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Film Programs

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Kelley Conway, historian. In the December 3, 2017 Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture, historian Kelley Conway, professor in the department of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, explores French filmmaker Agnès Varda’s career and her documentary practice. Varda is often associated with the French New Wave but her importance really transcends that historical moment. Through clips from some of Varda’s most iconic work from the 1960s to the present, Conway explores notions of subjectivity, representation, and voice in the nonfiction flims of one of the world’s greatest living auteurs.

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Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art, and James Benning, artist. On April 29, 2018, curator Lynne Cooke spoke with artist James Benning about his media artwork, including the video installation Stemple Pass, shown in the exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art, as well as his film measuring change (2016, HD, 61 minutes), screened as part of the film series Avant-Garde to Underground: Outliers and Film, Part 2, in conjunction with the exhibition.

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Lynne Cooke, senior curator, special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art, and James Benning, artist. On April 29, 2018, curator Lynne Cooke spoke with artist James Benning about his media artwork, including the video installation Stemple Pass, shown in the exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art, as well as his film measuring change (2016, HD, 61 minutes), screened as part of the film series Avant-Garde to Underground: Outliers and Film, Part 2, in conjunction with the exhibition.

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Gregory Jecmen, associate curator of old master prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art. On March 17, 1943, the National Gallery of Art marked its second anniversary with the announcement of an extraordinary gift from print collector and former Sears, Roebuck and Company chairman Lessing J. Rosenwald: Rosenwald's print and drawing collection, ultimately numbering more than 22,000 works at the time of his death in 1979. The collection, with works ranging in date from the late 11th century to the mid-20th century, was the finest ever assembled by one person in the United States, and its donation constituted the single largest gift by a private individual to the nation. The gift immediately catapulted the Gallery’s public collection of prints and drawings into one of the most exceptional in the country. In this lecture recorded on March 16, 2018, Gregory Jecmen reveals Rosenwald’s extraordinary legacy as both a learned print collector and an enthusiastic promoter for the appreciation of the graphic arts. Jecmen also highlights the collection’s strengths and emphasizes selected works by some of Rosenwald’s favorite artists, including Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, William Blake, and James Whistler.

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Richard I. Suchenski, associate professor of film and electronic arts and director of the Center for Moving Image Arts, Bard College; and editor, Hou Hsiao-hsien. In this lecture recorded on September 3, 2017, at the National Gallery of Art, Richard I. Suchenski discusses his book, Projections of Memory: Romanticism, Modernism, and the Aesthetics of Film—an exploration of innovative cinematic works that use their extraordinary scope to construct monuments to the imagination through which currents from the other arts can flow. By examining these works, Projections of Memory remaps film history around some of its most ambitious achievements and helps to clarify cinema as a twentieth-century art form. Suchenski addresses some of the core concerns of the book through a discussion of films by Andrei Tarkovsky, Béla Tarr, and Jean-Luc Godard alongside paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Matthias Grünewald.

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Elif Rongen, curator, EYE Film Institute, Amsterdam. Belgian-born film impresario Jean Desmet (1875 – 1956) spurred the growth of a new urban film culture in Europe before and during World War I. Desmet’s collection of 35mm prints and related materials (including posters, handbills, correspondence, and other ephemera) is now a vast visual-historical archive preserved at the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam. In 2011 the Desmet collection was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register — one of the few film collections in the world to receive this designation. On January 14, 2017, EYE film curator Elif Rongen introduced Up in the Air!, the first program of short films from the Desmet collection for the six-part NGA film series Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory, 1906 – 1916.

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James Layton, manager, Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center, The Museum of Modern Art; David Pierce, founder of Media History Digital Library and president, Sunrise Entertainment Inc. Color was an integral part of early cinema, with tinting, toning, and other processes adding imaginative dimension to black-and-white images. In this Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture recorded on December 6, 2015, James Layton and David Pierce, authors of The Dawn of Technicolor, 1915–1935, illustrate the efforts of Technicolor to give filmmakers tools to present naturalistic color on the screen, even as the company was striving to overcome countless technical challenges and persuade cost-conscious producers of color’s virtues. Rare photographs from the Technicolor corporate archive chart the development of the early two-color process and the new aesthetic color photography required for lighting, costumes, and production design. Three early Technicolor shorts preserved by the George Eastman House followed the lecture: Manchu Love (1929), The Love Charm (1928), and Sports of Many Lands (1929).

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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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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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A centennial screening of the 1912 film Robin Hood and rare presentation of the Maurice Tourneur film Alias Jimmy Valentine (1915) with live piano accompaniment are introduced by film historian Richard Koszarski, author of Fort Lee, the Film Town and Hollywood on the Hudson. Koszarski's presentation outlines the influence of French culture on early cinema production and investigates the history of the studios, the directors, and the stars established in Fort Lee, New Jersey, known as the "birthplace of the motion picture industry."

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The new ongoing film series American Originals Now focuses on the work of internationally recognized filmmakers from the Americas, and offers visitors an opportunity to interact with and share in the artists' production methodologies and current practices. The inaugural program brought recent short works by filmmaker Jem Cohen and a screening of his award-winning 1999 documentary Instrument, made in collaboration with DC-based band Fugazi. Cohen was present for both events; during the latter of the two he was joined by Fugazi frontmen Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto

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The award-winning film The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg offers a fascinating portrait of a poet and photographer who helped define postwar American counterculture. Originally released in 1994, Jerry Aronson’s documentary was rereleased in 2005 with additional hours of interviews with numerous contemporary artists and cultural figures, among them Andy Warhol, Patti Smith, and Norman Mailer. Two screenings of the film were held at the National Gallery of Art in September 2010, and the new edition of the two-disk set is available through the Gallery Shop.

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Veteran Swedish director Jan Troell has been called one of the world's greatest living filmmakers. As part of the ongoing series New Masters of European Cinema, the director and his partner/screenwriter Agneta Ulfsäter-Troell visited the National Gallery of Art to discuss their latest project, the award-winning feature film Everlasting Moments (2008), and to share a rare screening of Troell's remarkable first short film Stop-over in the Marshland (1965), starring Max von Sydow.