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Film Programs: Saving the Filmmaking Arts

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Each Wednesday, the Gallery is sharing an unusual film on its website, free of charge, for one week. Saving the Filmmaking Arts—a series that includes ciné-concerts, new restorations, classic art cinema, exceptional documentaries, and some surprises.

Short Film Series

New York City Symphonies

Streaming now through January 19

The time-honored film genre known as the city symphony has yielded many memorable images of urban life. These usually short documentaries may celebrate the marvels of modernity or decry the decline of a neighborhood, frequently following a dawn-to-dusk cycle without any characters, speaking parts, or plots. Instead, a structure is derived from the movements and motifs of orchestral symphonies or the special rhythms of daily rounds. Walter Ruttmann, a German filmmaker who in the 1920s was an early practitioner of the genre, wrote, “I had the idea of making something out of life, of creating a symphonic film out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city.” New York, with its dissonant harmonies, has long been a favorite city symphony subject.

Coming Soon

The Inheritance 

Streaming January 20 through January 26 

Filmed in colorful 16mm and featured in this year’s New York Film Festival, The Inheritance weaves together filmmaker Ephraim Asili’s personal recollections of life in a West Philadelphia group house with a treasure trove of recorded histories by Black activists, resistors, and freedom fighters. Photographs, books, records, speeches, and poetry inform a story of Philadelphia’s MOVE organization, the self-sufficient separatist collective that infamously became the target of a fatal police bombing in 1985. The Inheritance is also a tribute to influential artists and orators such as Sonia Sanchez, who appears in the film; other icons like Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Betye Saar, and Alma Thomas, all referenced in archival images or footage; and Jean-Luc Godard, whose marquee poster for the 1967 film La Chinoise appears in several kitchen scenes. Asili’s work offers an “homage to the insurrectionary potential of engaged literature,” according to film scholar and curator Greg de Cuir Jr. (Ephraim Asili, 2020, 100 minutes) 

The Hottest August

Streaming January 27 through February 2

A ciné-essay with unique depictions of New York’s outer-borough neighborhoods, The Hottest August was filmed during repeat visits to numerous denizens and their families over the course of one month, August 2017. That August was a scorcher, heavy with tension — there were rising anxieties over everything from escalating rents to marching white nationalists to incessant news stories about wildfires and hurricanes on America’s coasts. The film’s focus pivots on the question of Earth’s future: namely, where do we go from here? Offering a mirror onto a society seemingly on the verge of devastation, The Hottest August “is resplendent when it comes to showing people of all walks of life co-existing in the same place and offering hope in demonstrating how our ability to think differently from one another can be seen as a unifying force.” — Stephen Saito (Brett Story, 2019, 94 minutes)

Recent Event

Virtual Program

Rajiv Vaidya Memorial Lecture

Julie Dash and the L.A. Rebellion: Architects of the Impossible

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Julie Dash will discuss her early life in New York City and her involvement with the art and politics of filmmaking through her association with the Studio Museum of Harlem, a connection that led to her participation in the L.A. Rebellion film movement.

Watch the recording.

About Film Programs

The National Gallery of Art’s film program provides many opportunities throughout the year to view classic and contemporary cinema from around the world in a traditional theatrical setting. Through screenings, scholarly notes, filmmaker discussions, and unique introductions by critics and academics, the program encourages viewers to learn more about the history of the cinema, its relationship to other art forms, and the role of media in society. Innovative retrospectives, restored works of historical value, silent films with live musical accompaniment, new documentaries, and experimental media by noted video artists are offered on weekends during the entire year. For information about past film programs, please visit the Film Programs Archive.

The Gallery’s film study collection includes hundreds of international documentaries related to the arts, such as Jean Dubuffet, Un Auto-Portrait; Joseph Cornell: Worlds in a Box; Beaubourg; David Hockney: The Colors of Music; Gertrude Stein: When This You See, Remember Me; Art City: Making It in Manhattan; The Camera Je; and various international television series on the arts. The National Gallery is an associate member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF).


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For more information, e-mail [email protected], or call (202) 842-6799.