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Film Programs

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Don Perry, producer. Thomas Allen Harris’s 2014 documentary film Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People investigates black portrait photographers and artists who have profoundly reshaped the image of contemporary and historic African Americans, and continue to do so. Don Perry, who coproduced and cowrote the film with Harris, visited the National Gallery of Art on May 31, 2015 to introduce and speak about Through a Lens Darkly. 

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Don Perry, producer. Thomas Allen Harris’s 2014 documentary film Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People investigates black portrait photographers and artists who have profoundly reshaped the image of contemporary and historic African Americans, and continue to do so. Don Perry, who coproduced and cowrote the film with Harris, visited the National Gallery of Art on May 31, 2015 to introduce and speak about Through a Lens Darkly.

 

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Jennifer Reeves, featured artist. Filmmaker Jennifer Reeves visited the National Gallery of Art on May 30, 2015, to introduce her film The Time We Killed (2004), a feature-length, experimental narrative that delves inside the mind of an agoraphobic writer unable to leave her New York apartment in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. In this talk, Reeves discusses her approaches to filmmaking and the specific ways in which this feature addresses themes of memory, mental health and recovery, feminism, sexuality, and politics.

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Scott MacDonald, visiting professor of art history, Hamilton College. From the fall of 1947 until the spring of 1963, New York City was invigorated by Cinema 16, the most successful and influential film society in American history. Established by Amos and Marcia Vogel, and directed by Vogel, Cinema 16 offered its audiences monthly film programs of great diversity and considerable intellectual and emotional challenge. At its height, Cinema 16 boasted 8,000 members, including many of the movers and shakers of the New York cultural scene, who came to see films that were unavailable or illegal to show outside the parameters of a membership film society. In this Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture recorded on December 7, 2014, Scott MacDonald, film historian and author of Cinema 16: Documents toward a History of the Film Society, presents a program of films that were crucial for Cinema 16 audiences—organized so as to evoke the unusually challenging programming strategy Amos Vogel developed. The following films were screened: A Divided World (1948), a rarely seen nature film by Swedish filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff; Fireworks (1946), probably the first openly gay film, a psychodrama by 17-year-old Kenneth Anger; George Franju’s The Blood of the Beasts (1949), which exposes the surreal underbelly of normal urban life (no film caused more controversy at Cinema 16); Weegee’s New York (c. 1952), a New York City Symphony photographed by master street photographer Weegee and apparently edited by Vogel; Eaux d’artifice (1953), Kenneth Anger’s exploration of  the Villa d’Este gardens at Tivoli outside of Rome; and Canadian Norman McLaren’s Begone Dull Care (1949), a visual accompaniment, made by painting directly on the filmstrip, to an original composition by jazz great Oscar Peterson.

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Karen Thorsen and Douglas Dempsey. Karen Thorsen, director of James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, and cowriter Douglas Dempsey discuss the making of their award-winning documentary, the challenges of restoring the original 16 mm film elements, and the necessity of ensuring access to this powerful film during the digital age. Produced in association with Maysles Films and PBS/American Masters, The Price of the Ticket premiered in 1990 at Sundance and went on to win numerous awards at home and abroad. An emotional portrait, a social critique, and a passionate plea for human equality, its extensive vérité footage allows Baldwin to tell his own story: exploring what it means to be born black, impoverished, gay, and gifted in a world that has yet to understand that “all men are brothers.” “On-camera witnesses” include the late Maya Angelou (she reads passages from the author’s writings), Amiri Baraka, David Leeming, Bobby Short, and William Styron. Now considered a documentary film classic, The Price of the Ticket has been restored with the help of the Ford Foundation, Maysles Documentary Center, National Endowment for the Arts, and Stan and Joanne Marder. This conversation and the world premiere of the film’s restoration took place on October 12, 2014, at the National Gallery of Art. This program was supported by Dr. Darryl Atwell and Dr. Renicha McCree to honor the 90th anniversary of the birth of James Baldwin (1924–1987), American essayist, novelist, playwright, poet, and activist.

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Michael Snow, artist. Internationally renowned multidisciplinary artist Michael Snow (b. 1928, Canada) visited the National Gallery of Art on February 8 and 9, 2014, to introduce two programs of his influential experimental films. The four titles included—Wavelength (1966), So Is This (1982), Back and Forth (1969), and One Second in Montreal (1969)—all consider the astonishing, but often unrecognized, effects of light, memory, and duration on perception. Michael Snow introduced the program, and graciously took questions from the audience.

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Revered director and screenwriter Agnieszka Holland discusses her latest narrative feature In Darkness (2011) and the HBO Europe miniseries Burning Bush (2013). Both works are based on historic events—the struggle to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland and the revolutionary reaction to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, respectively—and illustrate with empathy the humanitarian and existential plight of various individuals. This event is made possible by funds given in memory of Rajiv Vaidya. With thanks to the Embassy of the Republic of Poland.
Transcript (PDF, 217kb)

 

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Visibility Machines: A Conversation with Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen
Artists Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen in conversation with Niels Van Tomme, visiting curator, Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Artists Harun Farocki (b. 1944, Germany) and Trevor Paglen (b. 1974, United States) will discuss their unique roles as artistic observers of global military operations with curator Niels Van Tomme. Investigating forms of surveillance, espionage, war-making, and weaponry, Farocki and Paglen address the vast implications of such activities for image-making, and the media they are creatively working with, namely film and photography. In which ways have the realities they depict transformed, and politicized, our relationship to images? And, what is ultimately the responsibility of artists in capturing or revealing such processes? This program is coordinated with the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC) in conjunction with the exhibition “Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen,” on view at the CADVC from October 24, 2013, through February 22, 2014.

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Edward Zwick, director, and Margaret Parsons, head of film programs, National Gallery of Art. In conjunction with the exhibition Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial, and in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the new restoration of Glory was presented on September 15, 2013. First released in 1989, the feature dramatized the establishment of the first African American fighting unit as well as the July 18, 1863, storming of Fort Wagner (a turning point in the war). Director Edward Zwick spoke with Margaret Parsons, head of film programs, about the production of this landmark film.

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Anna Winestein, historian and executive director of the Ballets Russes Cultural Partnership. In conjunction with the exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music, historian and executive director of the Ballets Russes Cultural Partnership Anna Winestein presented a lecture on August 10, 2013, about the contribution of Russian film professionals to Abel Gance’s legendary Napoléon. Parallels between the relationship of the Ballet Russes with European performing arts in the 1920s, and that of the Russian émigré film studio Albatros with European cinema were also explored.

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Dr. Annette Insdorf, director of undergraduate film studies and professor in the graduate film program of Columbia University's School of the Arts,  introduces a screening of Philip Kaufman’s 1988 feature film The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Dr. Insdorf, author of Philip Kaufman (Contemporary Film Director Series, 2011), discusses the adaptation of Czech writer Milan Kundera’s novel in the context of Kaufman’s other feature films, including The Right Stuff (1983) and The Wanderers (1979).

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Recital by pianist and filmmaker Lincoln Mayorga. A Suitcase Full of Chocolate recounts the extraordinary history of Sofia Cosma, a brilliant concert pianist whose career was suppressed first by the Nazis and later by the Soviets. Years later, against all odds, Cosma reconstructed her life and profession as a performer in Romania, becoming one of the most celebrated pianists of Eastern Europe. The introduction by the documentary’s creator—concert pianist Lincoln Mayorga—includes live performances of work by composers Chopin and Rachmaninov (among others), with an overview of the history of Russian concert pianists from the last century using the experiences of Sofia Cosma as a prime example.

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Thomas Elsaesser, senior fellow, International College of Cultural Technologies and Media Theory, Weimar, Germany. In this Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture recorded on December 2, 2012, cultural historian Thomas Elsaesser, one of our most creative and unconventional thinkers on cinematic culture, film history, and digital media, speaks on the interconnections between the cinematic avant-gardes of the 1920s and modernist architecture, the nonfiction film, and advertising. Among Elsaesser’s twenty 20 authored and edited books is an in-depth study of German cinema in the 1920s, Weimar Cinema and After: Germany’s Historical Imaginary,; a monograph on Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis,; and European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood, covering a broad range of topics from film festivals to national cinemas, and from the high-/low culture debate to the cinematic auteurs of France, Britain, and Germany. Elsaesser’s illustrated lecture included advertisements and industrial films from the interwar period that were influenced by avant-garde cinematic techniques, and was followed by concluded with a screening of a new digital restoration of Walter Ruttmann’s classic 1929 film Melodie der Welt.

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John G. Hanhardt, senior curator for media arts, Nam June Paik Media Arts Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Andy Warhol created a large and distinctive body of work in both film and video. In this Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture recorded on December 4, 2011, John G. Hanhardt, historian of experimental media, examines the various ways Warhol reshaped time and narrative in both media, illustrated with excerpts from Warhol’s films and videotapes. This program was scheduled to coincide with Warhol on the Mall, a joint celebration on the occasion of two exhibitions: Warhol: Headlines, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington (September 25, 2011–January 2, 2012), and Andy Warhol: Shadows at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (September 25, 2011–January 15, 2012).

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Bryan Draper, Collections Conservator, University of Maryland Libraries; Norvell Jones, retired Chief of the Document Conservation Branch, National Archives; and Sheila Waters, calligrapher. Recalling the 45th anniversary of the catastrophic flood of Florence in 1966, the National Gallery of Art, in association with the University of Maryland Libraries presented a rare screening of Franco Zeffirelli's Florence: Days of Destruction (Per Firenze) on November 5, 2011. The famed Italian director's sole documentary is a heartfelt call to action containing the only known footage of the flood, accented by Richard Burton's voiceover commentary. The film is in the collection of the University of Maryland Libraries, College Park. Program speakers included Bryan Draper, Collections Conservator, University of Maryland Libraries; Norvell Jones, retired Chief of the Document Conservation Branch, National Archives; and Sheila Waters, calligrapher, who participated in the conservation efforts in post-flood Florence.

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Jonas Mekas, filmmaker, poet, cofounder of Film Comment and the New America Cinema Group, and founder of Anthology Film Archives; Ken Jacobs, filmmaker, distinguished professor of cinema, S.U.N.Y. Binghampton, and founder of the Millenium Film Workshop; and M. M. Serra, filmmaker and executive director, Film-Makers' Cooperative. Fifty years ago, more than two dozen filmmakers wrote the manifesto of the New American Cinema Group/Film-Makers' Cooperative—a communal, collaborative organization founded on the principles of "self-sufficiency and free expression through the art of cinema." In celebration of the organization's formal incorporation on July 14, 1961, the National Gallery presented a series of five programs of films from the Co-op's impressive catalogue and hosted filmmakers Jonas Mekas, Ken Jacobs, and executive director M. M. Serra in July 2011.

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Gerald Peary, director; Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader; David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor. With newspapers and periodicals downsizing and devoting less space than ever to film criticism, what is happening to professional critics? After a screening of his 2010 film For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism at the National Gallery of Art on March 5, 2011, director Gerald Peary joined film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader) and David Sterritt (Christian Science Monitor) to discuss the role and importance of film criticism.

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Millicent Marcus, professor of Italian, Yale University. The film series Neorealismo 1941-1954: Days of Glory, presented in early 2011, focused on iconic works from the neorealism movement, including Vittorio De Sica and Cesare Zavattini's Miracle in Milan (1951). Millicent Marcus, professor of Italian at Yale University, introduced this unique work on February 5, 2011, placing it within the context of a tumultuous, postwar Italy.

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Patrizia von Brandenstein, Academy Award—winning production designer. Production designers define the appearance of a film, bringing to life written scripts by working with producers, directors, and their crews to achieve the desired look of a picture. Academy Award winner Patrizia von Brandenstein shared her practical knowledge of production design and used clips from several of her films, including Amadeus (1984), Six Degrees of Separation (1993), and The Last Station (2010), to illustrate the result of many years of research and visual interpretation.

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P. Adams Sitney, professor of visual arts, Princeton University. P. Adams Sitney, distinguished film historian, theorist, and professor of visual arts at Princeton University, delivered a presentation at the National Gallery on December 6, 2009, on the films of several American avant-garde artists as a fulfillment of the promise of a truly American aesthetic, an idea first defined by philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. The short films Arabesque for Kenneth Anger (Marie Menken, 1961); Visions in Meditation #2-Mesa Verde (Stan Brakhage, 1989); Gloria! (Hollis Frampton, 1979); and Gently Down the Stream (Su Friedrich, 1980) were screened in their entirety following the lecture.

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Robert Kolker, professor, Film Studies & Digital Media, School of Literature, Communication, and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology, and James Naremore, Chancellor's Professor of Speech Communication, Chancellor's Professor of Comparative Literature, Chancellor's Professor of English, professor of film studies, Indiana University. July 26, 2008 marked the 80th birthday of Stanley Kubrick. To celebrate the occasion, Robert Kolker and James Naremore reviewed the director's contributions through a focused dialogue based on two of Kubrick's landmark films: a new restoration of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and his last and most enigmatic work, Eyes Wide Shut. Robert Kolker edited Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey: New Essays (2006) and James Naremore is the author of On Kubrick (2007).