Tag Archives: A Month of Single Frames

“A Month of Single Frames” Reviews on Letterboxd

A Month of Single Frames 
Letterboxd Reviews

In 2018, one year before she passed away, the influential feminist filmmaker Barbara Hammer revisited a project she had worked on 20 years prior, compiled over the course of a month while living in one of Princeton’s Dune Shacks. In this short film created in collaboration with experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs, we are immersed in Hammer’s observations from the dunes through film, writing, and photography.

The film is structured around Hammer reading from her 1998 diary while images from her month of seclusion capture the biodiversity of the sand dunes. The result is an incredibly potent study of life in all its many forms and the difficulty of facing one’s own mortality. As Hammer looks back on her younger self, layers of memory cascade over each other as the images of the sand dunes slide together to form a compelling montage of the natural world.

FULL REVIEW VIA ONE ROOM WITH A VIEW: oneroomwithaview.com/2020/06/25/a-month-of-single-frames-sheffield-doc-fest-2020-review/

– Rob Salusbury

This is a posthumously collaborative work in which Sachs’ friend Barbara Hammer entrusted her with a selection of unfinished material from a 1998 residency and offered her the opportunity to complete the film as she saw fit. The resulting work incorporates Hammer’s highly formalized attention to seaside landscapes — sand dunes, expansive horizons — in what amounts to a retroactive diary film.

The soundtrack mostly consists of audio recordings of Hammer describing her relationship to the space and how it affected her work and her thinking. The result, as you might expect, is a kind of sidelong contribution to Hammer’s filmography: we see her muscular lyricism as organized through Sachs’ somewhat more linear compositional tendencies. It’s far too alive and present-tense to be a eulogy. Just a lovely, hard-to-position hybrid object.

– Michael Sicinski

When the act of making art (whether a film or any other form) seems lonely, this experimental short proves that isolation is broken when there’s an audience, when there’s reinterpretation or appropriation, building a dialogue through time that even transcends death. The musings about a life’s end become thus universal and we can see ourselves in our finitude, in the idle reflection of nothingness about to become.

– Pos Manero

Turning an unfinished film project from pioneering queer experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, into a remarkable kaleidoscopic journey, director Lynne Sachs seeks to present a study of life with her film, ‘A Month of Single Frames’.

Offering a relaxing and potent exploration of time and location, this is visually alluring and structurally intricate experimental work from Sachs, in which there is much to absorb and reflect upon

.- William Leesee

Strikingly familiar. A love letter to nature, Hammer emphasizes the dichotomy between simple and complex.

“You are alone. / I am here with you in this film.”

I will find myself returning to this piece, again and again, like a bird to its nest.

– Josh Korme

A lovely personal short. Old footage is repurposed with time, just like mundane elements are repurposed in this old footage, creating a nice little cyclical mood. Beautiful textures are created using close-ups or slight alterations of image, revealing new sides to old things. The sound design adds another layer, modifying and complementing the textures, while the dialogue between two creators closes the gap between twenty years. ‘A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)’ is a movie of time stopping. It’s the breath you take when contemplating a breathtaking natural landscape. The fresh air fills your lungs and you stop, peacefully. You live in this moment. This is it.

– JP Nakashima

I wish I could put this film in a tiny glass jar and just keep it forever. It reminds me of warm summer days in Massachusetts and being read to by my grandparents – even if what’s being said is serious. Vivre sa vie (live your life), and love it as fully as you can.

– Jackie

There’s a magic to the creation of a beautiful image—as someone without the ability to create images, it’s very mysterious to me. I love to watch people draw: they set down lines on paper. I can do that too! The lines are dead, they don’t mean anything. But then something suddenly happens, which I don’t understand at all—now the lines are a picture. That incomprehension is at the root of what I love about visual art.

It’s nice to watch someone completely fail to create beautiful images—to feel the disconnect between the beauty they observe in what they see and their ability to create a representation of that beauty that can communicate it to others. It reminds you how special and rare that talent is, that it can’t be taken for granted, however easy it might be to take it for granted if we only watched things that were good.

– DenizRudin

The strength of this short lays on the combination of all its different layers, and how they play off themselves. Not only do we get different visual elements, such as Hammer’s quotidian footage and visual experiments, but we also get to see her reflect on them and her experience through the reading of her own diary. This gets more complex when we consider Sachs own ideas, expressed through her editing and subtitles. Its a warm and casually profound short revolving around the creation of art and the possible dialogues between different artists, as well as artists with their audience.

– Santiago

A wonderfully poetic and existential celebration of nature. Incredibly comforting. What’s not to love?

– Ellie

i am overwhelmed by simplicity; there is so much to see

navigating the intricacy embedded within simplicity—an echo of all things grand and imposing—hammer and sachs meld their minds in this gorgeous ode to everything, to nothing. a woman dying as much now as she was back then reminds us that there is as much lucidity in stillness as there is movement; sand as there is in sea; dreams as there is in consciousness.

hammer shatters time’s linearity to transport us back to cape cod in 1998, but the time and location doesn’t matter. with this project, we are here in the now, we are back in the past. she was there, and she immortalised it on film, but film or not, her spirit would always remain—her connection with the place, her manipulation of it for shots, her frustration, her joy. empathy and a mutual gaze means we are not alone, she is with us in this film, even long after she’s gone.

– Sarah

”I feel compelled to do nothing. There is nothing to do. Everything waits expectantly for discovery.”

I love the dull haze of this film, the general view and focus on time but that focus blurred by time, a lost moment in memory that doesn’t exist any longer but refers back to a formative time and place through the fog of human living.

Todd May, explaining Deleuze and Nietzsche, once wrote that there is no such thing as being, only ever becoming. This is a film about a time of becoming, with being fading into obscurity and impossibility. Nothing is the way it is for very long, least of all our experiences.

Themes of wind, memory, fading sun, morphing colours, the eternal presence of difference that rises and fades as we watch, it’s beautiful.

”Why is that I can’t see nature pure and whole, without artifice?”

We are all here together. I am here alone.

– Jay

Barbara was actually my great-aunt, and seeing these fragments of her makes me wish I was able to spend more time with her before she passed. She was such a fascinating woman and it would have been amazing to get to know her when she was younger. This collaborative piece recalls her ability to evoke that raw, often romanticized ideal of filmmaking, that you can draw retaliation by shooting the simplest things around you. Lynne Sachs’ composition draws these individual pieces together into a lovely experimental work that showcases how the spirit of everything around us can create art and companionship.

– Mason Carr 

“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 to contemplate the heart-wrenching end to this expanse called life?”

Beautifully captures the joy of experimenting with film, the drive to capture and make sense of ourselves and our environment through photography, as well as contemplating our mortality and the ephemeral nature of life through the hopefully immortal medium of film.

– Jorge Olvera 

Hammer’s beautiful film and her voice create a wonderfully meditative state. There’s something quite special about watching this film, essentially a home video for decades, that gives its gentle images a deep power. It’s wonderful, too, to hear Hammer’s voice read out her diary and reflect quite honestly about death. Whether you believe in any kind of afterlife or not Hammer’s words about keeping busy to avoid the truth of our impending deaths is refreshingly bleak but beautiful.


made for and with barbara hammer, connection, collaboration, living with art, nature read through art, through living, watched on my childhood bed on a spring afternoon before a walk, with what could be seen as the less than ideal watching circumstances, could see my reflection on my laptop during the dark scenes, reminding of my existence, living with the film, living as the film runs, time, process, loss, revisitation, derek jarman, death, nature and art, cottage by the sea, morden nature, a vine growing on the side of something, use of another’s archive –


A beautiful tribute to Barbara Hammer, detailing the world she lives in with a fresh gaze. A conversation about mortality and continuation. Something struck me in this short film, from the small amounts of text to the beautifully written poetry. Recently I’ve been reading up on a lot of queer theory, and to see things like embracing the failures of experimentation is really incredible. Something magical is within this short film, and it got me glued from start to finish.

“I’m overwhelmed by simplicity”-

Shane Dante

A sadly moving picture of a moment in time that continues to evoke wonder. I was moved to tears over the connection I felt through this. It was a pleasure to have shot out in that area. It’s a very connected place…

There’s a very quiet experience involved with being queer that resonates through this film and I think my life is just going to be figuring out what that is.

– Chandeskee

Prismatic Ground Hosts Two Programs of Films by Lynne Sachs


Lynne Sachs in Conversation with Brett Kashmere (Canyon Cinema) – Ground Glass Award Presentation

Hosted April 8-18 , 2021
Here: https://www.prismaticground.com/

Prismatic Ground is a new film festival centered on experimental documentary. The inaugural edition of the festival, founded by Inney Prakash, will be hosted virtually in partnership with Maysles Documentary Center and Screen Slate. Catch the ‘Opening Night,’ ‘Centerpiece,’ and ‘Closing Night’ events live via Screen Slate’s Twitch channel. The rest of the films, split into four loosely themed sections or ‘waves’, will be available for the festival’s duration at prismaticground.com and through maysles.org. On April 10, at 4PM ET, Prismatic Ground will present the inaugural Ground Glass Award for outstanding contribution in the field of experimental media to Lynne Sachs. Other live engagements TBA.


By Joshua Brunsting 
Criterion Cast
April 8, 2021

Marking it’s debut edition, Prismatic Ground is a film festival of endless potential. Space for experimental cinema, particularly short form, is hard to come by, and thankfully it appears as though a new, heavily curated festival is set to give these incredible artists a new ground to show their work. But again, it’s a first edition. What could they possibly collect on their first try? Well, if these seven(ish) films are any hint, we may be at the ground floor of one of the country’s most interesting experimental film festivals.

6. The Films of Lynne Sachs

Another sidebar, although not one found in the main program, director Lynne Sachs is being honored as the inaugural winner of the “Ground Glass Award,” the festival’s award given to a person who has contributed to the world of experimental media. Being honored by both the award and a pair of programs, eight of the director’s short and medium-length works are being highlighted here, led by one of her more well known works (at least recently), A Month of Single Frames (For Barbara Hammer). Made in 2019 but just now making its way out of the festival circuit, the short is actually also available on MUBI at the moment, and sees the director collaborating with late director Barbara Hammer by finishing her final project in what ultimately results in a profoundly moving and aesthetically captivating character study of sorts. Other highlights include Sermons and Sacred Pictures, Sachs’ 1989 documentary about Reverend L.O. Taylor, a Black Baptist minister with a passion for filmmaking, and also maybe the best film of the bunch The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts. This 30 minute experimental documentary from 1991 looks at the depiction of the female body throughout history, and is as provocative today as it ever has been. Sachs is also featured in the main slate with her 4 minute masterpiece Drawn and Quartered, another film about perception, looking and gender.

7. 4 Films By Bill Morrison

Starting off this preview of the debut Prismatic Ground festival, we turn to a sort of sidebar-within-a-sidebar. Structured largely around four “waves,” Prismatic Ground is highlighting films with similar themes and ideas, and for the first entry we turn to, of course, the first wave. Within the first wave known as “desire is already a memory,” Prismatic Ground is highlighting four brand new shorts from beloved director Bill Morrison. Including the likes of 2020’s Curly Takes a Bath By The Sea and 2021’s trio of Sunken FilmsWild Girl and The Ring, these collectively only run around 30 minutes, but are as entrancing a quartet of films as you’ll see all year. Chief among them is Curly Takes a Bath, which is a short the director produced during lockdown that is strangely one of the more moving explorations of the striving for freedom that lockdown has brought us. Sunken Films feels squarely in his wheelhouse as its story of lost films discovered is a topic found throughout his career, as is the idea of loss and decay, which is the topic of both Wild Girl and The Ring, the former being maybe the director’s most formally interesting work collected here.

5. Home In The Woods

The feature film highlighted in the fourth wave (the same wave as the above mentioned Sachs film), Home in the Woods is about as singular a vision as you’ll ever encounter. At once maximalist in its experimental aesthetic and yet born out of the most minimal of intents, Home is director Brandon Wilson’s exploration of a forest near the filmmaker’s own home in Oregon. However, this isn’t a rudimentary point and shoot style, almost zen-like document of metaphysical freedom. No, instead Wilson crafts a relatively narrative-free deconstruction of the cyclical nature of the world around us and man’s own relationship to the space we inhabit. Pairing incredible sound design with filmmaking choices ranging from dynamic color processing to the use of microscopic imagery, Home has an almost science-fiction like feel, despite being a decidedly tactile and organic work. Not so much born of the lockdown era as the perfect type of conversation piece with it, Wilson’s film is in many ways one of the great pandemic documents. A film about the beauty of nature that plays as both zen installation piece and hypnotic slow cinema deconstruction.

4. Too Long Here

Back to the wide array of shorts collected here, for one of the more anger-inducing viewing experiences of the festival. More or less a seven-minute short film looking at the day that former First Lady Pat Nixon inaugurated a stretch of land along the US-Mexico border as “Friendship Park,” Too Long Here is director Emily Packer’s recontextualizing this event opposite the increasing racism and xenophobia that has ultimately culminated with not just former president Donald Trump, but his “liberal” replacement Joe Biden potentially continuing the building of the disastrous border wall. A soul-crushing exploration of America’s failed promise and increasing descent into nationalism is the real focus here, with Packer using lushly restored footage from the inauguration set against what the viewer is keenly aware of as the future for this relationship. In just seven minutes Packer stacks her film with fascinating moments from that day in history, and culminates with an absolute emotional gut punch of a final moment. A fascinating, deeply important work.

3. The Annotated Field Guide of Ulysses S. Grant

From one singular picture to another. The Annotated Field Guide of Ulysses S. Grant is from director Jim Finn, and tells the story of General Grant, as he attempts to liberate the southern states during the 1860s. However, this isn’t your father’s historical documentary. Instead Finn takes things like board games and collectible trading cards to lay out the respective battles Grant found himself in, pairing these opposite modern day landscapes of former battlefields, all shot in gorgeous 16mm. An engrossing, travelogue-like riff on a legendary historical figure, Field Guide is a strange melting together of the revered (former battleground location footage) and juvenile (board games). This is also a brilliant piece of research, moving viewers from the border between Texas and Louisiana up to the coast of New England, pairing seemingly misplaced thing like a 1970’s inspired soundtrack with deeply textured and dense historical background, making this an endlessly surprising feature.

2. The Films of Anita Thacher

The final director-focused collection on this list, Anita Thacher’s work is set to open the festival, with seven of her rarely seen shorts getting highlighted as the opening night centerpiece. This collection is led by the incomparable Loose Corner from 1986, which is being shown as a restoration-in-progress screening, as the Academy Film Archive is currently attempting to bring this masterpiece back to life. Cinephiles may find one of her later films, Cut to be compelling, particularly it’s fascinating use of image, sound and editing, and those, and I myself am transfixed by Loose Corner, maybe the most playfully kinetic of the films collected here. It’s a gloriously anarchic experiment in filmmaking and space, and features some of the most formally inventive sleights of hand you’ll ever find. These are exactly the type of one of a kind visual experiments that make Prismatic Ground a fantastic new player on the festival circuit, and will hopefully inspire more people to give these filmmakers proper respect.

1. Second Star To The Right And Straight On ‘Til Morning

Rounding out this list is arguably the most buzzed about film of the festival, and for just cause. Originally intended to be included on potential home video releases for the underrated Ben Zeitlin film WendySecond Star is the latest film from directors Bill and Turner Ross, and is not only likely never to make any release of the film they documented, but may very well never see the light of day commercially following this festival run. Billed as “too experimental” by the studio, this documentary is less about the making of the film itself and more about the spirit of the children that helped make it happen, embracing a sense of freedom and almost whimsy that is truly unlike any making of picture you’ve ever seen. Featuring little to know actual interviews, the film is more a collection of moments, of lives, all the while feeling decidedly of the Ross Brothers. Inherently a film about community, Second Star feels like a distant relative to a film like Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a film about performance and family, catching small moments like a child blessing someone’s sneeze in the middle of a conversation, all the while making these happenstances feel immensely moving. There simply aren’t filmmakers quite like these two, filmmakers with endless empathy and compassion.

Image Forum Presents “Feminist Queer Movie Month: Barbara Hammer”

Feminist Queer Movie Month: Barbara Hammer
Curated by Subversive Records
Image Forum 
2021 March 31 

Rough English Translation:

Barbara Hammer has always been challenging. In memory of her work and activities, she provided materials for her short film, which will be released for the first time in Japan, and her own work in her later years, and produced a short film in collaboration with Deborah Stratman, Mark Street, and Lynn Sach. A special project to screen 3 works.

Feminist Queer movie month: Barbara Hammer

Feminist Ando Queer Film Month 2021: Remembering Barbara Hammer
■ Screening Date: 2021 March 31 (Wednesday) 19:20
★ after the screening, held an online Q & A with phosphorus Sachs Director
■ screenings Works (4 works in total, 58 minutes in total)

“Bent Time” Bent Time
America / 1984 / Digital / 22 minutes
Director / Filming / Editing: Barbara Hammer / Music: Pauline Oliveros

▶ ︎ Rays bend at the edge of the universe, A work inspired by the remarks of scientists who advocated that time also bends. The scenery of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and the cityscape of New Mexico, taken with a 9mm wide-angle lens, along with the meditative original score of electronic musician Pauline Oliveros, feels like time is distorted. Bring.

“Vever (for Barbara)” Vever (for Barbara)
USA / 2019 / English / Color / Digital / 12 minutes
Director / Editing / Sound: Deborah Stratman / Shooting / Voice: Barbara Hammer / Text / Local recording: Maya Deren

Shape: Teiji Ito / Music: Teiji Ito, Teiji Ito, George Hardau / Provided by: Pythagoras Film

▶ ︎ A work created from each unfinished project by Maya Deren and Barbara Hammer. A video of Hummer traveling on a motorcycle in Guatemala in 1975 is linked to a story about the Haiti ritual and his own experience of failure that Delen met in the 1950s. Three filmmakers of different generations explore the possibility of replacing the power structure of which they are part.

“Many Ideas Impossible To Do All
America / 2019 / Color / Digital / 11 Minutes
Director / Edit :: Mark Street

▶ ︎ Jane Wardening (Brackage) and Barbara Hammer Hammer, who was looking to create a work from Hammer’s 1973-85 correspondence record, brought all the materials and footage of “Jane Brakhage” (1974) to filmmaker Mark Street in 2018. The work that was taken over and produced. Draws a complex friendship that connects Wodening and Hummer’s long distance.

“One Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)” A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)
USA / 2019 / English / Color / Digital / 14 minutes
Director: Lynne Sachs, Barbara Hammer / Photo: Barbara Hammer / Editing Text (Onscreen): Lynne Sachs

▶ ︎ In 1998, Barbara Hammer kept a diary by recording various sounds and landscapes around him while staying in a seaside hut in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, where neither electricity nor water was available. This work was produced as a process of confronting his own death by entrusting all the records created at that time to the filmmaker Lynne Sachs. Along with the eyes of observing the quietly buzzing colors and sounds of nature, thoughts about loneliness and aging emerge.

Barbara Hammer Commemorated with Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award

Ann Arbor Awards
March 2021

The Ann Arbor Film Festival provides direct support to filmmakers. Our 2021 awards competition presents $23,000 to filmmakers through cash and in-kind awards that include film stock, film processing, and camera rental. The three jurors Thorsten FleischLynn Loo, and Sheri Wills will virtually attend the six-day festival, viewing 116 films in competition and awarding the cash and in-kind awards. In addition, each juror will present a specially curated program of work during the festival. This year we are pleased to announce the addition of two more awards, the Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award and the Best Experimental Animation Award! 

Many thanks to our awards donors. These valued donors make it possible for the Ann Arbor Film Festival to present awards to deserving filmmakers each year. Their generosity creates a positive impact on experimental film by providing support and recognition for talented artists. 

An award from the AAFF not only confers prestige and financial support but also can qualify filmmakers for an Oscar® nomination by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the short film category. Qualifying awards include the Ken Burns Award for Best of the Festival, the Chris Frayne Award for Best Animated Film, and the Lawrence Kasdan Award for Best Narrative Film. Find a full list of the awards below. 

Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award – $500

Barbara Hammer was a filmmaker with a profound commitment to expressing a feminist point-of-view in her work. In 2020, filmmaker Lynne Sachs received the Oberhausen Film Festival Grand Prize for a film she made with and for Hammer. With funds from the prize, Lynne created this Ann Arbor Film Festival award for a work that best conveys Hammer’s passion for celebrating and examining the experiences of women. Qualifying work by artists of any gender will be considered.


Somewhere Else
March 2021
By Caroline Veunac

Somewhere Else and Dulac Cinémas join forces to offer you a weekly selection of films, accompanied by animations to feed your screening. This week on Somewhere Else, we’re going to meet the filmmaker Barbara Hammer, who is the subject of two short films to be seen at the moment on the MUBI platform, Vever (for Barbara) and A Month of Single Frames.

She’s not Lillian Gish’s granddaughter
Don’t be fooled by her Wikipedia page: Barbara Hammer is not the direct descendant of the silent movie star. His maternal grandmother was actually the cook for the director of Birth of a Nation.DW Griffith, which allowed little Barbara, born in Hollywood in 1939, to once cross the path of the muse of the filmmaker, Lillian Gish. Having become a director herself in the 1970s, Barbara Hammer has often claimed the influence of her grandmother – who was not only a cordon bleu, but also a self-taught painter – on her artistic vocation. Perhaps the fairy Gish also transmitted to her a little of her pioneering spirit, she whose delicate face embodied the dawn of cinema, but who did not stop at inspiring male directors, since she was also director and screenwriter. In 1920, at the age of 27, the beautiful actress directed her own film, Remodeling Your Husband., a comedy about a woman struggling with an unfaithful husband. Barbara Hammer had two more when she shot her first short, White Cassandra , in 1968, an assemblage of aerial shots of Los Angeles rooftops and a hippie ranch in the countryside, synthesizing her childhood legacy. Hollywood woman and her aspiration for an alternative lifestyle.

She is a pioneer of female gaze
In 1975, the film theorist Laura Mulvey theorized the concept of male gaze , to characterize the way in which the staging of the vast majority of films, governed by the male norm, objectifies the body of women. At the same time, Barbara Hammer breaks the prevailing rule by making short films in which she naturally adopts what we would now call a female gaze  : a way of filming that seeks to restore the female experience in its subjectivity. At the time when the young Californian multi-graduate (of psychology, literature and cinema) launches out in the direction, she has just left her husband (”  an extraordinary type ») To assert his homosexuality: this double movement of liberation is the very source of his cinema, which will not cease, in 80 films, to seek to represent the different facets of a lesbian life until then taboo.

Riding her motorbike, with a super-8 camera as her only baggage, Barbara Hammer combines the heritage of Kerouac and the beat generation in a feminine way , drawing a new silhouette as an independent director. But her daring does not lie only in her attitude, it is also manifested in her subjects: in 1974, she changes history with Dyketactics, considered the first lesbian film, which stages sexuality between women with solar sensuality. The innovation is also formal: influenced by Maya Deren, a great figure of surrealist cinema of the 1940s, Barbara Hammer multiplies visual experiments, overprints, overexposure, collages, coloring, alterations of the film … These effects combine to create a universe of new sensations and joyful exultations, experienced and represented by a woman.

She is an archivist of the LGBT cause
Barbara Hammer’s commitment is not only artistic: it is also historical and militant. With them, the three are inseparable. In 1992, the now fifty-year-old filmmaker directed Nitrate Kisses , her first feature film, a documentary on the repression of the LGBTQ community since the First World War. This film, which retains the experimental form specific to the artist’s work, is the first part of a trilogy on the invisibility of gays and lesbians through time. In the second, Tender Fictions(1995), she tries her hand at the register of autobiography, combining family films, photos and interviews to reconstruct snippets of childhood and key moments in her adult life, like the first time that she heard the word “lesbian”, and understood that it applied to her. Then comes History Lessons (2000), where the director tells the queer story by diverting various archival images, ranging from Hollywood melodies to pornographic films, including educational, advertising and medical spots. This Invisible Histories Trilogy, which testifies to a systemic oppression while freeing the spirits by its creativity, shows the at the same time disruptive and inclusive side of the work of Barbara Hammer, which will inspire all the generation of New Queer Cinema in the 90s, from Todd Haynes to Lisa Chodolenko.

She prepared her artistic testament
The cancer that struck Barbara Hammer in 2006 would mark her work as an artist during the last years of her life, until her death in 2019, at the age of 79. Invested in the fight for the right to die with dignity, the filmmaker, supported by her partner Florrie Burke, makes illness a new opportunity to explore her sensitive experience of the world in a female body, even if it is to badly. In 2008, in A Horse Is Not A Metaphor, it compares the fight against cancer and the energizing beauty of nature. Ten years later, seeing the end coming, Barbara Hammer confides in her friend, director Lynne Sachs, 16mm images and newspaper fragments brought back from an artist residency she had spent on Cape Cod ten years. earlier, and asks him to make a movie of it: it will be A Month Of Single Frames (to be discovered now on MUBI), a sensory short film which links creativity to the feeling of loneliness and to the intensity of the relationship with the elements – landscape, sky, sea, wind – in which Barbara Hammer will soon recast. The following year, it was another director friend, Deborah Stratman, who, at her request, edited rushes shot during a trip to Guatemala in 1975, associated with quotes from Maya Deren, giving birth to another short film. Vever (for Barbara)(also on MUBI). This sororal work of continuation of her work extends beyond her death, through the Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant, a grant created by her in 2017 to promote the work of young lesbian directors, which has already rewarded the Miatta artists. Kawinzi in 2018 and Alli Logout in 2019.

The living legacy of Barbara Hammer

Wexner Center for the Arts
by Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager
Mar 26, 2021

March 16 marked two years since the passing of legendary LBGTQ filmmaker Barbara Hammer. One of her final acts as an artist was to pass along to a few fellow filmmakers some of her raw, unused footage from over the years and some of the funds she was awarded through a multi-year Wexner Center Artist Residency Award. The filmmakers were each asked to create a “collaborative” short with the assets, and three beautiful films have resulted: A Month of Single Frames, completed by Lynne Sachs; So Many Ideas Impossible to Do All, completed by Mark Street; and Vever (For Barbara), completed by Deborah Stratman.

The films were presented at the Wex in 2019 as part of the Picture Lock festival, but for those who missed that opportunity to watch (or would like to revisit the works), we’re happy to share the news that two of the films are streaming over the next couple of weeks. We’re also excited to pass along an announcement from Sachs about how she’s using Hammer’s gift to pay forward, as well as news of the films making their debut on the other side of the world.

MUBI spotlight

Through April 6, MUBI is offering a chance to watch Sachs’s and Stratman’s films in the program “Ways of Seeing with Barbara Hammer,” presented as part of a series the indie streaming site created for Women’s History Month. Here’s a thoughtful critique of the program from Tone Madison.

Watch now on MUBI. (subscription required; free trial available)

Barbara Hammer Feminist Film Award

Last spring, A Month of Single Frames screened virtually as part of Germany’s Oberhausen Film Festival—and was awarded the fest’s Grand Prize. After Lynn Sachs received an accompanying cash award, she chose to fund a new award for one of the filmmakers in competition at this year’s Ann Arbor Film Festival, which wraps this weekend. The cash prize will be given to “a work that best conveys Hammer’s passion for celebrating and examining the experiences of women.” 

Learn more from the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Remembering Barbara Hammer in Japan

We’re thrilled to share that all three of the films completed from Hammer’s footage will have their Japanese premiere next Wednesday, March 31, through a program presented by the feminist and queer art research collective Subversive Records and Theater Image Forum in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward. Unfortunately, the filmmakers can’t be there in person, but Sachs will be streamed in for a post-screening Q&A.

Hear more from Sachs, Street, and Stratman about collaborating with Hammer.

Mubi Notebook: Nitrate Homages to Barbara Hammer

Deborah Stratman and Lynne Sachs pay loving tribute to Barbara Hammer and experiment with the collaborative nature of cinema.

Sophia Satchell-Baeza•12 MAR 2021

The series Ways of Seeing with Barbara Hammer starts on MUBI on March 8, 2021 in many countries.

Best known for unabashedly erotic and trailblazing portrayals of lesbian sexuality, the pioneering queer experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer passed away in 2019 of ovarian cancer, leaving behind an extraordinary, generous legacy of love. There’s the annual Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant, the profuse and expansive filmic representations of queer love and life that have paved the way for lovers (and future filmmakers) everywhere, and the many, many collaborations and endowments that Hammer has granted other artists. These include the unfinished films that became a key component in Hammer’s residency at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Revisiting her personal archive, Hammer pulled out footage from incomplete or abandoned films; projects that for reasons relating to money, or time, or a muddy mix of both, fell by the wayside. As her health worsened, Hammer invited four filmmakers—Lynne Sachs, Deborah Stratman, Mark Street, and Dan Veltri—to work with her on fashioning new films out of the incomplete material, giving a new lease of life to left-behind ideas.

Deborah Stratman’s Vever (for Barbara) (2019) picks up and reworks Hammer’s glimmering footage of lush Guatemalan fruit and vegetable markets, shot at the endpoint of a BMW motorbike trip that the director took in the mid-’70s to escape financial and romantic worries. Lynne Sachs’s A Month of Single Frames (2019) animates beautiful nature footage that Hammer filmed during an artist’s residency in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the late-’90s. These small, slightly delicate, curiously hybrid works in turn feel like votives for Hammer: jeweled little gifts that cherish her generosity of spirit and extend it outwards. (How clearly these are votives: the end title in A Month of Single Frames tells us the film was made with and for Barbara Hammer while Vever is lovingly titled for Barbara).

Hammer was alone when she was filming both sections of footage, yet the directors place her in the company of others, either through retrospective conversations or through the process of editing. The overall project has ended up catalyzing intergenerational crosswires of women artists collaborating together. There is also a strong sense in both works of the friendships informing them: whether we hear it through the medium of a telephone conversation in Stratman’s film, or in Sachs’s recorded conversation with Hammer on aging and their creative process. Rather than Nitrate Kisses, these are loving, alive and dynamic nitrate homages.

“To Fill Up this Expanse called LIfe”: A Month of Single Frames

In 1998, Hammer took part in an artist’s residency, based in a dune shack in the hook-shaped peninsula of Cape Cod. With limited resources and no electricity, she found herself face-to-face with the elements, as well as her own solitude. She kept a written diary and filmed what she saw there on her Beaulieu camera, shooting at speeds of up to 8 frames per second to see what would emerge from the exercise of looking: “I didn’t shoot it, I saw it,” Hammer reflects in voice-over. Recorded some twenty years later, Hammer reads from her diaries of the period at the behest of her friend and collaborator, the artist Lynne Sachs. The material that emerged from Hammer’s month of filming evokes a gorgeous, sun-drenched pastoralism not unlike her earlier, sexually-explicit and experimental nature films like Women I Love (1979) and Dyketactics (1974). This footage however is marked by the total absence of other people, confronting us instead with the filmmaker’s embodied and intimate relationship with the world around her. Shadows dance on the walls of the shack as moons and setting suns sweep past in dreams of time-lapse photography. Sand dunes glitter in iridescent colors while the long, delicate fringes of beach grass sway in the sea-blasted air. The images shift in scale but maintain their intimacy, from the vastness of the sand dunes to the microscopic details on a grain of sand. “I am overwhelmed by simplicity. There is so much to see,” she observes. This footage is beautiful, perhaps too beautiful—Sachs has said in an interview that Hammer abandoned the project partly because it was “too pretty.” But seen through the colored transparencies and prismatic lenses that Hammer brings to the landscape (a throwback, perhaps, to her early light projection-based works), we are reminded that this vision of the natural world is very much mediated: “Why is it,” Hammer muses, that “I can’t see nature whole and pure without artifice?” 

Reading from her journal some twenty years later, Hammer’s voice gives the edited footage the feel of a diary film, connecting us back in time to the woman who danced and filmed on the dunes. An awareness of the time that has passed imbues this short with a melancholy nostalgia while reminding us of the simplicity of pleasure, the microscopic details of beauty around us, the feel of the world. A colleague and friend of Hammer’s for over 30 years, Sachs reflects on the process of getting older: “I’m turning 60!” she says, as Hammer emits a wry chuckle. In the beautiful majesty of its nature footage and its reflections on small pleasures, the film made me think, like so much else these days, about the importance of how we choose to “fill up this expanse called life.” Sachs tells Hammer that though she is alone, she is there with her in the film, and we are there too. That through art, through film, we are rarely ever entirely on our own.

Vever (for Barbara) 

Stratman’s Vever (for Barbara) is a more expansive film than Sachs’s in the sense that it throws its net out to a wider range of ideas. The artist draws together Hammer’s Chick Strand-esque, associative footage of Guatemalan street scenes with Maya Deren’s reflections on Voudoun initiation and failure. Brought together through overlapping webs of sound, text, and image, Vever brings these two artists into conversation with one another over the challenges of filming subjects outside of their cultures from their own personal perspectives. Both the Ukrainian-born, North American-based Deren and the North American Hammer approach the Indigenous cultures of Haiti and Guatemala respectively as outsiders. Deren was not completely at odds from the Haitian culture, even if she didn’t belong; as a Voudoun initiate, she was able to participate in a way that few like her have been able to before or since. Hammer—broke, queer, and escaping to Guatemala on her BMW motorbike—encounters a world of extraordinary beauty in the sheer abundance of local produce: from gleaming bunches of radishes and bowls of horchata to the parcels of pineapple wrapped up in banana leaves. Her camera documents the traditional practice of textile weaving, of Indigenous song and dance, and then the Western intrusion of her culture—American culture—in the Pepsi insignia invading the market. Hammer abandoned the project because “she couldn’t find any political content, or personal context” for the material, but it was there, Stratman suggests, hiding in plain sight. 

The vever of the title is a ritualistic motif in the film, a spiritual crosshair that joins Hammer’s Guatemalan footage with Deren’s experiences of initiation in ‘50s Haiti. This geometric religious emblem—often etched in flour, cornmeal, ashes, or palm oil or sometimes just marked in the air—is used to invoke and compel the spiritual energies of the “loa” in different branches of Voudoun throughout the African diaspora, including Haiti. Deren described the vever in her book Divine Horsemen (1953) as a “juncture where communication between worlds is established” and I like to think of it in this film as a crossroads uniting the three artists across different worlds, cultures, and time periods. Overlaid atop of Hammer’s colorful footage, these vevers draw Hammer closer to Deren, an avant-garde stateswoman, through her abandoned footage on Haitian Voudoun. In 1947, Deren made a trip to Haiti to shoot footage for a project in which she planned to compare Haitian and Balinese ritual with the ritualistic aspects of children’s games. Although the film was never finished, Deren published a book on the topic, which was fully charged up with the energy of her direct experience of initiation. The book also included drawings of vevers scrawled by the Japanese composer Teiji Ito, Deren’s third husband and a sonic collaborator on several of her film scores.(Much later, the video label Mystic Fire Video would release a re-edited version of Deren’s film, worked on by Cherel and Teiki Ito, and titled Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti: what an abundance of unfinished, reworked, and never-quite completed films!)

Ito’s mysterious, elusive soundtrack to the avant-garde classic Meshes of the Afternoon surfaces on Stratman’s soundtrack to the film as another associate link in the chain between the three artists. It was watching Deren’s film Meshes of the Afternoon in a Film History class that made Hammer want to start making personal, intimate films. Hammer’s debts to Deren are inscribed in many forms, like the most recent video work Maya Deren’s Sink (2011) and back to her 1973 short I Was, I Am. In it, Hammer pulls a key from her mouth in a gesture to Deren’s film Meshes—except the key does not open her home like for Deren, but her beloved motorcycle.

 Eating keys: Barbara Hammer in I Was/ I Am (1973) and Maya Deren in Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Alone Again Or…

These shorts celebrate the open-ended potential of the unfinished project. Rather than viewing our abandoned or incomplete jobs as failures, why don’t we see them instead as spaces of possibility? Hammer resisted completing these film projects because she felt she didn’t have something concrete to say at that moment. Maya Deren struggled with falling into the trap of summarizing, and thus totalizing her personal experiences with Voudoun initiation. The unfinished project lies expectant, in waiting, for someone or something else to come along and breathe new life into it, adding to its molecular structure a new idea or way of looking at a problem. The unfinished project is still, thankfully, unwritten.

Tone Madison on “Barbara Hammer’s radical personal and political ethos”

Barbara Hammer’s radical personal and political ethos
Tone Madison 

This week, MUBI is spotlighting two short films—”A Month Of Single Frames” and “Vever (For Barbara)”— that encapsulate the late, great avant-garde filmmaker.

Few filmmakers are as foundational to American cinema yet as underappreciated as Barbara Hammer. At face value, this may be a result of her penchant to feature healthy amounts of frontal nudity, but her films’ confrontational marriage of the personal and political is probably more to blame. Hammer’s early work could be seen as a sort of feminist furthering of the principles of Direct Cinema, making the camera an extension of herself to document lived experience.

More formally inventive and abstract work was the point; the heightened nature of perception is too complicated to accurately capture by just pointing and shooting. Sensations, particularly those experienced by queer women, demanded an avant-garde style to accompany the feminist theory of the films. While subjects and themes of Hammer’s output changed over time (as she began cancer treatments in 2006), this political ethos always remained. Her work exists in a lineage of queer experimental artists who recognized that radical ideas demand radical forms, and that the personal and political are always entwined.

Given her vast filmography, MUBI’s recent selection of Hammer’s films— including 2019’s A Month Of Single Frames (co-directed with Lynne Sachs) and Deborah Stratman’s Hammer tribute, Vever(also from 2019)— feels like a sort of “Advanced Hammer Studies” curriculum, which focus on pieces that were completed collaboratively near the time of her death. In both shorts, Hammer and her process are subjects just as much as the landscapes and cultures she captures.

A Month of Single Frames finds Hammer towards the end of her life in conversation with Lynne Sachs. A fellow experimentalist concerned with the particulars of language and communication, Sachs is a fine complement to Hammer’s more elemental style. Working with original footage taken in 1998, Sachs edited the film with an audio track by Hammer that details the original failed project where she went to the desert and attempted to capture light patterns on the arid landscape. Single Frames shows its seams, sometimes focusing on unadorned landscape shots, and at others exhibiting unnatural changes in coloration and inorganic objects Hammer places in front of the camera.

“Why is it I can’t see nature, whole and pure, without artifice?” she wonders to herself, trying to capture the beauty of a sunrise. Considering how Hammer’s past films directly (and seemingly effortlessly) translated experience, this comes as something of a shock. She lets the viewer in on the constant struggle of attempting to remove the author, when anything intentionally captured on film is automatically removed from reality. Sachs is less focused on this dissonance in her own work and, thus, is a helpful collaborator to let Hammer out of her own head. This second layer of removal allows the work to breathe and stand as a touching portrait of someone who loved but was sometimes defeated by her own work.

MUBI’s intended companion, Deborah Stratman’s Vever (for Barbara), further fragments Hammer’s own work by putting her ethnographic footage and recorded interviews in conversation with texts and field recordings by trailblazer Maya Deren. Shooting in Guatemala in 1975, Hammer zeroes in on the labor performed by women in a local marketplace, showcasing the visually dazzling interplay of reds and oranges in the mélange of cloth.  According to Hammer, her original footage was taken in a desperate time in her life when filming was a search for meaning (and more practically, for money). She characterizes this project as a failure, hence supplicating herself and her work to the editing of another filmmaker to make some sense of it decades later.

Deren’s writing that intermittently flashes on the screen is also preoccupied with artistic failure, as it documents a trip she made to Haiti in the 1950’s where she wrestled with accepting failure as a necessary part of the artistic process. Both women’s trips, especially when paired together, reek of a typical sort of white exoticization, where some foreign locale is meant to be the catalyst for a deep personal change. While the work leans problematic because of this context, its focus on failure also shows the limits of that kind of self-actualization. On their respective trips, both women realize that foreign ethnography would not save them, and the film (whether intentionally or not) is an implicit critique of this colonialist impulse.

In her voiceover to A Month Of Single Frames, Hammer at one point says she is “overwhelmed by simplicity;” although, one feels she is not giving herself enough credit. Her films employ dense historical and theoretical references, but her style has often been a focused cinematic translation of the experience of sight and touch. Rather, she is the one who has made simplicity overwhelming and challenged implicit notions about what is and isn’t simple. Listening to her detailing of failures in this regard is a refreshing insight to her process, adding another layer of humanity to an already uncommonly humane body of avant-garde work.

The pairing of A Month Of Single Frames and Vever also put Hammer’s work in a useful historical context, showing how her work grew from Deren’s and became integral to the contemporary feminist avant-garde represented by Sachs and Stratman. Hammer’s work (more of which is hosted on the Capricious Gallery’s Vimeo page) is a necessary piece of the past, present, and future of radical film.

Maxwell Courtright
Maxwell Courtright works as a case manager for adults with disabilities in Madison. He formerly worked with WUD Film and programmed the 2015-2016 season of the Starlight Experimental Film series.

“A Month of Single Frames” Now Available Internationally on MUBI

The film will be streaming on MUBI through July 2021

SYNOPSIS In 1998 lesbian 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.

OUR TAKE Turning to an unfinished film project by the pioneering queer experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, Lynne Sachs animates the material into a loving dialogue with the director. A shimmering, kaleidoscopic diary film that gently reflects on aging, solitude and the sheer beauty of the world around us.

Best known for her frank portrayals of lesbian sexuality, the pioneering queer experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer sadly passed away in 2019, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy. A small part of this is the unfinished films that became a key component in Hammer’s residency at the Wexner Center for the Arts. As her health worsened, Hammer invited several filmmakers, including Lynne Sachs and Deborah Stratman, to work with her on fashioning new works out of the incomplete material. This project catalyzed dynamic intergenerational collaborations between Hammer’s material and the new filmmakers: Both Stratman’s Vever (for Barbara) and Sachs’s A Month of Single Frames invite us to explore new ways of seeing with the unforgettable, and much missed Barbara Hammer.