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Jun 27, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Shorts After The Flaherty


Film & video by artists from the Flaherty Seminar.

The annual (and epic) Robert Flaherty Film Seminar is happening June 20th – June 26th at a campus upstate. Founded by Frances Flaherty, the widow of the documentary pioneer, this is the seminar”s 55th year and is programmed by Irina Leimbacher. Everyone who is in attendance is in for an intense and memorable week of excellent documentary and other independent film and video work, not to mention a lot of impassioned debate. On the heels of the seminar, we are hoping to bring some of its energy to audiences at UnionDocs.

The day after the seminar ends, while many of the artists, fellows, and Flaherty community members are passing through New York, we challenge them to one more screening. Some of the films will be by featured artists from the seminar and some will be films by respected artists from the wider Flaherty community.

For folks in attendance at Flaherty, this will be a chance to wind down and slowly come off the performance of endurance that the seminar represents. For others who didn’t get a chance to go this year, the opportunity is a rare one to see a great selection of non-fiction film and video by (and have a discussion with) a group of filmmakers who are only in the NYC for a short while.

This event was put together by Steve Holmgren and Gibbs Chapman.

Here’s what is currently lined up, though the program is spontaneous and subject to change…



Soapdealer’s Sunday     (1998, 29 min)

A Sunday in the life of a Finnish family: the father works as a traveling salesman for vitamins and cleaning supplies, the wife is expecting her fourth child. The family spends the day at home, and it is defined by seemingly meaningless activities of everyday life: groceries are put away in the refrigerator, lunch is prepared, a computer game is played, crying children are comforted. In inserted shots, the father drones his sales phrases. A short film as a social-critical assessment (inserts showing turtles in an aquarium stylise the tower block as a prison), the true quality of which is its rhythm: the banal activities and minor occurrences seem to last forever, even if it is just closing an elevator door. (mp)



turbine: russian scissors      ( 16mm, color, 4min. 2002)

A commissioned alternative “music video” for (firstly) DVD release, to accompany a musical piece called russian scissors by the euro-trash parody techno ensemble, turbine. The band’s only suggestion was that the piece visually contain some reference to a pre-elite-seized San Francisco, and with this in mind, “out came the box of miscellaneous SF singularities and urban landscapes.”

an examination of exhibits A(1) through E(5)     (16mm, color, 19min, 2001)

A mysterious film about mystery and the human insistence on order from chaos. Via its 5 departments: the scientific, the academic, the romantic, the psychological, and the critical, a filmic surgery mounts the evidence submitted – the remains of our culture. A quest structurally influenced by its subject, this regurgitation, pre-occupied with its own insatiability, realizes that people, places and things are inherently interesting only when one does not have enough information about them.



Loss Prevention    (17 min,  2000)

Loss Prevention combines documentary and fiction to tell the story of Irene, arrested at the age of 79 for stealing a bottle of aspirin from a Miami Wal-Mart and sentenced to ten weeks of Senior Citizen Shoplifting Prevention School. Narrated through the voice of her daughter, this film explores the alienation of aging and the evolving relationship between a daughter and an elderly mother. The visual material combines the lush Florida landscape with intimate super-8 footage to create a subtle meditation on the conflicts of parent and child, boredom and pleasure, accident and intention, authority and subterfuge.

The interviews, originally recorded for broadcast on the radio program This American Life in July 1999, were audio-only interviews to protect the identity of the subjects.

“In this astute psychological portrait, an elderly shoplifter recounts the events surrounding her first arrest, at age 79. Her tale is intercut with that of her daughter, who was a reluctant accomplice as a young child, and who now must squirm as she posts bail. Loss Prevention skilfully locates the roots of the old woman’s behavior in childhood trauma and frustration. Visually arresting and finely edited, it is an economical parable of compulsion and disgrace.” —New York Video Festival catalogue (2000)



Frank & Paula   (B/W & color, 2009, 4 min)

This little shorty is inexplicable yet conspicuously present. Happy ending though!  And yes, Martin Arnold is a huge influence.

Heaven   (B/W & color, 2006, 3 min)

I’m not a believer in this particular mythology and maybe it shows. Jon Nelson cut the soundtrack and asked me to add picture. But seriously, if you believe in Heaven . . .you’re part of the problem. OK? OK.



An elegy to our small selves   (S-8mm/16mm/video, 2002, 10 min.)

Originally conceived as a multimedia performance, this piece attempts to link the disappearing worlds of animal and human. Interfacing the “disappearing” technologies of Super-8mm and 16mm image projection, with the immediacy and reality of video. “Captivated” images of animals and humans in raw form are juxtaposed and documented in a way that speaks to an identity crisis of the human race and ultimately to the fragility of beauty, nature and humanity.



PIGS     (12 minutes , DV/Color, 2007)

A close-range look at pigs living on a farm in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pigs, individually and as a group, become a metaphor for humanity as they go from leisurely wallowing in the mud to the wildness of a feeding frenzy. In a key shot, a pig confronts the viewer with a prolonged, enigmatic stare, as if questioning the very nature of human/animal relationship.


Jun 27, 2009
8:00 pm – 10:00 pm

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