Film Programs

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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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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).