragility of interior organ systems.” (Barbara Hammer, Electronic Arts Intermix, description of 16mm film, 1990). That afternoon in her studio, Barbara picked up one heavy 16mm camera after another.  She then proceeded to dance with her furniture, embracing that robust physicality so many of us associate with her performative work. In this, my first collaboration with Barbara, I had the chance to photograph her trademark interactions with absolutely any objects she could get her hands on. For both of us, these moments of creative intimacy became the gift we somehow expected from our open, porous artmaking practice. We both wanted more, and by 2018 Barbara had figured out the way to make it happen.

Barbara asked me to come to her home to discuss something she needed to say in person. I immediately faced a complicated set of emotions. This was around the time she gave the talk “The Art of Dying or (Palliative Art Making in the Age of Anxiety)” at the Whitney Museum. Inspired by Rainer Marie Rilke’s book Letters to a Young Poet, she ruminated on the experiences of living with advanced cancer while making art. In her performative lecture, she shared examples from her art-making practice and deeply considered, lucid thoughts on her experience of dying. I knew that this tête-à-tête would involve some kind of good-bye, but I had no idea that she had decided to share a part of her personal archive, and thus a part of her being on this earth, with me. Filmmaking, in the tradition that Barbara and I have espoused for most of our lives as experimental makers, involves a deeply focused solitary period of introspection. A complementary aspect of our practice, however, calls for playful, engaged exchanges with all of the people in the film — both in front and behind the camera. Fundamental to Barbara’s sense of herself as an artist was her commitment to deep and lasting intellectual engagement with her fellow artists in the field, particularly other women who were also trying to find an aesthetic language that could speak about the issues that meant so much to us. By asking me to work with her, alongside her but not “for” her, Barbara, a feminist filmmaker, was actually creating an entirely new vision of the artist’s legacy.

As I sat at her side in the apartment she shared with her life partner Florrie Burke, she explained to me that she had obtained funding from the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio for this endeavor. There was money and post-production support for her to invite three other filmmakers (Deborah Stratman, Mark Street, and Dan Veltri) to complete films from her archive of unfinished projects. Barbara vividly described to me her 1998 artist residency in Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

For one month, she lived and made her art in a shack without running water or electricity. While in her Dune Shack, as it is still called, she shot 16mm film with her Beaulieu camera, made field recordings, and kept a journal. Barbara’s only instructions to me were very simple: “Do absolutely whatever you want with this material.”

Knowing her work as I did, it was not surprising to me that she was able to face her imminent death in this open, intimate, transparent, and sensual way. From Sanctus and Vital Signs — both of which excavated her own shock and sadness in the face of the AIDS epidemic — to Evidentiary Bodies (2018), which confronted and embraced her own cancer, Barbara developed a precise visual aesthetic that traced her own relationship to her end. Whether she was using her phenomenal optical printing and matting techniques in the studio or performing for the camera, she found an astonishingly inventive cinematic language to explore the resonances of both disease and death. It was with Evidentiary Bodies, her final work that was at the core of her Whitney talk, that she so eloquently witnessed her departure.

About that film, Barbara wrote of herself in the third person:

“The work is experienced and perceived through the performer’s body as we breathe together remembering that cancer is not a ‘battle,’ cancer is a disease. There are aberrant cells not ‘deadly foes.’ She is not ‘combative’ and ‘brave,’ she is living with cancer. She is not going to win or lose her ‘battle.’ She is not a ‘survivor,’ she is living with cancer. There is not a ‘war’ on cancer; there is concentrated research.”

Barbara always had an uncanny ability to understand herself from the inside out and from the outside in. Her films were visceral and personal. They were also exhilaratingly political. As I read through Barbara’s Dune Shack journal, I noticed that she referred to herself in the first and the third person, moving between from the I to the she.

“This morning I began the film. I didn’t shoot it. I saw it. The dark triangular shadow of the shack out the west end window of the upstairs bedroom would shrink and disappear as I sat sweating, single-framing second by second.”

“She had turned 60 today. She was almost the age her mother was when she died, regretful of not living her dreams and desires out into an old age. How resentful she would feel were she to die three years from today. Die without having had her pet dog, her country home, her long lazy days gardening and walking in the yard. Die without knowing the outcome of her partner’s work. The sadness of departure. The inevitable ending of breath and blood coursing. The complete and thorough blankness. “Is this why we make busy,” she wondered, “so that we won’t have time or space to contemplate the heart wrenching end to this expanse called life?”

While writing the text for my own film, the words I placed on the screen came to me in a dream the day I was to begin my final edit at the Wexner Center. By this time Barbara had died. I quickly realized that this kind of oneiric encounter could become a posthumous continuation of the dialogue I had started with Barbara the year before, during the making of Carolee, Barbara, and Gunvor. Since I would never again be able to speak to her about her life or the ontological nature of cinema or the textures of a sand dune, I would converse with her through A Month of Single Frames, the title I chose for my 14-minute film.

Through my writing, I tried to address Barbara’s celebration of solitude and cinematic embodiment. Ultimately, my text on the screen over Barbara’s images functions as a search for a cinematic experience that brings us all together in multiple spaces at once. It is also an embrace of an ambiguous second person you who might be Barbara herself or might be anyone watching the film.

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

Barbara’s imprint on my own filmmaking practice is profound. I observed in her work a conscious physical relationship to the camera. For the most part, she shot her own films and in turn found her own distinct visual language for talking about women’s lives, liberation, love, struggle, awareness, and consciousness. Discovering Barbara’s films released something in my own camerawork; my images became more self-aware, and more performative. Thinking about Barbara’s radical, improvisational and totally physical cinematography continues to push me to dive deeply and fully into my body as I am shooting.

In Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor, I brought Barbara together on screen with two other pioneers of the American avant-garde. In an email, she wrote these words to me after seeing the film for the first time: Hi Lynne, I had a chance to watch your lovely film! I was surprised at how energetically I performed for your camera. I’m honored to be grouped with such strong and remarkable filmmakers. Love, Barbara.” As aware of each other as they were of themselves, the film’s two other subjects also acknowledged her.

Carolee, who sadly died shortly before Barbara, wrote: “I loved seeing Barbara with those old Bolex cameras,” and Gunvor commented on how “Barbara moves so fast and vigorously as she walks toward the camera!”

These two films are my gifts to these women and to our shared audiences. Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor and A Month of Single Frames together attempt to reveal the great mind-body weave of Barbara Hammer’s life: her commitment to cinematic embodiment, her openness about dying, and her deeply held desire to find common space for women of all generations.

11th Annual Experimental Lecture – Abigail Child: “Where is Your Rupture?”

NYU’s Cinema Studies Department and Undergraduate Film & TV Department present the 11th Annual Experimental Lecture
Friday, Nov. 19, 7 PM


Since 2008, the Experimental Lecture Series has presented veteran filmmakers who immerse themselves in the world of alternative, experimental film. Our intention is to lay bare an artist’s challenges rather than their successes, to examine the gnawing, ecstatic reality of the work of making art. Our previous speakers for the Experimental Lecture Series have been Peggy Ahwesh, Craig Baldwin, Bradley Eros, Ernie Gehr, Barbara Hammer, Ken Jacobs, Jonas Mekas, Carolee Schneemann, M.M. Serra, and Nick Dorsky.  

                     – Programmed by Lynne Sachs with Dan Streible.

Abigail Child: “Where is Your Rupture?”

“The title of this lecture takes off from Andy Warhol’s Where Is Your Rupture, an early 60s painting which cuts off both a diagrammatic torso and the text beneath it. The result is at once detached and personal, a fragment with both text and body broken, incomplete. 

My own work utilizes fragments and rupture to reconstruct a new and different partiality, often focused on the body and gender. Whether editing found footage or my own filmed images, my principal form has been montage, developing, as Tom Gunning writes, ‘a system founded not on coherence, but on breakdown, not on continuity, but interruption.’ The result has been a complex bringing together of different layers, levels of thought—both fact, and fiction— about the subject at hand. Whether it be the life of Emma Goldman, anarchist and, for a period in American history, billed as ‘the most dangerous woman alive’ (ACTS & INTERMISSIONS -2017) or a re-enactment of still images from ‘strongman’ movies created in the 1930s (PERILS  -1984) or a prismatic approach to family drama  (THE SUBURBAN TRILOGY -2004-2011), my work attempts to rupture the given narratives across filmic genres. 

I will bring to the foreground some examples and also discuss films and collaborations that have yet to come into being, as well as films composed entirely of outtakes, throwaways: the images that are under-valued or not-yet valued. The world increasingly looks to be seamless, ‘lifelike’, realistic, even as our ‘realism’ has evolved into zoom screens and animated caricatures, game-idols of our current myths. Fracturing, recycling, breakdown and sampling are some of the tools contemporary artists use to confront and re-imagine our ‘new’ world.”

Abigail Child has been at the forefront of experimental writing and media since the 1980s, having completed more than fifty film/video works and installations, and written 6 books. An acknowledged pioneer in montage, Child addresses the interplay between sound and image, to create in the words of LA Weekly: “…a political filmmaking that’s attentive to form.” Winner of the Rome Prize, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, the Stan Brakhage Award, Child has had numerous retrospectives worldwide. These include Harvard Cinematheque, the Cinoteca in Rome and Image Forum in Tokyo. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art NY, the Whitney Museum, Centre Pompidou, Museo Reina Sofia, and in numerous international film festivals, including New York, Rotterdam, Locarno and London.