Tag Archives: And Then We Marched

Lynne Sachs: films made by a woman who… / AgX Boston Film Collective

Lynne Sachs: films made by a woman who…
AgX Boston Film Collective
February 23, 2023
Event on March 4, 2023

Lynne Sachs: films made by a woman who…

  • Saturday, March 4, 2023
  • 7:00 PM  10:00 PM
  • 144 Moody StreetBuilding 18Waltham, MA, United States (map)

A night of short films and discussion with legendary filmmaker Lynne Sachs  featuring some of her works on/about/alongside women be they daughters, mentors, idols or friends.

Lynne Sachs will attend in person for a post-screening discussion.

FILM PROGRAM – Screening order subject to change

Photograph of Wind | 4 min | 16mm | b&w and color | silent | 2001
My daughter’s name is Maya.  I’ve been told that the word maya means illusion in Hindu philosophy.  As I watch her growing up, spinning like a top around me, I realize that her childhood is not something I can grasp but rather  – like the wind – something I feel tenderly brushing across my cheek. Screened in 16mm.

Noa, Noa | 8 min | b&w and color | sound | 2006
by Lynne Sachs with Noa Street-Sachs
Over the course of three years, Sachs collaborated with her daughter Noa (from 5 to 8 years old), criss-crossing the wooded landscapes of Brooklyn with camera and costumes in hand.  Noa’s grand finale is her own rendition of the bluegrass classic “Crawdad Song”.

Same Stream Twice | 4 min | 16mm | b & w and color | silent | 2012
by Lynne Sachs with Maya Street-Sachs
My daughter’s name is Maya. I’ve been told that the word maya means illusion in Hindu philosophy. In 2001, I photographed her at six years old, spinning like a top around me. Even then, I realized that her childhood was not something I could grasp but rather – like the wind – something I could feel tenderly brushing across my cheek.  Eleven years later, I pull out my 16mm Bolex camera once again and she allows me to film her – different but somehow the same.

“And Then We Marched” | 3 min |S8mm | sound | 2017
Lynne shoots Super 8mm film of the Jan. 21 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and intercuts this recent footage with archival material of early 20th Century Suffragists marching for the right to vote, 1960s antiwar activists and 1970s advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment. Lynne then talks about the experience of marching with her seven-year old neighbor who offers disarmingly insightful observations on the meaning of their shared actions.

Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor | 8 min | Super 8mm and 16mm film transferred to digital | 2018
Three renowned women artists discuss their passion for filmmaking.
From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three multi-faceted artists who have embraced the moving image throughout their lives. From Carolee’s 18th Century house in the woods of Upstate New York to Barbara’s West Village studio to Gunvor’s childhood village in Sweden, Lynne shoots film with each woman in the place where she finds grounding and spark.

A Year in Notes and Numbers | 4 min | video | silent | 2018
A year’s worth of to-do lists confronts the unavoidable numbers that are part and parcel of an annual visit to the doctor. The quotidian and the corporeal mingle and mix. Family commitments, errands and artistic effusions trade places with the daunting reality of sugar, cholesterol, and bone.

A Month of Single Frames | 4 min | color | sound | 2019
In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had a one-month artist residency in Cape Cod. While there, she shot 16mm film, recorded sounds and kept a journal.  In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her Duneshack materials to Lynne and invited her to make a film.  “While editing the film, the words on the screen came to me in a dream. I was really trying to figure out a way to talk to the experience of solitude that Barbara had had, how to be there with her somehow through the time that we would all share together watching her and the film.  My text is a confrontation with a somatic cinema that brings us all together in multiple spaces at once.”

Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home| 3 min | 16mm | b&w | sound | 2020
In July 1971, avant-garde writer and language poet Bernadette Mayer produced Memory, a multimedia project in which she shot one roll of 35mm film each day and kept a daily journal. In honor of the project’s compilation and release as a book, Lynne Sachs embarks on a study of the memory and language of place. Journeying to Mayer’s childhood home in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens, Sachs pays homage to Mayer in a collage of architecture, light, and rhythm. 

Maya at 24| 4 min | 16mm | b&w | sound | 2021
with editing and animation by Rebecca Shapass
music by Kevin T. Allen
Lynne Sachs films her daughter Maya in 16mm black and white film, at ages 6, 16 and 24. At each iteration, Maya runs around her mother, in a circle – clockwise – as if propelling herself in the same direction as time, forward. Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.

 Total Running Time: 42 min.

Doors open at 6:30PM – Show at 7:00PM
Seating is first-come, first served.
Admission is free, however a $5-10 suggested donation is encouraged. Donations will be split between the guest artist and AgX. Donations help support future film programming at AgX.

Fascinations: Progress / 26th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

Fascinations: Progress
26th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
Festival Dates: October 25-30, 2022
Film page: https://www.ji-hlava.com/filmy/a-potom-jsme-pochodovali

Fascinations: Progress

This year, in the ongoing series of retrospectives devoted to the history of avant-garde film through the ways of representation of certain topic or motive, we want to map the representation of “progress”. Something inscribed in the nature of the avant-garde itself, the topic was also widely represented – typically with enthusiasm and admiration, but sometimes also critically. We are interested in films from the beginning of cinema until today. The works from the beginning of cinema and between-the-war period. The “classical” works and “big” names, but also not so well-known films and authors.

Film Database

Abstract Experiment in Kodachrome
director: Slavko Vorkapich
original title: Abstract Experiment in Kodachrome
country: United States
year: 1950
running time: 2 min.

Admiral Cigarette
director: William Heise
original title: Admiral Cigarette
country: United States
year: 1897
running time: 30 sec.

And Then We Marched
director: Lynne Sachs
original title: And Then We Marched
country: United States
year: 2017
running time: 3 min.


One day after the presidential inauguration in January 2017, the Womenʼs March took place in Washington D.C. Footage from the demonstration, shot with Super8 camera, is combined with archival footage of the protest marches from various moments in the US history. A visual whirl of the protesters᾽ faces and banners is accompanied by a childʼs voice which is trying to express as accurately as possible what it means to fight for oneʼs own rights.


Lynne Sachs (* 1961) is an experimental filmmaker and poet, a director of more than 40 films and the author of many installations, performances and web projects. In her work she explores the relationship between the close and the remote, the intimate and the public, the visual and the audio.

Beginning a Skyscraper
director: Robert K. Bonine
original title: Beginning a Skyscraper
country: United States
year: 1902
running time: 40 sec.

Case Sound Tests
director: Theodore Case
original title: Case Sound Tests
country: United States
year: 1925
running time: 10 min.

Early Superimpositions
director: Frederick S. Armitage
original title: Early Superimpositions
country: United States
year: 1900
running time: 1 min.

Energy Energy
director: Karel Doing
original title: Energy Energy
country: Netherlands
year: 1999
running time: 7 min.

director: Stefan Themerson, Franciszka Themerson
original title: Europa
country: Poland
year: 1931
running time: 11 min.

director: Mika Taanila
original title: Futuro – Tulevaisuuden olotila
country: Finland
year: 1998
running time: 28 min.


A plastic puzzle of 16 parts, made in Finland: UFO, uterus, butterfly, playhouse. This prefabricated building, to be placed on the top of the mountains or the African coast, represented the dreamy future the humankind was about to enter in 1968. The story of the rise and fall of Futuro is the story of the idea of a future man, the idea which emerges and disperses.


Mika Taanila (* 1965) is a Finnish experimental filmmaker and visual artist. In his films and video installations he often explores the history and the present of the utopian visions. His work has been screened at the major festivals and displayed in the galleries of contemporary art.

director: Bert Haanstra
original title: Glas
country: Netherlands
year: 1958
running time: 10 min.

director: Stan Brakhage
original title: Interim
country: United States
year: 1952
running time: 25 min.


Stan Brakhage’s debut film tells the story of the surge, pacification, and outflow of desire awakened by an accidental encounter between two beings temporarily frozen in time — a man and a woman — who stand below an arcade of viaducts as one car after another speeds by above them. The sensual piano accompaniment was complemented by Brakhage’s roommate and future composer, James Tenney.


Stan Brakhage (1933–2003) was a prominent, American experimental filmmaker, educator, and author of several books. Throughout his prolific filmography, you’ll find strong intimate films, exhilarating social documentaries, and purely abstract cinematic works; four-minute and four-hour works; and films shot with or without a camera.

Interior NY Subway, 14th Steet to 42nd
director: Gottfried Wilhelm Bitzer
original title: Interior NY Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street
country: United States
year: 1905
running time: 5 min.


This groundbreaking film shot six months after the opening of the New York subway follows a train traveling from Union Square to Grand Central Station. The dark tunnel is illuminated not only by the train that’s transporting the cameraman, but also by the headlights of a car driving along the sideline. The lighting takes full advantage of the architecture of the tunnel, which is reinforced with white columns arranged closely together one-by-one.


G. W. Bitzer (1872–1944) was an American cameraman known mainly for his work he did for D. W. Griffith. At the beginning of his professional career, he worked for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, the first-ever production company in the US devoted solely to filmmaking, for which he also shot a film of the newly opened New York subway.

director: Sara Kathryn Arledge
original title: Introspection
country: United States
year: 1941
running time: 6 min.


An abstract dance film presenting disembodied parts of dancers clad in tight clothing that move around freely in a blank space. With this film, Arledge helped create a new film genre – ciné-dance – in which the dancing body rids itself of its physical limitations and takes on a pure form.


Sara Kathryn Arledge (1911–1998) was a prominent, American experimental filmmaker whose most important works were Introspection (1941–1947) and What Is a Man? (1958). She also spent time painting and creating hand-painted glass slides, which she then compiled into the “stable films” Tender Images (1978) and Interior Garden (1978).

Jack’s Dream
director: Joseph Cornell
original title: Jack’s Dream
country: United States
year: 1938
running time: 4 min.


Jack, a puppet dog, has a lucid dream where he encounters not only his brave counterpart but also a dragon, a king, and a princess. The plotline of this small puppet drama alone is, perhaps, enough to label it a surrealist work; but on top of that, the film is interspersed with shots of a sinking schooner and galloping seahorses. The soundtrack to the film was provided by Larry Jordan.


Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) was an American surrealist, self-taught artist, a creator of collages and boxes with found objects, and a film collector. From the 1930s, he also created film collages using found footage, and in collaboration with filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage, Rudy Burckhardt, and Larry Jordan, he also made his own films.

Learned Spontaneous Movements
director: Dóra Maurer
original title: Megtanult önkéntelen mozgások
country: Hungary
year: 1973
running time: 9 min.

Leaving the 20th Century
director: Max Almy
original title: Leaving the 20th Century
country: United States
year: 1982
running time: 10 min.

director: Charles Sheeler, Paul Strand
original title: Manhatta
country: United States
year: 1921
running time: 9 min.


Regarded as one of the first avant-garde films made in the US, Sheeler and Strand’s Manhatta is a dialogue of poetry, photography, and New York City. In the poem Mannahatta, which appears in the title cards throughout the film, Walt Whitman invokes the “original name” of his city, the word “resounding, healthy, untamed, musical, self-sufficient.” The bearer of this name is represented by 65 shots emphasizing the contours of artificial, natural, and human layers that intersect within it.


Charles Sheeler (1883–1965) studied painting and drawing but made his living as a photographer working for architects. His own artwork stems from urban and industrial photography. Paul Strand (1890–1976) made a name for himself as a photographer in New York, having been attracted to modern architecture, the play of light and shadow, and the faces of impoverished immigrants.

Mr. Edison at work in his chemical laboratory
director: William Heise, James H. White
original title: Mr. Edison at work in his chemical laboratory
country: United States
year: 1897
running time: 1 min.

Oil – A Symphony in Motion
director: M.G. MacPherson
original title: Oil – A Symphony in Motion
country: United States
year: 1933
running time: 7 min.

Palace of Electricity
director: James H. White
original title: Palace of Electricity
country: United States
year: 1900
running time: 1 min.

Rhythm in Light
director: Melville Webber, Ted Nemeth, Mary Ellen Bute
original title: Rhythm in Light
country: United States
year: 1934
running time: 5 min.

Rose Hobart
director: Joseph Cornell
original title: Rose Hobart
country: United States
year: 1936
running time: 19 min.


Oscillating between homage and obsession, the film distills the gestures, expressions, and posture of Rose Hobart, the heroine of the exotic Hollywood drama East of Borneo (G. Melford, 1931). Cornell’s version of the film, reckless with the plot and other characters, slowed down, shrouded in violet blue, complete with Brazilian underscore and eclipse shots, frees Hobart from the encumbrances of cliché, stereotyping, and narrative gossip.


Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) was an American surrealist, self-taught artist, creator of collages and found-object boxes, and film collector. From the 1930s onwards, he also created film collages using found footage and made his own films in collaboration with filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage, Rudy Burckhardt, and Larry Jordan.

Scene from the Elevator Ascending Eiffel Tower
director: James H. White
original title: Scene from the Elevator Ascending Eiffel Tower
country: United States
year: 1900
running time: 2 min.

Science Friction
director: Stan VanDerBeek
original title: Science Friction
country: United States
year: 1959
running time: 10 min.


VanDerBeek describes his neo-Dadaist film collage, shot using the technique of phase animation, as “a social satire aimed at the rockets, scientists, and competitive mania of our time”. In his vision, science inevitably becomes an accomplice of power, a means of torture, manipulation, and control that ultimately threatens not just some, but the entire planet.


Stan VanDerBeek (1927–1984) was an American multimedia artist, thinker, and inventor who began working with film in 1955. Science Friction was named the best experimental film at the 1962 Oberhausen Film Festival. In 1964 he built the Moviedrome, an audiovisual laboratory for multimedia experiments, in a former silo.

The Dickson Experimental Sound Film
director: William K. L. Dickson
original title: The Dickson Experimental Sound Film
country: United States
year: 1894
running time: 1 min.

The Light Penetrates the Dark
director: Otakar Vávra, František Pilát
original title: Světlo proniká tmou
country: Czechoslovakia
year: 1930
running time: 4 min.

The Maltese Cross Movement
director: A. Keewatin Dewdney
original title: The Maltese Cross Movement
country: Canada
year: 1967
running time: 6 min.

Transformation by Holding Time (Landscape)
director: Paul de Nooijer
original title: Transformation by Holding Time (Landscape)
country: Netherlands
year: 1976
running time: 2 min.

Two Marches
director: Jim Hubbard
original title: Two Marches
country: United States
year: 1991
running time: 9 min.


The first March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights took place in October 1979, and another eight years later. In a non-violent juxtaposition of footage from both marches, Hubbard allows us to reflect on subtle and distinct shifts in the modes of protest expression, atmosphere, and shared perspectives.


Jim Hubbard (* 1951) is an experimental filmmaker who has made films and videos centered around protests organized by members of the LGBTQ and AIDS communities. He founded the MIX festival of gay and lesbian experimental film and video in New York. He’s building a collection of interviews with people infected with AIDS.

Unreal News Reels
director: Joseph Cornell
original title: Unreal News Reels
country: United States
year: 1924
running time: 8 min.


Joseph Cornell’s original compilation from his own film collection is based on the low-budget slapstick cartoons produced in the 1920s and 1930s by the Weiss Brothers, which Cornell turns into a parody of newsreels through subtle textual intervention.


Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) was an American surrealist, self-taught artist, creator of collages and found-object boxes, and film collector. From the 1930s onwards, he also created film collages using found footage and made his own films in collaboration with filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage, Rudy Burckhardt, and Larry Jordan.

director: Pippo Oriani, Guido Martina, Tina Cordero
original title: Velocità
country: Italy
year: 1930
running time: 13 min.


Although Marinetti wrote the Manifesto of Futurist CinemaVelocità is seen by some as the only futuristic film in its own right. Beside a dense intertextual network and a mechanic dance of the screen titles and objects dancing to stop-motion beats, the movie features a unique showcase of air painting on film and a few swinging frames from the streets of Turin.


Pippo Oriani (1909–1972) was an architect and painter who claimed allegiance to the second wave of futurism. Velocità is his only film. He cooperated on it with Tina Cordero and Guido Martina, the founders of the Futurista Film company and the authors of the 1931 manifesto The Avant-garde Integral: Marinetti and futurism in film.

Year 2000
director: Gianfranco Brebbia
original title: ANNO 2000
country: Italy
year: 1969
running time: 13 min.

And Then We Marched


director: Lynne Sachs
original title: And Then We Marched
country: United States
year: 2017
running time: 3 min.


One day after the presidential inauguration in January 2017, the Womenʼs March took place in Washington D.C. Footage from the demonstration, shot with Super8 camera, is combined with archival footage of the protest marches from various moments in the US history. A visual whirl of the protesters᾽ faces and banners is accompanied by a childʼs voice which is trying to express as accurately as possible what it means to fight for oneʼs own rights.


Lynne Sachs (* 1961) is an experimental filmmaker and poet, a director of more than 40 films and the author of many installations, performances and web projects. In her work she explores the relationship between the close and the remote, the intimate and the public, the visual and the audio.

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

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

Available on DAFilms: https://americas.dafilms.com/director/7984-lynne-sachs
Drawn and Quartered
The House of Science: a museum of false facts
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam
States of UnBelonging 
Same Stream Twice
Your Day is My Night
And Then We Marched 
Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor
The Washing Society
A Month of Single Frames
Film About a Father Who

Available on Fandor: https://www.fandor.com/category-movie/297/lynne-sachs/
Still Life With Woman and Four Objects
Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning
The Washing Society
The House of Science: a museum of false facts
Investigation of a Flame

Noa, Noa
The Small Ones
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam
Atalanta: 32 Years Later
States of UnBelonging 

A Biography of Lilith
The Task of the Translator
Sound of a Shadow

The Last Happy Day
Georgic for a Forgotten Planet
Wind in Our Hair
Drawn and Quartered
Your Day is My Night

Widow Work 
Same Stream Twice

Available on Ovid: https://www.ovid.tv/lynne-sachs
A Biography of Lillith
Investigation of a Flame
The Last Happy Day
Sermons and Sacred Pictures
Starfish Aorta Colossus
States of Unbelonging
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam
Your Day is My Night
Tip of My Tongue
And Then We Marched

A Year of Notes and Numbers

“Lynne Sachs: Tender Non-Fictions” on DAFilms with interview by Cíntia Gil

March 2022

Lynne Sachs: Tender Non-Fictions

We are delighted to present a program of films by experimental documentarian Lynne Sachs, who has been prolifically creating works for cinema for four decades. Her non-fiction films, represented here in 11 works of varying lengths, powerfully evokes the curiosity and richness of a life lived through art.

Living in Brooklyn, New York, Sachs is part of a community of active experimental and documentary filmmakers and has long eschewed conventional forms of making movies. Her work, perhaps inevitably, defies easy classification. Instead, it is best understood collectively as a sprawling adventure playground, stretching across continents and blending influences across the borders of distinct art forms. Our focus maps a path through some of the ideas and forms that recur time and again in Sachs’ cinema.

The marks of war that linger in the background of a society—from Vietnam to the Middle East—are an ever-present specter in her long format films, as are the transformative effects of time on members of one’s own family. Feminism in all its forms is an animating subject and drive for Sachs, from the early formal experimentations with bodies and spaces in Drawn and Quartered to the energy of the Women’s March fragment And Then We Marched to the love, artistic kinship, and solidarity between female friends and comrades evident in Carolee, Barbara & Guvnor or, more implicitly, A Month of Single Frames.

Her latest feature length work, Film About a Father Who, whose title hints at Yvonne Rainer, provides a perfect entry-point into her style. This film is not only a torn and disrupted family album, but is also a document of the development of the evolution Sachs’ filmmaking over the years. A feature-length polyphonic portrait of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., taken over many years, it ultimately suggests that the man himself is unknowable, that his mysteries are too vast to be captured by a camera. Through reckoning with this fact, Sachs seems to suggest, the filmmaker is able to unearth other truths, about herself and about her family as a whole. A crucial early work, marking the end of a distinct period in Sachs’ work, The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts, is available to watch for free.

Cintía Gil: Hello everyone. Hi Lynne, how are you?

Lynne Sachs: I’m Good. 

Cintía Gil: Welcome to the DA Films. I’m really happy to be here with Lynne Sachs, whose work I absolutely love. And thank you. Yeah, so this is a conversation coming from the program put together at the films platform called Tender Non-Fictions, with 11 films from different moments in your life as a filmmaker, and your life too, because it’s kind of together. And I thought about doing your conversation, not so much film by film, but traveling a little bit through the films and through also your thoughts about film making, and film, and how filmmaking connects, is a way of building spaces or building places for connection between different dimensions of our lives. 

Cintía Gil: And I wanted to start by an image that very much touched me, from States of UnBelonging. The beginning, the very beginning of the film, when we are in your living room, and you are reading, so you are calling your correspondents in Israel and you are reading the newspaper. So you are folding the newspaper with the news about the killing of a woman and her two children, and you are folding this newspaper, and then you just juxtapose this image of folding a map, so folding a newspaper and folding a map, and that’s juxtaposition touched me very much, because somehow, for me, it resonated with a lot of your filmmaking practice. And you say, “On my map.” And then you start talking about this territory where your film will unfold, and it spoke to me about your films because you somehow are juxtaposing geography and history and language with all the metaphorical questions that are iterations of a map, territory, and lands, and place, and culture, and everything else. 

Cintía Gil: And so, I realized that image, for me at least, it kind of speaks of a shiY that your films do, which is going from ideas like territory into ideas of place, body, and memory and time, so going away from norms and conventions about where people exist and actually coming to something more radically difficult to systematize, which is what is a place? How do we build place? How do we see body? What do we feel? And where does memory… How does memory unfold? And how time is a space for that. 

Cintía Gil: And I saw this in this film, where you are talking about Israel and Palestine and your relation to it, but also in Which Way is East, for example, the relation between Vietnam and USA history, and your and your sister’s connection, the space of a laundromat in The Washing Society, in the story, the beautiful story of the bra in House of Science, where you are talking about your first experience with the bra, and suddenly your body becomes

Lynne Sachs: territory 

Cintía Gil: Territory, exactly. 

Lynne Sachs: You’re the first person to make that connection. 

Cintía Gil: Yeah, because, for me, it was so striking, this… So yeah, I just wanted to launch the [inaudible 00:04:20]. 

Lynne Sachs: Thank you for being so observant. Actually, I think I’ll start with the name of the program at DA Films, Tender Non-Fictions, because the curator programmer, Christopher Smalls, said… Small, he’s suggested that title right off, and I was very excited by it, because Tender Buttons is the name of a book that Gertrude Stein had written, and I love her work and I love her radical disruptions of language, but then I actually mentioned it to my brother, and he said, “Well, tender, is that a problem? Does it make it look like you’re soft on these issues?” And so, I just listened to him and I thought, “Maybe that’s the wrong direction, maybe I need to have more edge, maybe… I want to make it clear that I’m trying to break all the paradigms around form and documentary and working with reality.” But it just kept sticking in my head and I kept thinking about it. 

And then, of course, the war in Ukraine started, and Christopher and I continued our dialogue, and I started to think about, well, maybe tender is actually a good place to start, is a place of awe, because you’re tender with things you’re not trying to destroy them, you’re aware of them and it’s tactile. So then that leads me to that question that, or the observation that you made about that image in the beginning of States of UnBelonging, which is an interesting place that you started, because States of UnBelonging looks at Israel/Palestine, and it tries to come at it through the kind of a quasi-portrait of a filmmaker who was also a peace activist, who lived… Her name was Revital Ohayon, and she lived in a kibbutz, very near the West Bank, and was trying to work with families and schools and her children, with other Palestinian children, and unfortunately she was killed in a terrorist act, but she certainly had tried. 

And the thing is that the war there is so… You were talking about place, the war there is about, not just place, but the substance of dirt, of the earth, of this thing, this idea that you could claim earth from… Just because your ancestors claimed it. And we know that the world is constantly changing and you can’t own something just because your great, great, great, great grandparents did, and that doesn’t give you a claim to it, and that’s some of what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine. 

And so, it’s very charged to look at place in that way, as if place is a static thing, so you brought up this two different, call it tropes, the trope of land, and then the trope as designated by a map, like a map as a signifier for land, but another signifier is also the map of communication, which is a letter, and another signifier wrapped up in there, because I’m speaking through a letter, it’s epistolary in that way, but another conceit is the idea of the newspaper, which is a way to venture into another place but not to have that, not to be present in it, so I think that was really interesting. 

But you also compared it to a film, I would never have thought of comparing, so it’s just like… I’m so enthralled by your perceptive approach to filmmaking, and that was that, in 1991, I made a film called The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts, and at that point, I was trying to connect with being a young girl, and the very first time that you wear a bra, and the feeling that you have isn’t like, “Hey, great, I’ve got breasts.” I felt like, “How dare you, world, tell me that I have to entrap these things, that I have to tame them, or that I have to claim them.” Lynne Sachs: And actually, what happened was, I was in the gymnasium at my middle school and I was wearing a super tight shirt. I was at an all girls school, it wasn’t like I was trying to show off my breast to the boys, but some of the girls said that… The girls told me I needed to wear a bra, and I was like, “Oh.” So then it turned my body into territory, and it wasn’t from my mother, and it wasn’t. And from the teachers, it was from the other girls, then they didn’t like it that I didn’t wear a bra. 

Cintía Gil: And you, in that film, you also talk about this, sometimes conflict between the body of the body and the body of the mind, and this struggle to live together and to, again, to build some sort of place or possibility of existence where both can come together. 

Lynne Sachs: And I think this is actually fairly common for a lot of girls, and maybe boys, but I can’t make a claim to it, before we want to be sexual beings, we want to be invisible. We don’t want… It’s not just that we transition without thinking, we actually like not being objectified, and then when we become objectified and we become territory, whether it’s from other girls or boys or men, then we become hyper aware of our bodies. So hyper… And then later in my life, much later, I did become more comfortable with my body, and I think probably not till I was in my early thirties and I had children, and it was the first time that I didn’t feel all caught up in the parameters that had been offered. 

Cintía Gil: Established. 

Lynne Sachs: Yeah. 

Cintía Gil: Which you talked about, this idea that the world’s changes and things are not fixed or static. And when I see your films, one thing that I find quite beautiful, is the way you seem to be quite interested in movement and fluidity, and in transition in your images production, even in the way you edit and the way you use your camera and the movements of the camera. 

I was very much trying to see… So for example, just an example, it happens oYen, all the time, but for example, in States of UnBelonging, when you’re talking to Revital’s mother, and your camera goes and kind of follows their hands, or in the Which Way is Easts also, in A Month of Single Frames, you have this absolute interest for fluidity and movement and transitions, and I wanted to hear you a little bit about that, about this, because the impression that it gives me is that it’s a very intelligent way of giving space for invisibility, for what is invisible, which in your cinema, happens a lot, because you oYen have immigrants, children, women, filmmakers, who are not on the spotlight. So you are very oYen talking from spaces that are traditionally of invisibility, and I feel that there’s an absolute coherence or connection between that and the way you film, the way you produce your images, and I wanted a little bit to hear you about this, about movement. 

Lynne Sachs: Again, Cintía, just very, very interesting correlations between what we sometimes call socioeconomic issues and issues around artistic form, aesthetics, and I think that is the most interesting challenge that we have when we’re working with reality, but with reality doesn’t just mean about reality, so the reality of the making. 

I think that film can document how they are made. In a way, the how gives you the opportunity to think about who’s making it and who’s supporting it, and who’s curious to find out more about the issue. So for example, you said something about the fluidity of my camera, and traditionally, we’d say that you don’t want to see a camera shake, that’s a sign of being an amateur, and if you’re an amateur, you didn’t bring a tripod, you’re not working with a professional cinematographer. 

But I actually think that a shaking camera is a breathing camera. If we could just whip out, erase that word “shake”, which is not bad, because it has a tentativeness, and talk about the breadth of the maker, then we know that it’s an embodied camera and that the camera is alive and thinking. 

You were talking about a shot in States of UnBelonging, where I’m interviewing a woman whose daughter had been murdered, so I felt very vulnerable myself, as a mother, as another woman, I felt sympathetic. So my camera isn’t just frozen, the camera is reflecting my insecurities and pain, let’s call it empathy. 

So I didn’t, maybe, know that I was doing that at the time, but there is a kind of transparency that I think is fine. I was making a film called Investigation of a Flame, which is about civil disobedience. It’s a film really about anti-war activists, and I was interviewing one of these very wonderful, heroic anti-war activists, and as he’s talking and offering a parable to me, I let the camera look out the window, just over there, and people have asked me about it. And I said, “Sometimes when you’re listening to… You, meaning the person behind the camera or a person in a conversation, sometimes the most intense form of concentration is to allow your eyes to wander. And that’s what taking the camera, literally, off the tripod, or letting the camera be an extension of the body, is actually considered a very atypical thing. People think that keeping your horizon line horizontal is a sign of confidence, but why do we always have to show confidence? 

As you and I know, that one of the hallmarks of the essay film is doubt, so if you can have the form register that in a nonverbal way, and in an articulated way, then I think that’s super interesting, and I do try to play with that. I have a conceit you’ve probably seen in a lot of my films, where I let another person walk in circles around me, and I think that’s… I’ve done it a lot, I’ve done it with my mother, my daughter, my father. It’s something I love to do because it makes me get dizzy, not just because you see the world passing by, but I lose my stability, and that’s a form of exploration of what it is to be lost in the process, and then you find yourself, hopefully. 

Cintía Gil: You were mentioning the film that is in the program, Same Stream Twice, which is with your daughter, Maya, running around you, and actually, when I was thinking about this, I was thinking about… I had noted a quote from the synopsis, where you talk about something you can’t grasp, but can feel, and how this camera of yours brings the possibility of that. And now you were talking about doubts in image making, in filmmaking, and the political aspect of it, I thought that maybe tenderness comes from that, and I also thought about, again, in House of Science, when you say in the end, incendiary, but not arson, so that’s possibility- … but not burning everything all at once. It’s maybe the tenderness question that’s is absolutely embodied in your images. 

But going again to how you assemble films together, another thing that I find really unique, is the way you work in between the closest intimacy to the widest perspective, and you do that a lot through the relation between image and sounds and voiceover. 

And first, one thing that I find really interesting, is that your voiceover, or whoever’s voiceover, is never a statement, it’s always full of suggestions, descriptions, unfinished sentences, possibilities, but never saying what things are or what we are supposed to think about things. 

And the second thing is how voice in your films always comes together with other kinds of sounds, so how you sound in a really precise way. And so, I would like to listen to you a little bit about how you build this relation between images and sounds, because it’s absolutely precise, there’s an absolute rigor to it, which doesn’t mean there isn’t doubt and there isn’t experimentation in it, but it’s so very much creating movements within the moment. 

Lynne Sachs: I’ll say a couple things about… So I do use what you call voiceover or narration, but I like to play around with, for example, a word that these days people use all the time, but it hasn’t been historically so considered, and that is the pronouns. 

There’s a couple of things that I think that are anathema that I do, but I’m committed to them. For example, I like to play around with the English language, with the word “you”, so you can also be similar to one, and you can also be a way to invite people in and the listener, the audience isn’t told that you should, I don’t do that, but I say, you might think this, and you might wonder how to relate to members of your family, but I do. I don’t always center myself, and so, to play around with language, that way has become very much a part of my practice. 

Another thing that I’ve done with voiceover and around pronouns, is to not be committed to traditional exposition. As in, you can’t say he, she, without knowing who he, she is, identifying it, explaining it. So in literature, in novels, they’ve been doing that for hundreds of years, you don’t always know where you stand, but film had this commitment to clarity, and the thing is that if you believe that clarity takes the mystery, and that eventually you will arrive at some kind of insight, maybe not like… The world is never absolutely clear, but insight is where you really want to go. So I try to play with that. 

Another thing I try to do with… Or two more things I’ll say about language and about the language that I’ve written or spoken, and that’s part of the film, is that I like to cut what… I don’t call a dialogue, but you know that the convention is to call anything with voiceover, or people talking, dialogue, and it’s cut like prose. It’s cut a period at the end of the sentence, or if someone speaks and then it’s the end of a thought, it’s where the period is, but I like to cut the language the way I would write poetry. So the thing, like a little bit like Robert Altman, things are overlapped, and you think about the ways that language, like information and communication and words, are used simultaneously. 

Thus, you can cut the voice in the same way that you cut the sounds of birds or the sounds of a door closing, and you can play with it, and you can, like the way in poetry lines, in poetry, it’s vital to know where the line breaks are, that’s how sound should edit. It should be rhythmic, it should be in relationship to the image. So there are line breaks. So if you look at a traditional screenplay, there’s no line breaks, it just goes from one side of the page to the other, but if it were full of line breaks, then it would be more engaged with the whole fabric of the sound. So those are different ways of working, that I try to like bring in play, but with an intention. 

Cintía Gil: Expanding from language, because that’s also the question of the languages, which you also use a lot and you play a lot with. 

Lynne Sachs: Super important, yeah. 

Cintía Gil: And not only language, but translation. We had a conversation before about this, your obsession with translation and how, for example, in Your Day is My Night, where you have the different languages coming to play, or in the Washing Society, or actually, in all of your cinema, somehow in Which Way is East, et cetera, in all of your cinema, there’s this question of the breaking of the language. And I actually saw a conversation between you and a lot of people in World Records, where you were talking about English, and I wanted to hear you a little bit about that, because I feel that language itself, as attached to culture and to memory and history, is something that is a material for you. 

Lynne Sachs: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I will, just to mention, that about three years ago, I brought together a group of experimental documentary filmmakers, which included Jean Finley, Sky Hopinka, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Christopher Harris, all artists whose work I just adored, and all artists who, in some way or another, are trying to challenge the dominance of English. Even if they didn’t say, that’s what I’m doing, I could see it in their work so clearly. And now, three years later, English is even more dominant. And how can we, yes, have English as a language of flow between cultures, because so many people know it as their second language, but how can we also subvert it? 

And so, I’ve tried to do that, for example, with Your Day is My Night. The whole film is pretty much in Mandarin and Cantonese, and I have English subtitles, but they’re not just subtitles, I don’t even like the word subtitle, and I’m scared of the word subtitle because it’s not sub. The minute you bring in English subtitles, people start, pretty much stop listening. They stop hearing Chinese, they stop being aware of the textures, the tenderness, let’s say, of another language that isn’t theirs, they completely separate from it.

So I tried to, in that film, I tried to use the text on the screen and across the screen in various ways, and that’s one of the reasons why we actually, on DA Films, we have a separate link for the Your Day is My Night with English subtitles, and another one with Spanish subtitles, because you couldn’t just use a program or an app to get the titles for that film, they have to really move with the recognition of Spanish in relationship to the image, or English. 

So, but I’ve had, in other films of mine, in The Washing Society, we have a whole section of the film where you hear Chinese and you hear Spanish, and you do not have translations, or just a little bit of translation, and therefore, there’s a certain moment of alienation for a viewer who doesn’t know those languages, and I think that’s really important. I think anybody who speaks English as a first language needs to learn what it is to be an outsider. And since that’s like a form content interplay in The Washing Society, because most of the people, at least in the United States, who are washing clothes as a service, are also going through the alienation of being an immigrant. 

So I wanted to switch the power. I worked with a playwright on that film, Lizzie Olesker, she’s just been a real inspiration to me, and together we tried to recognize the oral qualities of Spanish and Chinese, in this case, and to like let them enter the visceral physicality for a listener, that not just information. 

Pretty much all my films, I have resisted that term, like documentary is an educational experience, but it is, in some ways there’s something wrong with that word. If you think that it’s an education in becoming aware and becoming how you are in society, that’s actually one of the biggest intentions of documentary film, is to have people leave the theater or the laptop, or whatever, leave it more aware, not just of Vietnam, or not what it is to be living in a shift bed apartment in a New York City’s Chinatown, but what it is in a more conceptual way, what it is to be an insider and an outsider, to be a resident and a new visitor, what it is to be in that transitional place. If you can leave a film with that, you’re actually, probably, a little bit more mature or a little bit more observant. 

Cintía Gil: And also, in that effort of finding a common language or finding a way to speak to another person whose main language is not English, that vulnerability also allows for some other layers of existence come to life, memories, or fears, or it’s for example, I’m thinking about the moment in Which Way is Easts, when suddenly, memories of work come in a dialogue between you or Dana with someone else, and how that happens, never in a programmatic way, but always from this vulnerability position, it comes from this efforts to be somewhere else, to be there, and which is really beautiful, and I think it’s a quite interesting aspect of your filmmaking, which is this idea of, or possibility of a testimony, the possibility of a testimony, which is not a report or a declaration, or a narrative of events, but more a testimony thought of as a transmission, it’s more as a transmission. 

And I thought, for example, in the way, precisely you worked in Your Day is My Night and The Washing Society, which is quite even a more nuanced way of working with testimony, because you worked those monologues with the people. So there was a process to that, but it comes from before, and I feel that there’s always this quality of transmission in words, in your films, but I would like to hear you a little bit about that process in these two films. 

Lynne Sachs: Actually, I’ll start with Which Way is East, and there was something I learned in that film about translation, and maybe about test testimony. And I’ll try to explore that, but in Which Way is East, I learned something about language and about culture. So there’s always been an expectation around documentary film, that even if we’ve never been somewhere, if we see a movie about that person, I mean about that place, then we have the next best thing. Next best thing to travel is to watch a documentary film. Yeah, but the thing is that that film only gives you, really, the person who made its experience, and it has a kind of… And it should have a clearly prescribed point of view, let’s say. 

But when I was making Which Way is East, I learned that when you’re a foreigner in another country, I was an American in Vietnam. Yes, I didn’t speak the language and my sister did, but there’s another thing I didn’t speak, which has to do with understanding. I didn’t understand the culture enough, for example, to understand the parables. So a parable is actually a far, maybe, richer and more comprehensive mode of understanding a whole way, a psyche, of another country. 

Again, during the war right now, we are all trying to understand the psyche that could make this happen, what is it? And it has to do with the mythology, and in Which Way is East, I decided I wanted to listen to every single parable I could possibly find, related to animals and Vietnam, because parables often do work with animals. And for example, we have a parable here that says, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. If you have it already, don’t try to do anything that’s going to make you look like you might be able to get the two birds in the tree, like hunt them, but probably not, so just keep what you have.

So there was a parable in Vietnam, which said, a frog that sits at the boPom of a pot thinks that the whole world is only as big as the lid of the pot. So it’s sort of solipsistic, it says nothing exists beyond where I am, but it was such a wise way of thinking about a kind of xenophobia that we can have, that we don’t care what is beyond our grasp, and I feel like I’ve been exploring that ever since. 

I explored it in States of UnBelongong, I made a whole body of work, actually, over a decade, which I called, I am Not a War Photographer, and it included… It’s really started with Which Way is East, and it included States of UnBelongong, so they both contemplate what it is to be within something and what it is to observe from afar, and not really to understand and complete… Not to claim complete knowledge. 

So many times, Cintía, when I make a film in another country, which I haven’t done as much lately, because I think, also it’s our obligation as documentary makers to explore where we are at home, but so many times people would presume that I was an expert of anything that I… There’s always that assumption, and I think that it’s also our jobs as makers of this kind of work, to be really transparent that what people are have access to is our search, not really our expertise. 

Cintía Gil: And can you a little bit about the way you built the monologues in Your Day is My Night? 

Lynne Sachs: Sure. Yeah, so-

Cintía Gil: In The Washing Society, how you built the text, because it’s quite a beautiful… 

Lynne Sachs: So

Cintía Gil: Results, and I mean, you can see… 

Lynne Sachs: They both come out of failure, for sure, and if there’s anything I’ve learned aYer quite… Three decades, three and a half decades of making documentary films, that every single project, halfway through, you have a point where you think you cannot go on, you cannot, because this door wasn’t opened or because this person dropped out. So part of the failure of Your Day is my Night, was that I thought I wanted to make a film about people who lived in what are called hotbed houses. That’s a colloquial to that people hardly use anymore, or shiY bed houses, or shared apartments, in which someone might live in a room or on a bed during the day, sleep there during the day, then they go to work at night and somebody else would come in.

And I learned about, that that was a very typical mode of managing, particularly in New York City, but I think worldwide, when you’re a refugee, an immigrant, a person, particularly in an urban environment, which you don’t of have access to the whole infrastructure, sometimes you just have to make do. And so, an apartment doesn’t just mean one family, it could be multiple families. So I was interested in how that would be manifested in New York City, but I really couldn’t get, we say here, my foot in the door, like the proverbial foot in the door. I wasn’t able to get access to people who lived that way, and I felt a little uncomfortable about it. I wasn’t sure that that was my role or that I should be doing that. 

So I thought I would make a fiction film, my first, and I went to a Chinese theater troupe and I asked them if they would work with me, and they said, “Sure, show us the script.” But I didn’t really have the script. I wanted to build on observations and the kind of work that I’m used to doing. 

So that failed, and so I had already two failures under my belt, the failure of getting the foot in the door as a documentary maker and the failure of writing a fiction film, and so I… A man told me, he kind of fancied himself the mayor of Chinatown. He said, “Why don’t you go to that senior, older people community center?” And I went there and I said to them that I was looking for people to be in a film, and I happened to use the word audition, because that’s the word people use for trying out to be in a narrative film, and 40 people auditioned to be in the film, and then seven of them, I thought were extremely charismatic, and they had all actually lived in shift bed apartments. 

And so, instead of auditioning them, I actually did what I’m very comfortable doing, which was interviewing them. And then, so I had these fairly long interviews in Chinese, which had to be translated, and then I worked with a playwright and we turned them into these distillation, based on their lives. 

And so it became a new way of working for me, because in documentary, there’s a, sometimes a kind of trickiness that goes on, as in, I want to know about your life, but I’m going to ask about it in a new way so you don’t really feel comfortable, like you lose your confidence, and you’re going to say something to me that is very, very, very raw, and that’s going to work perfectly with my movie because the rawer, the better. I didn’t want to do that with these people who were in their sixties to eighties at all, and I’ve never been… Maybe I was trying to be tender or something. 

So, because it was their life story, and it was based on experiences they had, then when I gave them back a distillation of what they had already told me, I was perfectly happy with their improvising or forgetting their lines. And it became more about performance, but performing the real, and we had the best time and we got to do things like, take one, take two, take three, which usually, documentary doesn’t get to do, because that’s considered manipulative and that. 

So we worked that way in Your Day is My Night, and then in The Washing Society, there were issues around trying to do your conventional interview with immigrants in the US. People were scared of cameras, and even the word it’s funny, like we say, it is a documentary, but we also use the word undocumented. A person is undocumented because they aren’t here legally. 

It’s almost… They’re synonyms. To be undocumented is to be an illegal, here illegally. So when we said we’re making a documentary, it was like, “No, we can’t do that. We can’t do that.” So what we did was we just talked to laundry workers for about a year, and then we wrote a play, and then we worked with actors, and then we ended up finding a few laundry workers who were here legally, and so they were in… 

So it became a whole hybrid mix, and those are ways of working that I’m still excited about. I’m still like… Well, another thing that happened in The Washing Society, was that one of the actors, her name is Jasmine, ended up becoming one of the, call it, almost like a producer, because she decides, or not… She’s acting in a film about laundry workers, and then her grandmother, with whom she lives, says to her, “Hey Jasmine, I worked in a laundry for 30 years, but you didn’t know it.” She interviews her grandmother, who was very involved in a union, and fought for her own… Her raise. She fought for better working conditions, and probably, her grandmother would never have told her that story, so all of these things come out of failure, or missteps, or obstacles that ended up becoming opportunities. 

Cintía Gil: No, it’s quite beautiful because we are slowly feeling the notion of tenderness with a lot of political power. You’ve just built, like explained, or at least explored also the political implications of sticking to the word documentary sometimes, and sticking to the norms and orthodoxies of what is supposedly a documentary, that many times just serves nothing in certain situations. And so it’s quite beautiful how, if we open that notion, it’s much more about this negotiation or fluidity between us and the world, and what the world brings. 

Lynne Sachs: I think at the very… It’s most fundamental… Most, as documentary makers, our jobs are to encourage our viewers to question the truth. If we do nothing else but that, I think we’ve succeeded. Because that is the only way to translate or to… An experience that’s very closed, which is the watching of a film. How do we create a porous presence for our viewers, that goes beyond the theater? Not so much to say, “Oh, well, I inspired them to become an activist.” Maybe, maybe not, but if you’re already an activist in the most fundamental ways, if you question what the reality that you see, who’s controlling it, not just information, but who’s telling you what is the right thing to do, what is the wrong thing to do, and who’s doing it, and why, and if you question that, then you’re already a better human being, I guess. But of course, we know that when that happens, you become very sad. You have no confidence in anything anymore. 

Cintía Gil: Well, I wanted to bring to that, related to that, the text I was reading, by you, about Gunvor Nelson and her editing lessons, because there’s a moment when you say, “Meaning is discovered outside of…” No sorry, it was me who wrote, aYer your text, I was writing a note saying, that you discover meaning when you let go of continuity, and of the narrative, and of plot, you… I think it was in the moment where you were talking about her, telling you to look at the outtakes, and look at what’s what’s outside of what… You should always look at the outsides before closing a film. 

Lynne Sachs: And actually, thank you for reminding me that she told me that, because I didn’t know why I believe in that. And when I was making Film About a Father Who, that was critical, because the thing is, with what’s beautiful and what are the… People are working on their computers, and they have these folders, and they’re called NG, like No Good. You should go back and look at those, because those are the ones where the camera’s shaking, those are the ones where some kind of wild energy happen, those are the ones where you thought someone said, turn it off, but you didn’t. And things get messy, and when things get messy, they get interesting. And so, she did tell me to go back and look at the outtakes, because the first response, usually, of an artist is, what is pretty? And when did I do a good job? And the good job means that I measured my F stops correctly, and the good job is that there was no traffic going on when the sound was running, and so you tend to judge things in the most insubstantive registers, you’re saying, “Oh, this looks good, and this is accomplished.” And the other material is more revealing. 

And so, when I was working on Film About a Father Who, I made myself go back and look at videotapes that had been shot on VHS in the 1980s and stored in garages, and I thought they were ruined, and I was just about to throw them away. And then I come across an image, for example, of my dad, where all the color had disappeared, and it was just his silhouette and some lines going through, but you could still tell it was a man walking away. And I thought, that’s the perfect image for the last shot of the film, because people don’t mean detail, and furthermore, these days, with the digital cameras, we’ve got a plethora of detail. 

We know what people’s faces look like, what we need is something that’s more ephemeral and suggestive, and therefore, if it’s at the end of the film and I had totally dismissed it, I should say, if it’s the end of the film, the audience can fill in the detail in their heads. And that means they’re involved, that means they did the work, that means they spent 74 minutes with me and with us. 

And so, those are the kind of images that Gunvor would’ve said, you need, and I would’ve, in the 1980s, when she was my teacher, I would’ve said, “Oh, that’s embarrassing. That’s terrible.” And she taught me a lot, she taught me that dead flowers are prettier than living ones, because you have stores selling the pretty ones, the living ones with color, but nobody’s selling dead flowers, so they’re much more thought provoking. 

Cintía Gil: Yeah, and it’s interesting when you link that to what you were talking about, that the minimum, or what a documentary filmmaker does, is to make people question truth. And at the same time you talk about building meaning by… In bringing to the film, this sort of failures, or moments of not… Unpreiness, it’s quite beautiful, which brings me to the next question, which is the role children in your films, because it’s one of the most risky things to do in film, is to work with kids, and you do it. 

Lynne Sachs: And dogs, and I don’t do dogs. 

Cintía Gil: Yeah, true. But it’s quite beautiful because it’s, I think most of the time I meet with girls, young children, girls, but children, in general, are all through your filmography. Not all the films, but they are there very much present, and it’s beautiful because they bring a sense of transition, again, this sense of unstable transition, but also this sensation of extreme perception. It’s like they come… It’s very much linked to play and you film them in a very, how to say, very grounded way, in the sense that you portray them in some sort of mystic way, or whatever. Cintía Gil: But at the same time, they bring this capacity for extreme perception. For example, the young girl who talks to you in And Then We Marched, or the children in States of UnBelonging, the children, for example, the film that is not in the program, but the film you did with your kids, with the, we need the pool play. 

So there’s always this weird capacity of children in your films, that through play, they reveal something else, and they add something to the film. So I wanted to know, because you started that really early in your filmmaking, to do things with kids. 

Lynne Sachs: Well, yeah, I can say that one of my beliefs, when I decided that I would have children, and also I decided I would be an artist, it’s not that I said right away, I’m not going to separate them, but there is a, call it a paradigm, for male artists, that there’s a woman at home, taking care of the kids. So Paul Gauguin can go to Tahiti, and other filmmakers we know of, like Francis Ford Coppola, he could be shooting, what’s the movie he shot in… Apocalypse Now, and his wife is along, making a movie about him, and their kids are there too, but she’s there to support him. And my husband is a filmmaker as well, but we support each other, and I just didn’t want to separate myself, as in, I have a person taking care of the… They were there. 

So there’s an expression in English, where people say out of the mouths of babes, like as I never thought children have more insight. I was just interested in the evolution of insight, I was interested in trying to connect with something like the novel and book, The Tin Drum. You go back to these movies that talk about this haunting quality. One movie that had a very big effect on me was The Thin Red Line by Terrence Malick, and believe it or not, the person who pushed me to see what an incredible film that is, it’s not a child who’s speaking, but it’s a young man who’s a soldier. 

And with Stan Brakhage, and those are not the kind of movies that Stan, the great American experimental filmmaker, Stan Brakhage didn’t make kind of movies with voiceovers and story, but he loved that movie, he loved the rawness of it, and I think there’s a way that children offer that and they don’t censor themselves. And I also like that they’re willing to make mistakes, or they make mistakes. 

And in The House of Science, a breakthrough moment for me was that I asked a friend of mine if I could film her daughter, tap dancing. And so when I went to their house, she kept running away from me, it’s in the film, so she’s supposed to be on a pedestal, tap dancing, and she doesn’t obey us at all. And she’s wearing this Batman costume, not a costume with a little tutu or anything, and she runs away. 

And then there’s another scene in that film, where I was working with a girl and I had her read the most insidious anthropological text by a man named Cesare Lomroso, and she makes all these, which you would call mistakes, but they become very subversive and radical and smart, at least from my perspective. And both girls saw the film a few years later, and they said to me, “Oh, that it’s so embarrassing. I can’t believe I wasn’t reading well.” Or, “I can’t believe I wasn’t compliant.” But I’ve never been interested in compliancy. I, once when my girls were younger, I met a woman who was bragging to me because her… She said, “My daughter is in all these commercials for The Gap.” It was for the… Because she’s so compliant. And I think, “I’m glad my kids were not invited to be in commercials.” But I’ve been surprised by children ever since. And then,

And Then We Marched, I had filmed the Women’s March in 2017, when we were all devastated by the new president of the United States, but I decided that if I were to listen to another adult, I’d probably hear what I expected to hear, and I wanted to hear from a child. So it was a great excuse to knock on the door of my neighbors, I hardly knew, and to talk to this little girl. And she was so excited by things like yelling on the street, and she was so excited, she was so sad that they’d lost their sign. And there was something so clear and not hype. It was super smart, but it wasn’t trying to be too intellectual. It was just there, like just observant, and I thought that was so much of a gift. I’m really interested in all the gifts that happen in filmmaking. You do give to your audience, but the people who are willing to be in your movies are also giving of themselves. 

Cintía Gil: Now, as the last question, I wanted to build a little bit, some sort of leap between the oldest film in this program, which is Drawn and Quartered. 

Lynne Sachs: Ah, yeah. 

Cintía Gil: And the film of About the Father Who, because it’s quite… They are completely different, they come from completely different moments, but it’s quite beautiful, because in Drawn and Quartered, you obviously were experimenting and looking at intimacy and closure and body in the most… It’s beautiful, because actually, in your films, and now I’m thinking about the way that film finishes, there’s this link to the window, there is the closure, but then there’s the window, there’s the outside, and there’s the world also. But then in Film About the Father Who, it’s like you are taking a trip in the… We never know where it’ll take you, we as a viewer, we never know where we will go, and it’s quite beautiful because you give it… It’s like a film where I feel somehow that you, as a filmmaker, are more vulnerable than in that first film that we see.

Lynne Sachs: I think that Christopher Small’s curating is really brilliant to have included these two films for exactly that reason. So there’s a word that we use a lot in talking about how our culture works. We talk about exposure, like, do you want exposure? Do you feel exposed? Are you exposing yourself? Is someone exposing you? It’s both an active… Like a transient and… A transitive intransitive… You use that word in many, many different valances. And so, when I was making Drawn Quartered, where I take all my clothes off, my boyfriend takes his clothes off, I had read Laura Mulvey’s essay at the time, which was only probably 12 years in… It was part of a cannon of feminism, but not everybody had read it, but I had read it, and I was aware of her ideas around the male gaze. 

So I wanted to try to subvert that without erasing it. So I gave the camera to my boyfriend, he shot me nude, I shot him nude, and it’s all in the film, and it’s only four minutes, and I called it Drawn and Quartered, which is an expression, it’s from like the medieval period. To be drawn and quartered is to be pulled, like punished, it’s a punitive action when you’re pulled into four parts, and the film actually exists in four parts, so horses pulled you into fragments and you’re killed. So I felt really exposed in that film, but I’d done it to myself, and I actually edit my face out. I thought, “Okay, I’ll show my body, but I won’t show my face.” And then I thought, “That is very weak. If I’m going to claim my in my film, I’ll put it back in.” 

So this was before computer editing, so you see the splices. It’s destructive editing, like am I in, out, in out? Anyway, I ended up in the film, and so, audiences can see that very exposed film. It’s got nudity, so I don’t know if DA Films has to put, click a buPon, like, “This is awkward, kid.” No- … nudity than you might see in the Louvre, with a Rodin or a Michelangelo, but it’s nudity, and not as many muscles.

And then I make a film about my relationship with my dad and my other family members, and it’s really very exposed, but there’s no nudity. It’s very, it’s vulnerable in another way, and much scarier. I was scared in 1986, but I was terrified in 2000, in 2020, excuse me, 2020, which is when I finished that film, because I felt like I’d kind of been making up who I was all along, and I felt vulnerable because I both had this very compassionate appreciation for my dad, as well as rage, and to show both, either one of those, made this into a very personal film, but I wanted the film to give people a chance to connect to their own families and maybe find some court, like relationship that seemed familiar to them. But all of it came because I actually didn’t put any filters on. I kept thinking I should, and then I didn’t, and I really didn’t think many people would ever see this film. It never occurred to me that it would stream, ever. It never occurred to me that I would really travel much with it. I just needed to get it out of my system, so the exposure part of it was a relief, like, “Okay, now I’m just being honest.” 

Cintía Gil: Now it’s quite amazing, because today I was thinking about the film again, and linking it to your other films. And I was thinking about the sentence, I am not a war photographer, and somehow it resonated, the way, how do you, as a filmmaker, go into a film, or for example, when you talk about fear in States of UnBelonging. And I see all of that in the film of About the Father Who. I see fear too, and I see this sort of, the potential idea of war in the sense of, how do you place yourself as a filmmaker in a place of conflict, and it’s absolutely impressive that all these ideas that flowed through your work, suddenly they are met together in a film about your father, where you were so vulnerable too. 

Lynne Sachs: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And it’s been real… I want to say, so there have been two independent documentary makers who’ve died in the last two weeks in Ukraine. Maybe one of them was in Russia. I don’t know where they both were, but there, in the work that we do, there is a tendency to want to witness. And I love… Wherever you are, you’re witnessing. And they put their lives on the line, so I want to say, I’m awed by that, and that is the ultimate vulnerability. 

Cintía Gil: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I had one last thing to ask you still about a Film About the Father Who, which is the… Because you give it the title, drawing from Film About a Woman Who, by Yvonne Rainer, and which you also refer to in your second short film, I think, the one, A Woman With Four Objects. 

Lynne Sachs: Yeah. 

Cintía Gil: You also link to Yvonne, but it’s interesting, because in Film About a Woman who, she’s moving away, or she’s refusing the narrative control, and idea of plot, and the antimonic normativity of narrative, and I find it fascinated, the fact that you affirm that for yourself and you come from there to film a man and a story, or a lifetime that is more fascinating, sometimes, than the wildest of fictions. So it’s very interesting, because you affirm this putting narrative away when you are dealing with the most incredible fiction story that you have in front of you, so I wanted you to tell us a little bit about this. 

Lynne Sachs: So interesting, when there is this propensity in documentary filmmaking that you have to buy a ticket. If you really need to go far away to find what’s most exotic, the most interesting, because your life… And I actually, maybe, had bought into that at some points in my life. I had made a lot of films that required travel. And then, actually, probably about 10 years ago, I started to think, how can you look inward? How can you, not so much make personal films, but what do you know from living the life that you have for this many years? So I think that the insight that Yvonne Rainer, to me, gives us, is a kind of rigor to look at the structure of family, to look at family as an anthropological being, and to distance ourself, to look at archetypes, to look at relationships that we can find through the structures that she creates in that film, that has a lot of detachment. She allows us into her head through her aesthetic choices and her very radical resistance to certain formulas that exist in family. 

I had to take what I got, I got, this is the world I live in, the family is this way, but I want to leave the answers in an… She uses an ellipsis. So she uses dot, dot, dot, dot. Film About a Woman Who, you fill it in, and you fill it in because you understand how narrative works, or syntax. And I tried to, I leY that off. It’s a little bit like Which Way is East. They’re not questions, they don’t have that at the end, but they ask us to, one, to fill in. And in both cases, I guess what I’m trying to do, is I actually want you to fill in, so you fill in because you learn about me, but that’s not the gift I gave, the gift I gave you isn’t just this extravagant story of a dad who had nine kids by six different women, because that was the life I lived, and I just knew was hard, but I want my viewers to… And this has happened a lot more than I thought, a lot, where people look at their… They transpose my story to their lives in this very energetic way. 

And it’s not just women, it’s a way of saying, my flawed situation that I thought was so flawed is my own situation, but there are very few families that don’t have that, that don’t have something that gives anguish, or maybe not the extreme that I have, but I don’t wish that you would live and think this is the wildest story I’ve ever seen, though it’s pretty wild, but maybe just that, in my case, that a woman lived through it with shadings of a lot of emotions. And I think there are many ways that my film is different from Yvonne Rainer’s. She’s made some brilliant films that deal with her cancer, she’s made some incredible films that deal with the lives of performers and the psychic space that goes on in their heads. So she has ways of telling us what’s on her mind, and it’s the formal discoveries that are so interesting. 

Cintía Gil: We should finish now, but I still want to push you for one more, which is, because you were talking about Yvonne and about the spectator and how… And all your cinema is built… I think your body of work is probably, for me, one of the closest to what could be a correspondence cinema, which is not an epistolary cinema, it’s beyond that. It’s like a building in between different people, and it speaks to the way you film Barbara and Carolee and Gunvor, and how you build A Month of Single Frames, but also how you exactly, you build that come and go and trust with the viewer, with your known viewer. So I wanted to ask you a little bit to talk about collaboration in this open sense, about this idea of correspondence and how you, in your work, you allow others to exist with you and how you build that. 

Lynne Sachs: Thank you for asking that. I’m still looking for the right word. Is it correspondence? Is it a collective experience? Is it a collaboration? One thing I’ll say that is kind of a tricky issue around documentary, is that there’s an expectation that you don’t pay your subjects, because if you pay them, then they’re influenced by that financial relationship. I actually, about nine years ago, threw that out the door, because I thought, if there’s any experience where someone is time with me, multiple iterations of that, I need to recognize them in a professional way, and recognize that they’re not able to do something else that makes money. So there’s, yes, I want to say, I have chemistry with people I work with, I have a commitment, but I also recognize that they’re doing something for a project that I created, and I have to also see their work as important enough to be paid for it. 

So that’s one thing, I won’t say it’s very much, but it’s a recognition. Then there’s the other relationships, that I feel really grew, like in Your Day is My Night, these were people I had never met before, and it’s particular to Chinese culture, and I wasn’t aware of it, that you have a lot of physical contact. So we met over a period of a year, and definitely, food was a very big part of our experience. And I think in a movie making situation, they collect craft services, and you have to have good food because people get tired. But I think the food is totally different, it doesn’t have to be that good, it has to create, it has to contribute to that warmth, it has to contribute to the fact that we can be friends, as well as people making something together. And that’s something I feel I’m always looking for in my work, that people have enthusiasm for making something that they might not have made, like if I’m working with someone who does a sound mix for me, I like to show that person the film over six months, so that he’s involved intellectually. 

I work with a man named Stephen Vitiello. He worked on Film About a Father Who, he worked on Your Day is My Night and other films of mine, that he doesn’t just do… He is a musician, but he involves himself. Sometimes he’ll deliver sounds to me that I have to meet him, and so we have this, call it mutual respect, and we get excited as artists, as creative people, about our collaboration. 

Also, I feel really close to people like you, people who are curators, who give me insight, and then I learn through your observations of the films, I learn how your mind works, I learn how certain things exhilarate you. I feel like we met on the terrain of cinema and then learned things about each other, and I think that’s really pretty profound. 

Cintía Gil: But it’s also very beautiful, the generous way how you allow your films to have that. 

Lynne Sachs: Hopefully. 

Cintía Gil: Thank you so much, Lynne, it’s an absolute pleasure to talk with you, always. 

Lynne Sachs: Thank you for your fantastic insights. And it’s actually rare for a filmmaker to have the chance to talk to someone who’s looked at work over this many years and sees threads that I didn’t always know they’re there, but I know how I work, so I really, I learned a lot from you, thank you very much. 

Cintía Gil: No, I learned from you. Thank you. And thank you to your films. 

Lynne Sachs: Yeah. 

About DAFilms

DOC ALLIANCE – The New Deal for Feature Documentaries

Doc Alliance is the result of a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals: CPH:DOXDoclisboaMillennium Docs Against GravityDOK LeipzigFIDMarseilleJi.hlava IDFF and Visions du Réel. The aim of the Doc Alliance initiative is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and continuously promote quality creative documentary films.

Activities of DOC ALLIANCE:

• Doc Alliance Selection – Since 2008, the Doc Alliance platform presents the Doc Alliance Selection Award. The award goes to the best European documentary film selected independently by each of the platform’s festival members. The individual festivals also nominate the representatives of the jury of experts, recruited among the film critics from the festival countries. Within the Doc Alliance Selection section, each of the Doc Alliance festivals screens at least 3 films nominated for the award in the given year.

• The online portal DAFilms.com is the main project of the Doc Alliance festival network formed by 7 key European documentary film festivals. It represents an international online distribution platform for documentary and experimental films focused on European cinema. For a small fee, it offers over 1900 films accessible across the globe for streaming or legal download. The films are included in the virtual database on the basis of demanding selection criteria. The portal presents regular film programs of diverse character ranging from presentation of archive historical films through world retrospectives of leading world filmmakers to new premiere formats such as the day-and-date release. DAFilms.com invites directors, producers, distributors, and students to submit their films, thus offering them the possibility to make use of this unique distribution channel. For more information, see FILM SUBMISSION.

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

February 2022 Ovid Newsletter

OVID in February Includes 32 Films with 10 Exclusive Streaming Premieres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 9

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

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

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

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

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

OBSERVE AND SUBVERT: Lynne Sachs interviewed by Inney Prakash for Metrograph

December 2021

An interview with experimental documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs.

Our Lynne Sachs Series plays at Metrograph December 10–12.

Several of her films are currently available to watch on the Criterion Channel

Whether portraying artists, historical figures, family members, or strangers, filmmaker Lynne Sachs has always found rivetingly indirect methods of representing her subjects. The San Francisco Weekly called her 2001 film Investigation of a Flame, about the Vietnam War and the Catonsville Nine, a group of Catholic activists who burnt draft files in protest, an “anti-documentary.” Sachs herself now uses the phrase “experimental documentary” as shorthand for describing the formal elements that constitute her particularly idiosyncratic and collage-like cinematic vernacular, notable in work like the decades-in-the-making Film About A Father Who (2020).

Rooted in her days in San Francisco’s experimental scene, Sachs’s concerns are deeply material; they regard the matter that makes up the world as inextricable from the technology that reproduces it. Her investigation of New York City laundromats, The Washing Society (2016), co-directed with playwright Lizzie Olesker, struck me as an apt departure point for our wide-ranging discussion about and around this material awareness, as well as the larger concerns that bridge the gap between her films as works of art and Sachs’s  advocacy for worldly change.


I like weird questions.


I have been thinking about lint so much over the last few years. It started with my thinking about skin, and the epidermis, and about clothing being a second layer of our skin—which means that when we collect lint out of the dryer, we’re also catching aspects of our bodies. Sometimes it’s our own bodies, sometimes it’s the bodies of people we love. Sometimes it’s the bodies of people whose clothes are being washed in a transactional way…Iin that flow, you collect something most people think of as detritus. But I actually think of it as material, in the way that Joseph Beuys was really interested in wax and felt. So, lint is material for sculpture, and for an examination of our bodies. When that comes together, I find it very compelling.


That attention to the microscopic aspects that are residue of the much larger social relationships around service, hygiene, and the exchange of money for someone who performs something for somebody else—lint represents all those things.


When we look at traditional 16mm film, we see scratches and hair, like we see in lint. It’s not that different. Because lint collects through the months or ages, it collects aspects of the world. Film does the same thing; it is changed by its journey in time.

My co-director, Lizzie Olesker, and I wanted to figure out ways to examine the interplay between economics, aesthetics, and politics. You look at the form of cinema and you say, “I want to create ruptures. I want to create a radicalization of the way images are represented.“ But it’s also important to look not just at the way the camera reproduces our reality, but what is produced by the reality that might be dismissed or ignored. … Lint is not invisible, but it’s about as close to invisible as it gets. It moves from clothing to the trashcan in a kind of rote way. By breaking up that [journey], we’re trying to look at the mechanisms of labor.


It occurred to me about a year ago that every single film is a document of a performance. Even a fiction film, which is a bunch of people doing this crazy thing—to reinvent themselves, pretend that they’re different from who they are—we film it, and it’s called a fiction film, but it’s actually a documentary of a group of people together.

What’s started to interest me in the last year is that woven quality that takes seriously that anyone in, for example, a documentary film is performing an aspect of who they are. As soon as they turn their head and they see the camera, they’re performing. And there’s this, you could call it a leash, or an invisible thread [that runs] between my eyes and the eyes of any human being in front of the camera. They’re always looking to the director for some kind of affirmation, like, “Yes, you’re doing a good job.“ It’s the same in documentary. If you actually recognize that this is a form of exchange, then you can try to subvert it. People who are supposed to be ‘real’ become performers, or we have performers who open up about their lives . And so, obscure that rigid differentiation. That’s why I’m not really happy with the term ‘hybrid’ yet. Because it’s saying that this ontological conundrum doesn’t really exist, and that we have to create another category that says, “That’s ambiguously real and that’s ambiguously fiction.“


With filmmaking, there’s always two answers. There is the production answer: we tried one thing and it didn’t work, so we decided to go another way. And then there’s the more theoretical, maybe conceptual answer.


Okay, the conceptual answer first. We wanted to research the experience of what it is to wash the clothes of another person. Particularly in a big city, where people and workplaces can be taken for granted. Lizzie comes out of playwriting, and this notion that you observe the world in which you live, and then you re-create characters who inhabit those experiences you’ve witnessed, or those interactions that confuse you, and that you’re trying to grapple with. And I come out of experimental filmmaking, with documentaries. So you observe and then you subvert.

She asked me if I would help her to investigate laundry workers in New York. We started, and we got really hooked, but most of the people who do this kind of service work in America are also immigrants, and many don’t have the formal paperwork to give them the freedom to be on camera, to talk about the struggles of their workplace or their bosses, who they’re supporting, all those things. So we would have very informal conversations, but we couldn’t record and we couldn’t film.

Our answer was not to give up, but to listen really actively, and then to write the characters, or to write three characters who appear in the film as composites of these conversations. So, there’s Ching Valdes-Aran, Jasmine Holloway, and Veraalba Santa. They’re all performers—the film started as a performance called Every Fold Matters, which we did live in laundromats in Brooklyn and in New York City, and at places like University Settlement, The Tank.

But then, okay, the answer to the conceptual side is that, even though I’ve been making work that you could call reality-based or documentary-based for a long time, I’m always questioning this notion of asking people to open up their lives for me. That’s why I made Film About a Father Who, because I felt like it was my turn to be in that vulnerable position.

One thing I’ve done for years now, I always pay people [who appear] in my films. That’s kind of anathema in documentary. People don’t do that. Especially journalists, which I do understand… But why shouldn’t you pay them the way you would pay an actor?

Often we measure the success of a documentary by how real it is, by the spontaneity of the reveal of information; “I can’t believe you got in that door.“ Or, “I can’t believe you got those people to say that for you with your camera on.“ There’s a lot of registers of success that have to do with the people in front of the camera letting it all hang out, and that’s an awkward exchange… I wanted to have people who felt confident in their place in the world, to speak from that position. If people didn’t feel confident, then we listened, and we tried to embrace their sentiments and struggles in a fictionalized way.


It’s both. We used parts of it, but often we wrote in a more free-form way. It’s really a composite, and there’s a freedom that comes from making a film like this. .. I call it the Maggie Nelson effect, [which is] this idea where you lay bare the research. In The Argonauts, she tells this personal story about her relationship, and she has these fantastic tangents, which are about her research, what she happened to be reading, letting all of that come in.

I can [also] say that we were influenced by Yvonne Rainer. She was such a visionary when it came to choreography, and a celebration of the body through dance. Because she looked at the quotidian, and she ‘deconstructed’— in the word of that period— how we move through the world. We took that approach to how we thought about the dance movements in The Washing Society, how we could re-examine the gestures of the everyday, and think about how they might be beautiful, in the way that Roberta Cantow’s film Clotheslines celebrates the beauty of laundry work. [Lizzie and I] wanted to think about recognising washing as a form of physical dance. Especially because there’s so much repetition, which dance also uses.


Clotheslines is fantastic. It’s giving attention, again, to urban life, and to things that people do that maybe they feel ashamed of doing but that they have to do. It’s interesting to look at Roberta Cantow’s film, because it’s a twist on the whole idea of being a feminist. Barbara Hammer did something similar; I think the term ‘feminist’ is evolving all the time.

What Roberta Cantow did in her work, I think, is say, “Let’s acknowledge the beauty of what mostly women do. But it doesn’t mean that they’ll become stronger women than when they don’t do it.” … I should add that today I had a conversation with Roberta Cantow. A woman she knew who organizes washerwomen in New York City told her about the screening. Anyway, she told me today that this whole group of organizers around washerwomen, 10 of them, are coming to Metrograph.


Yeah. And I’m hoping [for] a group from the Laundry Workers Center, which is a union I’ve done a lot of work with, who organize workers in the small laundromats all over New York City…  If they’re trying to shut down a laundromat or bring attention to conditions that are really, really bad—where people are required to work 12 hours, and they can’t look at their phones, or all the different rules that are had—[Lizzie and I] make videos for them sometimes.


I was thinking about this last night. I went to an event at E-flux, and I was listening to Eric Baudelaire, the filmmaker, talking about this too…. I don’t think I’ve ever made a film that had the ability to make someone act differently, or to push them in a direction. But I always hope it makes them think about who they are differently, or about how the world works in another way. Maybe the result of that would be an action. But if it’s just a thought, that’s pretty good too. I guess it has to do with results, how you measure your reach… I get very excited, like with Investigation of a Flame, by people doing things with passion, and pushing themselves to extremes from which they can never turn back. I mean, that actually goes to Barbara Hammer. [She] lived life to its fullest, and with so much conviction.


Well, when I made Which Way Is East (1994), I didn’t at first understand that it really is about how we look at history, and how we analyze or reconstruct the past. That film is made from the perspective of myself and my sister. We were children who experienced the Vietnam War through television, mostly black-and-white images on a box in the living room. Being typical American, middle-class kids, our parents and their friends had not gone to war. The war was really far away… But you then grow up and you realize that it does touch you; you heard all the numbers of people who died, and you recognize that those statistics were always emphasizing the Americans, but what about the Vietnamese? How does war have an impact?

When we made the film, in the early ’90s, my sister, Dana Sachs, was living in Vietnam. I visited for one month, and, like a typical documentary filmmaker, you arrive in a place and you say, “I’m going to make a film.“ It came to me later that the film is a dialogue with history, but it’s also a dialogue between two women from the same family, who thought about that past in extremely different ways. She looked at Vietnam in this contemporary way, as survivors. Whereas I looked at Vietnam with this wrought guilt, trying to piece together an understanding of a war that still seemed to bleed. That’s what gave the film its tension, that our perceptions were so different. Ultimately the most interesting films are the ones that ask us to think about perception, that don’t just introduce new material.

So that was a gift, to be in dialogue with my sister… Another way of looking at dialogue, [if] you’re in dialogue with [someone like] Jean Vigo, who’s not alive… then you’re creating a dialectic between the materials. In A Month of Single Frames, I’m in dialogue with Barbara Hammer literally, but I’m also in dialogue with her through the form of the film, and with the audience. That was intentional, to have this ambiguity.

In A Month of Single Frames, she also does something that’s not about activism, it’s about solitude… thinking about her place in nature. It’s all about being delicately and boldly in the landscape. When she cuts up little pieces of gel and puts them on blades of grass, she’s doing the opposite of what a feature film made in Cape Cod would… You’d have all these people stomping on the dunes, getting permission to shoot, to take over a whole house, you’d need light, electricity… She wanted to do everything with the least impact. It’s not a film that she probably announced as a celebration of the environment. But to me, it is so much about not leaving your footprint on the land, but being there. I really admire that work.


The last year of Barbara Hammer’s life, she gave footage to filmmakers and said, “Do whatever you want, and in the process use this material that I love but could not finish. Because I can see that my life will not last long enough to do so.“

She gave me footage from 1998, which she had shot in a residency on Cape Cod. I asked her why she didn’t finish this film and she said, “Because it’s too pretty, and because it’s not engaged, it’s not political.“ She felt that the fact that it delivered so much pleasure just in its loveliness made it problematic. It was this gorgeous landscape, and a woman alone in a cabin. She thought there wasn’t a rigor to it. So she had never done anything with it; it just moved around with her, and it was bothering her, of course: “Finish me. Finish me.“

She gave it to me, and I started to edit. On the second visit, I showed it to her, just without any sound. I asked if she did any writing while she was there, and she said, “I kept a journal.“ She’d forgotten all about it, so she pulled it out.


She even writes about herself in the third person, which is fun, and different…

Everything was so pressured: she had to go to chemotherapy, she was trying to finish Evidentiary Bodies, a film that she was going to show at the Berlin Film Festival in 2019. It was one of the last things she did. So I had the material, and when she died… I needed to finish it. That’s when I wrote the text, because I needed to be in dialogue with her more than just editing the material. I needed to concentrate on that energy between us.


I’ll give you a little background. I’ve been on and off involved with the Punto de Vista Film Festival, which is a really interesting small festival in Pamplona, Spain, where they acknowledge and appreciate alternative ways of looking at documentary film practice. They asked 10 filmmakers to make a film in the form of a letter to a filmmaker who had influenced us.

I chose Jean Vigo; I love his film, Zero for Conduct (1933), because it is so much about rule breaking. It is so much about trying to exist in society, but knowing when there is a time to break the law. I had made my film Investigation of a Flame; I was interested in those moments where you have to turn inward and say, “This is wrong.“ And I wanted, again, to talk to a ghost. To talk to Jean Vigo.

Then, right at the beginning of this year, there was the attack on the US Capitol. A group of thousands chose to break the law, with absolute abandon in terms of the sacredness of other people’s bodies. I’m not even saying the US Capitol is sacred. But to go to a place of heinous destruction, that really disturbed me. I was already thinking about Jean Vigo, and I thought, “This is really complicated.” Because at what point do we learn to understand how to respect, how to have compassion, how to have empathy? That you can break rules, as in paint graffiti or burn draft files, but that once you start invading another person’s body— it’s a violation I couldn’t accept. And this space between anarchy and authoritarianism, and between compassionate rule breaking and violence was very interesting to me.


Oh. Well I have to say, a feminist socialist revolution probably would come with a lot of compassion. I think, I hope. But I would never say that women… I don’t think that there’s anything innate.

One other thing about E•pis•to•lar•y: I really like all the syllables in epistolary, so I like that it sounds like bullets. And yet it’s about dialogue… It may be silent, but audiences are writing back in their heads. I think a lot about that in my filmmaking, all the sounds that go on in audiences’ minds.


My interest in people who break the rules goes way back. I mean, I was protesting the implementation of imposing draft registration on American men when I was in high school. I’ve always been committed to trying to articulate a critique. But when I heard about the Catonsville Nine and this group of people who had nothing to gain by criticizing the US government’s presence in Vietnam, except that they were so upset that they felt they had to speak out against it…

They were Catholic antiwar activists: two priests in particular, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, and a nurse, and a sister, and others. But they broke the law in the most performative way. To take draft papers and burn them [with] napalm…. Napalm is not that different from lint. It’s just soap mixed with chemicals. You can make napalm at home. It’s domestically produced napalm, which was being used in Vietnam. But [the Catonsville Nine] wanted to make it and burn it symbolically. This, to me, was the ultimate art performance piece. Let’s burn files, photograph it, disseminate it, and say that these files represent bodies.

People said that they changed so much thinking. It was effective because it was an image that… You were asking about activism, that’s an image! To see priests burning draft files, that’s going to change things. That’s real activism on their part, and that happened in the 1960s.


I never thought… But it’s made with soap!

Inney Prakash is a writer and film curator based in New York City and the founder/director of Prismatic Ground.

Lynne Sachs Series at Metrograph (NYC) – Decemeber 10 – 12th

December 10 to December 12, 2021

Since bursting onto the filmmaking scene in the 1980s, Memphis-born Lynne Sachs has compiled an inimitable, astonishing body of work which includes essay films, diaristic shorts, gallery installations, and quite a number of simply uncategorizable hybrids. Sachs’s wide-ranging, restless ingenuity is on full display in this program, which includes her 2020 documentary portrait A Film About a Father WhoThe Washing Society, her collaboration with playwright Lizzie Olesker, which premiered in 2015 at a Clinton Hill laundromat; and this year’s E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo, a ruminative, surprising response to the January 6th Capitol Hill riots. A blast of engaging, and engaged, cinema.

Sachs will be present for all three programs.

Friday, December 10th @ 7:15 PM
2020 / 74min / DCP

Made up of footage shot by Sachs between 1984 and very nearly the present day, Film About a Father Who represents her endeavor to better understand the outsized personality and myriad affairs of one Ira Sachs, Sr.: Park City, Utah, hospitality industry mogul; bon vivant hippie businessman; serial womanizer; and the filmmaker’s father. Analog and digital video shares space with 8 and 16mm film in Sachs’ decoupage of home movie formats, creating a tenderly critical mosaic portrait that’s as energetic, multifaceted, and messy as its subject.

Saturday, December 11th @ 3:45 PM
2018 and 1981 / 90min / DCP

Sachs’s The Washing Society, co-directed with playwright Lizzie Olesker, uses a combination of interviews, re-enactments, and patient observation to pay lyric homage to the little-acknowledged but essential labor of dealing with dirty laundry, as it occurs every day in New York City’s laundromats. Screening with Roberta Cantow’s feminist forebear Clotheslines, a film that takes laundry seriously as a form of folk art, a fraught social signifier, and a lens for women to reflect on the joys, pains, and ambivalences of household chores. With Sachs’s short “A Month of Single Frames” made with and for Barbara Hammer.

Co-Directors Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker will be present with special guest feminist scholar Silvia Federici for a post-screening conversation. Hosted by Emily Apter.

Post-Screening Conversation for

Co-Directors Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker with special guest feminist scholar Silvia Federici in a post-screening conversation. Hosted by Emily Apter.

Sunday, December 12th @ 4:30 PM
1994, 2017, 2021, 2001 / 100min / DCP

Four shorts exemplifying the breadth and tireless curiosity of Sachs’s film practice, as well as an ongoing engagement with issues of justice and resistance. The Ho Chi Minh City–Hanoi travel diary Which Way is East: Notebooks from Vietnam offers an encounter between lived experience and mediated memory of a televised war. And Then We Marched juxtaposes 8mm footage of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. with archival images of earlier struggles for justice. E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo looks at the January 6th Capitol Hill uprising through the unlikely but revealing prism of Vigo’s 1933 Zéro de conduite. Investigation of a Flame revisits the story of the Catonsville Nine, Catholic activists who burnt draft files in protest of the Vietnam War.

Director Lynne Sachs will be present.

Northwest Film Forum to Present Lynne Sachs Retrospective

Lynne Sachs Retrospective: Between Thought and Expression [Online]
May 14-31, 2021

Lynne Sachs • US • 2001-2021

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

The following three programs are from Lynne Sachs: Between Thought and Expression, the Museum of the Moving Image’s retrospective series of five programs of her films.

Films in this series:

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

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

Short film program: Time Passes
(Lynne Sachs, US, 2001-2017, 51 min TRT)
Twenty years unspool over nine short films: portraits of Lynne Sachs’s children; visits with her mother, brother, niece and nephew; a tribute to the city where she lives; and scenes of sociopolitical trauma and protest. Nearly all shot on super 8mm or 16mm, and often silent, each work is at once a preservation of a moment and a record of change, seamlessly weaving together the candid and the performed gesture, the public and the private memory, in a simultaneously objective and subjective posture toward the passing of time.

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

About Lynne Sachs
Lynne Sachs is a filmmaker and poet who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and is currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Her moving image work ranges from short experimental films to essay films to hybrid live performances. Lynne discovered her love of filmmaking while living in San Francisco where she worked closely with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.

Between 1994 and 2006, she produced five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany – sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions. Looking at the world from a feminist lens, she expresses intimacy by the way she uses her camera. Objects, places, reflections, faces, hands, all come so close to us in her films. Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with every new project. With the making of Your Day is My Night (2013), Every Fold Matters (2015), and The Washing Society (2018), Lynne expanded her practice to include live performance.

As of 2020, Lynne has made 37 films. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana, China Women’s Film Festival, and Sheffield Doc/ Fest have all presented retrospectives of her films. Lynne received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts.

About Edo Choi
Edo Choi is Assistant Curator of Film at the Museum of the Moving Image. Previously, he served in the dual capacity of programming manager and chief projectionist for the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem. He has organized programs as an independent curator for the New York Public Library and the Documentary Film Group, film society at the University of Chicago, where he held the position of Programming Chair between 2008 and 2010. He also works as a freelance projectionist at venues around New York City.

Prismatic Ground Hosts Two Programs of Films by Lynne Sachs

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

Transcription of Conversation with Brett Kashmere:

Inney Prakash: Welcome, everyone. Just going to give it a few seconds for people to trickle in here.

Hello, my name is Inney Prakash, and I am the founder and director of Prismatic Ground, which in case you haven’t heard, is a new film festival centered around experimental documentary, hosted virtually for the first year, in partnership with Maysles Documentary Center and Screen Slate. We’re here today for a reason that is very special to me, which is to honor Lynne Sachs with the festival’s inaugural Ground Glass Award, which recognizes outstanding contribution to the field of experimental media.

I wanted to include this as part of the festival, because paying homage to people who have sort of led the way is important to me. I think there’s a lot to be learned from those who have done exemplary work, and have a body of work to show for it. Lynn’s body of work is extraordinary. What I really love about it is the way it’s simultaneously very personal and also outward looking, interested in the world.

I think of her Vietnam film and the way it’s both a travelog that is examining a country in the world that’s foreign to her, but also a portrait, a self-portrait of family, and the way in which that’s so extraordinary. You can follow this through line throughout her work to her most recent film as well, Film About a Father Who, which she’s been shooting for a long time, in which in the way it examines, again, it’s a portrait of family, but it’s also a portrait of the effect that her father has had on other people’s lives.

She’s still interested in looking outward while reflecting, and I think that’s really cool. I am really excited to introduce her today. Unfortunately, because this is such a scruffy fest, Lynne, I owe you a physical award. I will eventually come up with that. That will happen. In the meantime, I just want you to know how much your work means to me, and how much it means to me that you’re such a champion for the experimental community, and the importance you place in community, and your willingness to engage with others, to collaborate, to recognize the work of others, to uplift others.

It means a lot to me personally, and I know it means a lot to others as well, so thank you. We also have here, Brett Kashmere, who’s the Executive Director of Canyon Cinema. He’s done a lot of extraordinary things. You can look up his website, one of which he’s working on an epic tome about Craig Baldwin that he’s been editing for some say up to 10 years. He and Lynne are going to talk, and I think they’re going to focus on Lynne’s early years in San Francisco, which, again, there’s another extraordinary example of a way a community came together to build what, in my eyes, is something like a movement dedicated to formally daring work.

With that, I want to step aside and give it away to them, but thank you so much, Lynne. Yeah, that’s it. Nothing but gratitude.

Lynne Sachs: Well, I’ll just say that it’s such a exciting moment for me to be here, and Prismatic Ground represents and celebrates exactly the kind of work that sparked me to want to be a filmmaker. I feel like it kind of comes full circle that you all are, that Inney and the community that you have created is giving me this recognition.

It really does go back to San Francisco, and that was Brett’s idea for us to talk about why that city, that community, has left such an imprint on so many of us. Even if you haven’t ever lived there, you’re feeling it. We can kind of articulate why that is over this conversation.

Brett Kashmere: Okay. I guess maybe I’ll take it from here. First off, it hasn’t been 10 years that I’ve been working on the Craig Baldwin book with Steve Polta. It’s been maybe three years at the most. It only sometimes feels like it’s been 10 years. Second of all, kudos to Inney for the incredible accomplishment that is Prismatic Ground, which is truly astonishing, and inspiring, and so beautifully curated, and expertly organized. I think it’s an ideal in many ways of what’s possible in the digital space.

Then, of course, congrats to Lynne for this very well-deserved honor in recognition of your 35 year contribution to the fields of experimental media and documentary art, and vitally to their cross-pollination and contamination. I mean that in the best possible way. To provide a little bit of background, I’ve known Lynne for about 15 years, I believe, and I’ve always associated you, Lynne, with New York. I’ve always thought of you as a New York filmmaker, kind of quintessentially New York.

Since moving to the Bay Area five years ago, and particularly since joining Canyon Cinema last June, I’ve come to understand that your roots as a filmmaker and your sensibility, your repertoire, are really formed in and by San Francisco. I don’t know, maybe you don’t agree with that assessment. We can get into it, but it’s something that I’ve really sort of picked up on in looking at your films, re-watching them over the past few days and over the past year.

In full disclosure, Lynne is currently a member of Canyon’s Board of Directors, to our great benefit. I thought it would be fun to use this opportunity, perhaps selfishly, to learn more about your relationship with San Francisco, and your time in the Bay Area, the various influences and key figures from that period spanning the mid-eighties to the mid-1990s.

I thought we could start there, or here, depending on where you are, and then eventually move into talking about some of your films, nine of which are currently streaming on the Prismatic Ground site, eight of which are split across two programs curated by San Francisco’s own Craig Baldwin, and then an additional early film, Drawn and Quartered, which is part of the lovely Wave Four program. Lynne, can you explain what drew you to San Francisco initially, and then what kept you planted here for more than a decade?

Lynne Sachs: Actually, I never made a film in college, but I moved to New York in 1983, and I thought, oh, I’ll move. I’m excited about filmmaking. I had just recently discovered Chantal Akerman’s films and Marguerite Duras. I had gone to school in Paris for a year, my junior year. It was there that I began to understand, oh, you could love poetry, you could love image making, and they could come together in this vessel called a film.

When I got to New York, I thought, I’ll just work on other people’s films and I’ll learn how to make movies. It didn’t work that way. That was a way to get into the industry and build skills, but it wasn’t a way necessarily to learn to make your own films. I took a few classes, and they didn’t at first go that well. I took a class at the School of Visual Arts, and I wrote, I made this film called The Tarot that the teacher there said, “You need a punch line at the end.” I didn’t want to make that kind of movie.

Then I started to hang out at Downtown Community Television, and it was there that I started to understand this what we would now call hybrid work. I was doing dance performances with friends, and then shooting documentary footage, and it was all kind of mixing up. Then I thought, well, maybe I’ll go to school. I need to learn how to make movies or film. I always said that when you’re working on them, they’re films, and then when you finish them, you’ve got to say movie.

I moved to San Francisco, and I ended up going to San Francisco State and the San Francisco Art Institute because I didn’t get into the San Francisco Art Institute right off. Both of those sensibilities really left a big imprint on me, San Francisco State mostly for kind of the intellectual rigor there. I was learning film theory, and working with people who were really bringing a conceptual rigor to filmmaking, and then the Art Institute to begin to understand what it meant to be a film artist.

One of the connections to Prismatic Ground that was so much in the air in San Francisco in the eighties, and into the nineties, and to the present, is this idea that experimental and documentary weren’t completely discrete ways of working, because everywhere else, it seemed to me in the country, and particularly in New York, you had to decide, “I’m going to make reality-based work, or I’m going to play with form.”

In San Francisco, the expectation was that you could do both, and that you could make work that asks questions about society, and about politics, and culture, but also in the process, ripped up all the templates that came with that analysis.

Brett Kashmere: You started your MFA at SF State, and then you transferred to SFAI? How did that work?

Lynne Sachs: I actually finished at both, because I started at San Francisco State, and so I got to take film history classes. I had never seen Citizen Kane before I started there, and luckily in that program, they really supported people who were intellectually curious, but didn’t even come with any of the tools, or the baggage, or the knowledge of the practice, but wanted to bring everything. I had been working in art, but I had a degree in European history, and so there was an encouragement for just having that foundation.

Then I applied to the Art Institute, and part of it was that San Francisco State had a MA degree, and San Francisco, at that point, San Francisco Art Institute had an MFA, but there were artists at both schools who were so profoundly influential to me and became dear friends with whom I still share a bond.

Brett Kashmere: Do you have any distinct memories of what the film scene in San Francisco was like during that era? Also, curious about the things that you were reading and responding to, and the films that you were looking at during that period?

Lynne Sachs: Well, I took a semiotics class at San Francisco State, and just the word was so enticing to me. It was the word of the day in the eighties, this notion of studying the signs, and symbols, and what the meanings were of images that were both connotative and denotative, and how that all had sort of started in a dialogue in Europe. I was perhaps more moved by cultural theory, so Roland Barthes in particular, not necessarily Christian Met, not necessarily the film theory, but all of it was new to me.

I knew that I was taking those classes because I would feed into my work. I actually think that the film in the Prismatic Ground, Still Life with Women and Four Objects, really reflects all of those influences, from discovering Jean-Luc Godard, but also thinking he had no sympathy or understanding whatsoever of what women’s lives were like. I actually felt he exploited women in his films, but I still loved his films. There were all these contradictions, and Yvonne Rainer’s films, all of it was just coming into my consciousness.

Also, to be in San Francisco at that time, and to be making your own films was to be circulating and visiting the Film Arts Foundation. Everything that you did was in relationship to that building on Ninth Street. You would go there to edit, you would go there to watch movies, you would go there to hang out. We lived in such a different place now. Our homes are places to make films, but at that time, you had to go out in the world to shoot and to edit.

Brett Kashmere: Do you recall what kind of impact that feminist theory and feminist art making had on the culture and the curriculum of SFAI at that time? The film department specifically, because as I understand it, I think film was a separate department from video and performance.

Lynne Sachs: When I tell you the people who came through for, they always had a visiting artist for the graduate program who would teach classes, the evening class, and I think it was always on Monday night. For example, I met Peggy Ahwesh then, I saw her work. I loved how informal it was, but I also loved how assertive it was about issues related to women and in our culture. That thin line between play and polemic was exciting to me, and not exactly when I was in school there, but later, Carolee Schneemann came, and so I would visit her class.

I actually showed the film that’s in the program, the House of Science, A Museum of False Facts, I was invited to screen by Carolee in her class and we just sat there for hours, talking about it. That was such a gift to me, to be able to talk to someone who’d had such a adventurous and thoughtful impact on women and art, and I mean art in general, but what it was to embrace the body. I had made this film where my body was involved, and I was writing about the body, and she was engaged with that.

Also, I worked really closely with Gunvor Nelson, and that sort of was another side. She’d made a film called Schmeerguntz, which I just loved, because I loved how much it celebrated the sort of dirtiness of the body. I hadn’t had children yet at that point, but it was all about motherhood, and it was raw. She’d also made My Name is Oona, and that film had an impact on me in that it was a celebration of the connection between the person behind the camera who could be a mother, but might not be, and the person in front of the camera who was her child. There’s this intimacy that comes through the arteries of the camera out to the child.

Brett Kashmere: It’s interesting that you mentioned Carolee, because as I was watching Drawn and Quartered the other day, her films really kind of came to mind, especially Plumb Line and Kitch’s Last Meal. Just in terms of the look and feel, and I know that Drawn and Quartered, or I believe Drawn and Quartered is one of your earliest films that was shot on the rooftop of SFAI? I’m curious if that film sort of led you someplace, in terms of thinking about relationship of form, and content, and visual strategy.

Lynne Sachs: You asked me about feminist theory, and I think that Laura Mulvey’s essay on the female gaze, or trying to address and challenge the male gaze, was probably about 10 years old by the time I read it, but it already was, I’m not going to say seminal, but it was already such an important article. When I read that article on Visual Pleasure, I connected to it immediately.

For example, when I was in school, there was a woman who asked me to shoot her film for her, which people do sometimes, they crew for other people. She wanted me to shoot it in a way that I felt was replicating a male gaze. I was in the middle of working for her and I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I had probably assumed I’m shooting this film for a woman, and we’re going to challenge the ethos of Hollywood or of a conventional formation of the female body.

We weren’t. We were actually trying to just erase her place as a woman. It was horrifying to me. Then when I shot Drawn and Quartered, I believe, I’m trying to remember, but I believe that I had read Laura Mulvey’s article. I had the camera, we never looked through the camera, we would just sort of shoot it in the… I was shooting with my then boyfriend, John Baker, and I would have him shoot my body, and I would shoot his, but it had to be an extension.

There was a man who worked in the cage, the equipment room at San Francisco State, and he always said, “Shoot from the hip.” I liked that. It’s an expression, but I always tried to do it. I want to say something, that Nina Fonaroff just wrote a little note, and I adore her films. We were in graduate school together. I saw that she wrote something in the chat, so I have to respond to that.

She was the most, I got to say it, sophisticated person I had ever met in the realm of theory and practice. She was in school. I remember, this was probably 1987, and she did a presentation in this graduate seminar, and it was like a watershed for me. It was a way of looking at experimental film, because so often in film studies classes, you’re looking at Hollywood films, and you’re breaking them down and analyzing. She was sort of guiding, I won’t say teaching, but guiding the rest of us to understanding experimental film for all its possibility.

It was such a gift to see her work, like Accursed Mazurka, and other films at that point, and to also feel like she was a comrade.

Brett Kashmere: Yeah, besides Nina, are there other classmates or teachers who stand out as important kind of influences or interlocutors for you in the development of your work during that time?

Lynne Sachs: Well…

Brett Kashmere: I can just sort of just say that as I was rewatching your films, I was kind of noticing traces of Trinh Minh-ha’s work in terms of its self-reflexivity, and the poetic narration, and the visual lyricism, and traces of Marlon Riggs, and Lynne Hirschman in terms of their personal introspection, and the collage essay techniques, obviously, of Craig Baldwin in the use of the archive, Barbara Hammer and the focus on the body.

Lynne Sachs: Clearly, I was a sponge, but I will say that Trinh Minh-ha was a teacher of mine in a couple of classes at San Francisco State, and then she asked me to be her assistant. First of all, it was to pick up her mail when she was on sabbatical, and then I became a sound recordist and an assistant on some editing of some of her films. She was also very important to, for example, to the making of Sermons and Sacred Pictures, which is in this program.

That was my graduate thesis at San Francisco State. This is the eighties when identity politics were really so, so vital, and the way that they’ve kind of come back in an extremely important and empowering way. We were thinking, and she had made Reassemblage, and she, as a Vietnamese American woman, had made this film in West Africa, and was aware of her outsider place. I was making a film about a black filmmaker and minister in Memphis, Tennessee, which was a return to my own home.

My home in that city was also very different from his home and his Memphis. She was really so helpful in pushing me to think about being open enough about your own place, but not flaunting it. For example, when I made Sermons and Sacred Pictures, there were some people who thought I needed to show my face. Then there are other people who said, “No, your imprint is in the shaping, and in being on the other side of the camera, and in listening.”

I’ve always wondered about that around documentary, how you learned… I think you learn in that film about Reverend Taylor’s world, because you’re seeing his world through his eyes, but you didn’t need to see me seeing his world. That was a really kind of complicated issue to investigate. She helped me with that step-by-step, because she was actually my advisor.

Brett Kashmere: It reminds me a little bit of her ethic of speaking nearby, rather than speaking about or speaking for.

Lynne Sachs: Yeah, I’ve been kind of, let’s say, preoccupied with prepositions like that ever since. You say the word about, and I Film About a Father Who, like that word about comes up so often not in experimental filmmaking, but in documentary filmmaking. It always has to have a subject. People rarely ask, “What’s the subject of an experimental film?” In documentary, there’s sort of an assumption that it will lead us to an about, and that therefore, we will have a more developed knowledge, and we will leave better, empowered, better.

I think what Minh-ha was saying, you’ll leave in parallel, or you’ll leave with an ability to ask more questions, rather than to confirm a complete kind of knowledge, that you have a fragmented knowledge.

Brett Kashmere: I know that you also worked intensively with Bruce Conner for a year while you were in San Francisco, talking about the other poll from Minha.

Lynne Sachs: Yeah.

Brett Kashmere: Could you say more about your experience working with Bruce? Are there any short stories that you want to share about that?

Lynne Sachs: Yeah. You definitely could say you have the found footage, assemblage approach to commenting on culture, and then you have this other approach, which is more reflective and verbal in Minh-ha’s work, that the notion that you are recounting your position in a more explicit way, and maybe self-conscious way. Both of those things left in imprint, and in certain times, I felt I got lost in that.

Now, I accept that lostness and I’ve felt tension. Am I an experimental filmmaker, or am I a documentary filmmaker? Jonas Mekas hated the word experimental, and lots of people hate the word documentary, and you could say it’s just a creative way of working with reality. Actually, both of those are, in that case. I met Bruce Conner because I had a friend who had done some shooting with him on his film that never got finished, but is now going to get finished, about The Soul Stirrers.

Also, I had gone to the Flaherty in 1984, believe it or not, as a kind of intern fellow. That year, the focus was on Bruce Conner’s work and Maya Deren’s work, none of which, I’d never even heard of either one of them. There I am, at the Flaherty, helping them to give out programs, and doing some things that interns do. Then at the end of the day or throughout the day, I’m seeing work by Maya Deren and work by Conner. They’re completely different. One is looking inward in this very sort of dream-like, and intensely personal way, and the other has a detachment, but an intense engagement with culture.

That started at the Flaherty Film Seminar, and then I ended up moving to San Francisco. I had these little teeny contacts with Bruce Conner, and then he asked me if I wanted to work with him putting together his film negative, I say negative, because that’s how important the work was, for the Museum of Modern Art. They were acquiring all of his work, and they needed the negatives to be organized. I had essentially never spliced a 16 millimeter film in my life. There I would be, every once a week, I would go for the entire day with him, and he would watch me work, and be so frustrated by my inability to do it.

He did all the work. I just sat there, listening to him tell stories. Then we would take a break, and we would have lunch. Then he would take a nap because he was always a little bit compromised physically, or he said he was. Then in the afternoon, we would kind of run errands for him in his, I remember it as a convertible, and one of the funniest, it wasn’t funny at the time, but when I look back, one of the craziest things we did was we would go shopping for Geiger counters, because he was sure there was a lot of radio activity under his house.

We did all these just kooky things. Actually, I’m going to show you this book, which came, this is, have you heard of this book?

Brett Kashmere: Yeah.

Lynne Sachs: Yeah. Bruce, as his health declined, set up brass handles all over his whole house, these brass handles, probably 50 or 60 of them. This is a book of his brass handles, and his house was in Bernal Heights. It had a lot of levels, and he would need to grab things. Anyway, Bruce has been a big part of my life. He gave ink drawings to my daughters when they were born, and he just was super supportive. It actually comes full circle to Sermons and Sacred Pictures.

He always loved that I was making this film about a black minister and filmmaker, and he was curious about it. He would ask me about how it was going, and then he came to the premiere, which was on a church on Fillmore Street, and it was just so scary. It was filled with members of the congregation of that church, the premiere in San Francisco, and then Bruce was there. I was nervous about both.

That’s kind of like the nature of my work, because it was all about that. It wasn’t about the San Francisco black church community, but they were interested. Then it was about playing with form with Bruce.

Brett Kashmere: Another point of connection between you and Bruce is Craig Baldwin, who we’d be remiss not to talk about at some point.

Lynne Sachs: Definitely.

Brett Kashmere: Craig was a student of Bruce’s at SF State in the eighties, early eighties, I think. I know that you and Craig have a very close relationship. I’ve read many of his letters to you, actually, which you provided us for the book that we’re working on. How did you and Craig meet, and what has he meant to you and to your work on video?

Lynne Sachs: Craig is a brother and one of the dearest people in the world to me. I just adore him. I will say that in my file cabinets downstairs, I have two big file cabinets, but about half of one of the whole drawers is filled with things related to Craig, from all of his calendars for other cinema, to letters that we’ve written, to film materials he sent me. Then I’ll go backwards, but lately, he’s been sending me a film either by or about a woman, women’s lives, almost every week since the pandemic started. He somehow thinks that I am going to create a feminist archive.

I kind of am now, because I have so many films and I’ve looked them all up, and found them, and actually know where they were made. If there was a director, I know about it, and I’ve labeled them, so I guess I’m doing my job. Craig and I met around in 1987 when Other Cinema was still around, but it wasn’t at 992 Valencia Street. The first place I went to his series was there. When I saw his film, Rocket Kit Congo Kit at San Francisco State, which was his thesis film there, I was just awed.

It was kind of life transforming. It was life tran… This way of working with images to tell us about ourselves. I never looked back. I would say half the movies I’ve ever made have some piece of film that came from Craig’s basement. I would say that the House of Science, which is in the program at Prismatic Ground, really couldn’t have happened without some of the material that I found in his archive, or that he found and shared with me, or he’d kind of like a frisbee, throw me a reel of film, “You’re going to find something here.”

He knew I was looking for women in science. Then I would just go for it. Lots of my film have material from Craig, so much. He’s just been so supportive. The first one woman show I had, he called The Complete Lynne Sachs, and that was in the late eighties. Luckily, that wasn’t the complete, that was the word he used. I don’t know if my pronunciation is right, but we just believe in each other as makers and people.

Brett Kashmere: By the way, when did you become a member of Canyon Cinema? Do you have any memories or stories about Canyon from that time? Did you ever go to membership meetings?

Lynne Sachs: I felt like I was such an active member of Canyon Cinema. I don’t remember meetings. I actually remember being in the Canyon vibe more from a place called the Know-Nothing Cinema, where lots of Canyon kinds of shows would happen, and I would go there. I was such a part of the years in which Canyon was trying to decide, well, will we bring in video? I don’t remember meetings with the whole body of makers.

I do remember meetings for the Film Arts Foundation, but maybe I just missed those meetings. We definitely didn’t have internet then, but we had these newsletters, and Dominic Angerame would send them out. Is it 626-2255? Is that the phone number for Canyon?

Brett Kashmere: I have not memorized it yet,

Lynne Sachs: Oh, but see, these predate cell phones. I think it’s 415, somebody might verify that.

Brett Kashmere: Yeah, that’s right.

Lynne Sachs: 626-2255. I called it all the time. If that’s a verification of my relationship to Canyon, I think it’s been the same phone number for, it’s moved with Canyon as it’s moved locations. Also, I got to know Bruce Bailey a little bit, and I never really met Chick Strand, but I knew her films so well, so I felt a connection to those early years.

Brett Kashmere: I want to maybe transition into talking more specifically about some of the films that are currently streaming as part of Prismatic Ground, maybe starting with Still Life with Women and Four Objects, which you mentioned earlier. It feels kind of like a classical first film in the way that it was shot and edited, but then it’s also doing some interesting things with narrative and performance.

It has this critique of female representation and the conventions around that. I’m curious where the idea for the film came from. Was it made for a class? If so, was there a particular prompt that you were responding to?

Lynne Sachs: Oh, I have to tell you, there’s one embarrassing prompt, and that I was taking, at San Francisco State, they had a class, which was for those of us who didn’t know how to make movies, which actually, most of us did not. It was like a jump start into 16 millimeter production. We were shooting with Arriflex cameras, and recording sound on Nagras quarter inch tape, but there was one requirement, which was that you had to have at least one shot in sync.

That film has one, it allows me to always know if it’s out of sync. The woman who is the actor in the film, she says, “For women too.” That’s the only sync shot in the whole film. I actually didn’t shoot anything in sync for about 10 years after that. I was kind of resentful of having to shoot something in sync, but I actually liked the burst. It’s like a burst into the moment, a burst into the diegetic space, as they would’ve said back then. That film, I believe, was quite influenced by, let’s say, seeing something like Lives of Performers by Yvonne Rainer, where you could get into a person’s head.

I learned in those early years, or not learned isn’t the right word, but I started to believe that, for the most part, commercial cinema was working with actors as if they were props. I wanted to allow, and I’ve done this ever since that movie, to allow anyone who is in front of my camera to at least collaborate in an intellectual way. The woman who was in the film was a bit older than I was, and I thought quite wise. I said, “Okay, when you come to our set, please bring something that means a great deal to you.”

She brought a picture of Emma Goldman, and I didn’t know who Emma Goldman was at that time. Now I do, and I know what an important figure she is in history for women, and for owning our own bodies, and sort of empowerment, and freedom of sexuality, all of those things. Because she brought the picture, it stirred me, it made things happen. I had to find out who she was. This was before Wikipedia, but it was not that hard to find out who Emma Goldman was.

Then I had to integrate that. I wanted that, there was a kind of register around an important woman in history. Then there was the woman in front of the camera, and then my grandmother died at that time, so I dedicated the film to my grandmother around the time that I made the film. When you saw in the film that she does something three times, she puts on a coat three times, that artificiality of take one, take two, take three, that was part of the structuring and expectation of a search for perfection, which I felt commercial cinema, you would only do take one, take two, take three with the thought that they would get better.

I didn’t care about getting better, but I cared about the recognition that there was a process. That is your typical realization in a film which wanted to lay bare. I guess I was probably reading Brecht at this time, to lay bare the process.

Brett Kashmere: It’s interesting what you’re just saying about collaboration with your on-screen subject or your performer, because I feel like that also, that kind of slipping between narrative and documentary, or real people in real life, also is very much a part of your most recent documentaries, like the Washing Society, where you’re taking documentary tropes but twisting them a little bit.

They have this kind of uncanny effect that feels very fresh, but also is kind of like a throwback to the post-realist kinds of films that Jill Godmilow, and Harun Farocki, and Minh-ha were making, this more synthetic, kind of hybrid style of nonfiction cinema.

Lynne Sachs: I would definitely say that those three people, Jill Godmilow and Farocki, who were working in spaces, let’s say, in that could not be completely controlled. All of us wanted to throw ourselves into environments where things were porous, where the world was going to disrupt or fracture our hermetic space of the set, but we also were drawn to the set. There was this idea that the set was a place to kind of build up ideas, so build up theories and explorations.

That kind of fluidity between the real and the constructed was very exciting. One of the challenges was how do you reveal that through the making of the film? In the Washing Society, I worked with a dear friend, again, who is a playwright, Lizzie Olesker, and we would go into laundromats, and talk to laundry workers, but then we would take what we heard, and create scripts for actors. There were all a bunch of different ways that we could analyze. I’m sorry, there’s a little noise out there, so just one second.

Brett Kashmere: Sure.

Lynne Sachs: Can you all be quiet, please? Hey, you know what? That was a perfect example. We’re on our set, and there’s all this noise going on out there. Anyway, so in the Washing Society, the fact that we moved over to theater came from the obstacle of trying to talk to people who are living in the United States in very compromised situations, where their documentation, as we alluded to in the film, was always in question. We liberated them from being, and they liberated us, by refusing to be on camera most of the time.

Then we would start to work with actors, but then we had other people who felt comfortable enough being on camera, or maybe didn’t have such an awkward or vulnerable position in the United States. Sometimes I think that those kinds of obstacles force you to think about new forms, ways of working.

Brett Kashmere: Speaking of new forms and ways of working, I wanted to ask about House of Science and Which Way is East, which are from the early nineties, are maybe two of your best known films. They feature a lot of what I associate as signature elements of your work, the use of the first person voiceover, but also bringing in multiple voices and multiple narrators, on-screen text, like seeing your handwritten text, optical printing, the mixing of self-shot and archival footage, and just this very layered sort of construction that’s using a lot of different kinds of strategies.

I’m curious how you arrived at this form of personal documentary. Was this a conscious choice that you were working towards, like wanting to make essayistic, first-person films, or was this a more just natural development of where your interests were going and your sensibility as a filmmaker?

Lynne Sachs: I will tell an anecdote that happened in the, let’s say, mid-eighties. I saw Chris Marker’s film, Sans Soleil, which had such an impact on so many filmmakers, still to this day, this freedom of engaging with everything in his life. He wrote about it. He wrote in the first person, but it wasn’t his first person. There was a refraction that happened. You actually have a woman’s voice.

I saw that film, and it just rearranged everything in my head. It allowed for this exploration, it allowed for manipulation, with the hope that some kind of poetry might come out of it, it created a character who wasn’t really a character, but was the self. I loved everything about it. I watched it many times on a VHS tape that had been given to me. Then I wrote a letter to Chris Marker, and I said, “I’m in graduate school, but I’m thinking I need to take a break. Maybe I’ll move to Paris. Do you need an assistant?”

He wrote me back and he said, “Oh, no, no, no, I don’t need an assistant, but let’s get together when I come to San Francisco.” We started a friendship that lasted, I don’t know, till his death, actually. I ended up working on a film with him through Icarus Films here, and helped with the translation from French to English. We made this film together about whales called Three Cheers for the Whales that he had made in the seventies, but wanted to make a new version of it.

There was something about seeing his films that allowed me to better understand the notion of writing, and the doubt that comes, that we associate with the essay film. That film was so important to me. Also, while I was making the House of Science, I was actually keeping a diary that had to do with my physical self, like what I would call a somatic recognition of things I was going through.

I was on an airplane, and I was writing it, and then all of a sudden, it occurred to me that, and I was having a hard time making the House of Science, and I said, “Oh, my goodness, actually, this writing is the skeleton for the whole film,” and it just fit right in. I loved doing it. The way that I tried to do that, and people will see this in the film, was you see the handwriting in the beginning of the film with a voice. It’s very complete. The body is solid.

Then you see the handwriting, and you hear the sound of the pencil on a hard surface or paper, and then you see, you’re reading the writing, which is very much about my body, but it could be any woman’s body. You hear, I’m urinating, actually. I wanted to have that, and I’ve been doing that kind of thing ever since, where you play with what is there and then what is pulled away.

Also, in the text in Which Way is East, which I made a few years later, it plays with the translation. I think all film is translation, but this is translation from Vietnamese to English, and there’s an awkwardness in it, and a sort of fragility. My sister and I made that film together, so Dana, her name is Dana Sachs, and she was living in Vietnam then as one of the first journalists to really set herself up there, and to observe the changes in post-war Vietnam.

I went there, and the writing that we both did had to do with her understanding of the culture and my confusion, or my relationship to, my inability to give up, seeing it as an American, and not being able to listen, really listen. We played also with the idea of a parable from one culture, giving you an insight into that culture, as much as words or interviews would do. Both films kind of explore the possibilities of writing, but also the obstacles of text of any kind.

Also, I think the Washing Society does that too. It continues that conversation around translation, because Lizzie Olesker and I used Spanish and Chinese, both translated and not translated, in the film.

Brett Kashmere: I don’t quite have straight the chronology of your filmography, but…

Lynne Sachs: That’s okay.

Brett Kashmere: I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but sometime closely after the completion of Which Way is East, you made Investigation of a Flame. Maybe there was a film in between?

Lynne Sachs: No, there’s about a six-year difference. I made another film called Biography of Lilith.

Brett Kashmere: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Lynne Sachs: I had two children around that time, so maybe I wasn’t quite as able to finish things, but I tried. Yeah, Investigation of a Flame was made in 2001, and mostly it was made while I was living in Baltimore with my husband, Mark Street, and our daughters. I was very, very, very immersed in the activist, political, progressive, civil disobedience community of Baltimore, but also with people who were there who had done actions like that, as protests and actions against the Vietnam War. That came in 2001.

Brett Kashmere: I wanted to talk about that film, because it feels like there’s a turn, or at least a sort of movement away from the self-reflexive style of House of Science and Which Way is East. It’s a more straightforward documentary.

Lynne Sachs: It’s funny, when I made it, there was actually, I think, a radio station in Berkeley. They did some sort of review of it, and they called it an anti-documentary. It does fit into the documentary practice because I’m listening to people, I’m allowing them to express their opinions, there’s a kind of thesis about breaking the law, and I agree that it is not as introspective in that way the other two were.

Brett Kashmere: I’m curious how you became convinced that that’s a film that you yourself should be making?

Lynne Sachs: I mentioned Biography of Lilith, which I made in 1997. It’s full of poetry about Lilith, and that Lilith, there was a night, I’m just mentioning it was super personal, and I was trying to explore the myth of Lilith who wanted to be on top and sex, and she was thrown out of the garden of Eden, and it’s very raw that way, and it’s also about what you gain and lose in becoming a mother.

It was very personal. I was kind of ready to have a little distance, I guess, now when I look back on that. Also, I had, at one point, thought I wanted to be a lawyer, like a civil rights lawyer or something, or maybe a human rights lawyer or a civil. I know a lot of filmmakers who actually did consider law at one point. Then lastly, you’re kind of thinking, how can I maybe naively think you could change the world, or how could I pursue? We didn’t use the word social justice back then, but now we’d say, “How can we right wrong?”

I thought, well, I’m not an attorney. I’m not really an activist. When I moved to Baltimore and we were there three years, I heard about this group of anti-war activists who broke the law for what they believed in. I was just taken by that, that, notion that you make a certain choice in your life and you can never go back in a bigger way. Not just in that political action, but I don’t think getting married is a decision like that, or moving to a new town.

When you make a choice that puts you right in front of the legal system and then throws you in jail, you give up everything, your freedom, for some belief. I was so drawn to the actions of it, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, and the other members of the Catonsville Nine. I just wanted to understand how it happened, and sort of celebrate that, but also not just to elevate them, but to think about those decisions.

Yeah, it was quite different, and it was very much engaged with another side of me that I had mentioned to you. I’d been a history major in college, so it’s a bit about history, but also about something more wrought, like making a decision of that sort.

Brett Kashmere: It’s such a striking film, and I feel like it’s very much of the moment again. I feel like it’s kind of ripe for re-investigation.

Lynne Sachs: Yeah. I made the film, I started making Investigation of a Flame, and people thought it was quaint that I was looking into this anti-war actions of 1968, like people who were interested in hippies in 1968, or people who were interested in the songs of ’68. That’s what people thought. I found in general, people were rather kind of patronizing about it. Then keep in mind, I finished that film at the same time that September 11th happened.

All of a sudden, the issues around breaking the law, as in the people who enacted, the terrorists who did what they did, they also did it in the name of their God. People started to, even on the left, were super critical of what the Catonsville Nine did, to walk into a selective service office, and take draft files, and burn them with Napalm, was an assault on the structure of government, even though it was done with a kind of spiritual faith.

When that film showed towards the end of 2001, it was very controversial, and actually, ever if you did an action like that now, if you walked into a draft office or some kind of US government office and took files, you’d be called a terrorist. Actually, one of the members of the Catonsville Nine, Philip Berrigan, was put in solitary confinement right after September 11, this gentle priest, because people felt threatened by that.

The film on a personal level threw me into a lot of very, very political situations that were remarkable. I feel lucky, like I got to travel around with Daniel Berrigan, who was an incredible hero of mine, and for political reasons, and he was also a poet. To spend all that time with him was real gift.

Brett Kashmere: I guess maybe to move towards wrapping up, can you maybe speak a little bit about the process of working with Barbara Hammer, who I know was one of your early mentors, and your posthumous collaboration, A Month of Single Frames?

Lynne Sachs: Oh, thank you for asking about that. Yeah. I met Barbara Hammer in San Francisco. Both of us were completely enthralled, I can say, by the experimental, and experimental documentary, and maybe even documentary world that was being supported, I mean supported by the community in San Francisco. Actually, she and I were very similar in that we would make films that were, you could say, about, like she made films about Elizabeth Bishop, or she made a film about Maya Deren, but they were also so much more, more complex and more resonant than just being a straight ahead documentary.

We both had feet in those worlds, and she was teaching a class at the Film Arts Foundation on optical printing, and I took it. She was an extraordinary craftswoman in printing. To optical print is to take a frame from one original piece of film, and then to play with it, and replicate it, and stretch it out, or shorten it, or change its colors. She could do all of that so beautifully. I never was the craftswoman that she was.

Then we both moved to New York and we were friends, and especially when she was diagnosed with cancer about 14 or 15 years ago, my husband Mark and I started to become very involved in supporting her through that. She agreed when she turned 70 to allow me to shoot film, a short film, like a one roll of film of her and her partner, Florrie Burke. She was so busy, it took us at six years to get the appointment for me to shoot it.

When I finally shot it, we became even more bonded. I made a film with her, and Gunvor Nelson, and Carolee Schneemann called Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor. Then when she was about a year away, she knew from the end of her life, she asked four of us to make films with materials she had never completed, including Mark and Deborah Stratman.

I made A Month of Single Frames, and that film is comprised visually of material she had shot at a residency on Cape Cod, but through working with the film, I tried to be in conversation with her, with the audience, with the environment in which she was living in, and wondering in a more, call it epistemological way, wonder how the film could allow us to understand our relationship to time and to space through this unusual and very particular medium of cinema.

Brett Kashmere: Well, I think it’s an extraordinary film. It’s so beautiful. It’s close to a perfect film. I encourage everyone, if you haven’t seen it, please check it out. It’s streaming as part of Prismatic Ground until April 18th. It’s also still streaming on Mubi, I believe. Lynne, it was such a pleasure to spend this time with you. Thank you for your words and your work, and thanks again to Inney and Prismatic Ground for having us.

Lynne Sachs: Yeah, I just want to say, ooh, boy, to have the Ground Glass Award. I know what the Ground Glass is because it’s that little piece inside my Bolex that you have. It’s like if you don’t know what the Ground Glass is, you don’t see the grain. It’s so wonderful that he named this award that. All the words that he uses are part of the, in this festival, it’s like they’re part of the materials that we need to make cinema, but they’re also the things that you might ignore.

I love the subtlety that’s part of his, call it nomenclature, of Prismatic Ground, and it’s such an honor to be part of this whole experience. Thank you very much to you for all your great San Francisco-based questions.

Brett Kashmere: You’re welcome. Okay, I think we’re going to leave it there. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in, and bye. Bye for now.

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.

MUBI and Prismatic Ground Film Festival

Questions from Mubi Notebook interview for the article Experimenting and Expanding at Prismatic Ground

1. How did Prismatic Ground get on your radar, and what drew you to the festival?

I met Prismatic Ground Film Festival director Inney Prakash about a year ago when I was teaching my very first virtual film and poetry workshop at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem where Inney works as a programmer.  Of course, the workshop was supposed to be a face-to-face experience, but it was May of 2020 and there was no way that was going to happen!  We were living in the beginning of a global pandemic!  Inney was a critical part of our pivot to an online experience that could nourish participants from anywhere in the world.  To our surprise, it worked extraordinarily well and 17 participants from the US, Ireland and Uruguay collaborated on making a series of fantastic video poems.  From that point on, I have a feeling that Inney started to think that anything was possible in terms of making and viewing non-commercial, experimental documentaries. A few months later, he wrote to me to ask me if I would accept the first ever Ground Glass Award from his new founded Prismatic Ground Film Festival. I love the name of the award and thoroughly understand the meaning of the term “ground glass” since I have been making 16mm films since the mid 1980s!  By the way, “ground glass” is the frosted glass surface in a film camera that allows the light projected from the lens to bounce off of a mirror and then be recorded as an image on the film surface.

2. What has your experience been with virtual premieres and screenings? And how has Prismatic Ground been different, if at all?

I had four films circulating in 2020 and 2021, “A Month of Single Frames” (14 min) and “Film About a Father Who” (74 min.), “Girl is Presence” (4 min.), and “Epistolary: Letter to Jean Vigo” (5 min.), plus career retrospectives at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City and at the Sheffield Doc/ Fest in the UK. I was also on the jury for the Ann Arbor Film Festival and the FestCurtas Belo Horizante Film Festival in Brazil. It’s been a daunting but exciting year. Everything was virtual, but somehow it worked. I loved these experiences and felt that they successfully brought filmmakers from all over the world together. The “in real life” experience can often be quite elitist just because air travel and hotel accommodations are so extraordinarily expensive.

     Prismatic Ground embraced an entirely new, unbelievably adventurous yet compassionate approach to the viewing of experimentally driven cinema, beyond anything I have never seen in my life.  Inney presented such an astonishing array of FREE work, never privileging a feature film over a shorter work, or a more accessible film over a more challenging one.  His Q and A’s were informed, respectful and inviting. 

     I also want to say something about the festival website design and graphics which subtly forced all of us as audience to watch the films with focus and commitment.  You could not scroll through a film or go backward or forward. While you were allowed to pause, you could not be a dilettante and hop around from one film to another without losing your place in a movie.  This created the closest experience to the one we have in a theater that I have ever witnessed online. In addition, the aesthetics of the website allowed Inney to frame each film on a page in relationship to others in the same “wave” which meant that you were always aware of his curating and the intricate relationships and themes he wanted you to recognize between the films.

3. Do you have a dream vision for a post-COVID festival ecosystem? Can be as broad as “more digital screenings,” or as specific as “curated specifically for underseen/experimental artists,” anything at all.

I think that the virtual is here to stay, but I also am praying for a return to being in a space with other people, with all the breaths, whispers, laughs, weeping, and shuffling of our bodies. We must accept that the virtual is vital. It allows homebound, less affluent audiences to access work outside mainstream, commercially driven movie culture. It can also put less emphasis on box office revenue which means experimental, underground, alternative cinema can travel on the magic carpet of the internet.  I have noticed that more and more people throughout the world are becoming interested in the history of avant-garde film.  They are discovering the work of artists like Jonas Mekas, Chick Strand, William Greaves, Carolee Schneemann Fernando Solanas and others, not just in museums or in classrooms, but at home. This is a revolution of the mind, the eye and the ear!

4. How has the last year of relative isolation influenced your work, if at all?

Despite the annus horribilis of 2020 (and beyond), I have actually met really interesting, dynamic, risk-taking people in the filmmaking community, all through the virtual portal of Zoom. For example, I was incredibly sad not to be able to attend the retrospective of my work at the Sheffield Doc/ Fest and at Prismatic Ground, but I was still able to meet Trinidadian essay filmmaker Che Applewhaite through our shared screenings at both festivals. Over the last few months, we have corresponded a great deal and recently even managed to meet in person here in NYC.

      As I mentioned, I was on the jury for the 2020 Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Belo Horizante International Short Film Festival in Brazil. While I was not able to talk, face-to-face, or hang out in local bars with my fellow jury members after the screenings, we did develop quite profound relationships that allowed us to share our aesthetic passions and our personal pandemic struggles.

     As an artist, I was able to make several short films that reflected my thinking during these troubling times. One of my most lasting discoveries has been that you can actually make collaborative work with artists from anywhere on the globe, and that this interactive experience can be revelatory.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think this could be possible. Over the course of the last year, I found creative and intellectual comrades with whom I could work on such a surprising and generative level.  Who knew?

Lynne Sachs

Lynne Sachs Awarded “Ground Glass Award” at Prismatic Ground

Prismatic Ground 
March 2021
Screen Slate 

Hosted April 8-18 
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.

Logo: Kelsey Kaptur

Opening Night: Thursday, April 8th at 8PM ET on twitch.tv/screenslate

The Films of Anita Thacher
Co-presented by Microscope Gallery. Film critic Amy Taubin in conversation.

Centerpiece: Thursday, April 15th at 8PM ET on twitch.tv/screenslate

Newsreels of the Distant Now, a special presentation by Creative Agitation (Erin and Travis Wilkerson)
Filmmakers in conversation.

Closing Night: Sunday, April 18th at 8PM ET on twitch.tv/screenslate

Second Star to the Right and Straight on ‘Til Morning (dir. Bill and Turner Ross) + Dadli (dir. Shabier Kirchner, 2018, 14 min.)
Filmmakers in conversation.

Streaming through the festival’s duration at prismaticground.com and through maysles.org:

Ground Glass Award
Prismatic Ground will present the inaugural Ground Glass award for outstanding contribution in the field of experimental media to filmmaker Lynne Sachs on April 10, 2021 at 4PM ET. A selection of Sachs’ work curated by Craig Baldwin will be available for the festival’s duration, courtesy of Baldwin, Sachs, and Canyon Cinema:

Still Life with Woman and Four Objects (4 min., 1986)
Sermons and Sacred Pictures (29 min., 1989)
The House of Science: a museum of false facts (30 min., 1991)
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam (made with Dana Sachs) (33 min., 1994)
A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) (14 min., 2019)
Investigation of a Flame (45 min., 2001)
And Then We Marched (4 min., 2017)
The Washing Society (co-directed with Lizzie Olesker) (44 min., 2018)

Drawn & Quartered will also be streaming in the program- wave 4: through the flowering fields of the sea

Home in the Woods (dir. Brandon Wilson, 2020, 96 min.)
Bodes In Dissent (dir. Ufuoma Essi, 2021, 6 min.)
Make Sure the Sea Is Still There (dir. Gloria Chung, 2021, 8 min.)
The Aquarium (dir. Paweł Wojtasik, 2006, 22 min.)
hold — fuel — when — burning (dir. dd. chu, 2020, 11 min.)
Depths (dir. Ryan Marino, 2020, 5 min.)
Look Then Below (dir. Ben Rivers, 2019, 22 min.)
Drawn & Quartered (dir. Lynne Sachs, 1986, 4 min.)
End of the Season (dir. Jason Evans, 2020, 13 min.)
Learning About Flowers and Their Seeds (dir. Emily Apter and Annie Horner, 2021, 4 min.)
A Slight Wrinkle in the Strata (dir. Ryan Clancy, 2021, 30 min.)
Back Yard (dir. Arlin Golden, 2020, 7 min.)
In Our Nature (dir. Sara Leavitt, 2019, 3 min.)
By Way of Canarsie (dir. Lesley Steele and Emily Packer, 2019, 14 min.)

About Prismatic Ground
Prismatic Ground is a New York festival centered on experimental documentary. Hosted by Maysles Documentary Center and online NYC film resource Screen Slate, the festival will be primarily virtual for its first year barring a timely end to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

We seek work that pushes the formal boundaries of non-fiction in the spirit and tradition of experimental filmmaking. This “spirit” is somewhat amorphous, undefinable, and open to interpretation, but refers to work that engages with its own materiality, and that privileges a heightened artistic experience over clear meaning.

For a better sense of what we’re looking for, here are some filmmakers that inspire us: Chris Marker, Lynne Sachs, Kevin Jerome Everson, The Otolith Group, Black Audio Film Collective, Pat O’Neill, Cecilia Condit, Edward Owens, Chick Strand, Barbara Hammer, Khalik Allah, Michael Snow, Janie Geiser, Isaac Julien, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Sky Hopinka, Fern Silva, Akosua Adoma Owusu…