Bursts of blue, red and green swirled across a black screen accompanied by Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze. This gorgeous animation by film pioneer Mary Ellen Bute (pictured here) began an evening highlighting 15 years of women filmmakers. From 1950 to 1984, 11 shorts were shown at last night's Tribeca Film Festival's screenings, Independent Women: 15 Years of NYWIFT-Funded Film Preservation. From Mary Ellen Bute's Pastorale (1950) to Barbara Hammer's Bent Time (1984), the works were vast yet connected.
Introduced by Tribeca's Experimental Film Programmer, Jon Gartenberg and New York Women in Film and Television's Executive Director, Terry Lawler, both expressed enthusiasm for the evenings program, but also mentioned the importance of these film's preservation, all of which have been preserved entirely or in some part by NYWIFT's Women's Film Preservation Fund.
The line-up also included Divination (1964) by Storm de Hirsch, Windy Day (1967) by Faith Hubley, Zenscapes (1969) by Marie Menken, Anything You Want to Be (1971) by Liane Brandon, Homage to Magritte (1974) by Anita Thacher, Michigan Avenue (1973) by Bette Gordon, Coney (1975) produced and co-edited by Caroline Ahlfors Mouris, Desire Pie (1976) by Lisa Crafts, and Remains to Be Seen (1983) by Jane Aaron.
There were many that I hadn't seen and all I found so stirring, funny, poignant or any combination thereof. Then there were some that for me were just fun to experience, without even looking for the deeper meaning.
A charming piece that I hadn't seen before but beautifully captured childhood was the very talented Faith Hubley's Windy Day (pictured here). Playfully composed in watery colored hues, an animated afternoon is shared by two sister's youthful imaginings of dragon slayers, weddings and more. What's more touching was hearing Ms. Hubley's daughter (who was on the panel for the post screening discussion) say she was one of the children's voices.
Two films I had caught before at MoMA screenings were Anything You Want to Be and Desire Pie. I noticed new details in both films this time around. I also love Ms. Brandon's Betty Tells Her Story (1972), which wasn't part of this evening's grouping but is another WFPF grantee and is also entertaining as well as an affecting story about women and identity. Lisa Crafts Desire Pie seems to always capture an audience's attention quickly with her erotic delightful animated depiction of a woman's sexual pleasures and experiences. Ms. Crafts pointed out during the Q&A the challenges of being an avant garde filmmaker in that an artist sometimes has to literally invent the tools in order to create the vision. When she was first doing animation and was unable to use school facilities anymore, Ms. Crafts built her own animation equipment and tools.
Remains to Be Seen was a film I hadn't yet seen either and it was a lovely discovery for me. Jane Arron used documentary imagery of every day life and landscape with incredible line drawing animation and effective sounds. Coney was a terrific film. The 1975 Coney Island footage made great use of documentary imagery in an experimental way with energetic compositions and visual rhythm.
Many of the filmmakers were joined on stage by Jon Gartenberg and WFPF committee Co-Chair, Drake Stutesman (also Framework: The Journal of Cinema & Media's Editor). The audience seemed especially taken with Cecile Starr's contagious vigor. Ms. Starr's appearance was in representation of Mary Ellen Bute's work. Ms. Starr is a filmmaker, producer and film historian who worked with Mary Ellen Bute and owns a vast collection of her works. She owns all of Ms. Bute's 16mm films. Ms. Starr spoke several times during the panel talk and offered fun anecdotes about meeting Mary Ellen Bute and speaking engagements with audience members such as Stan Brachage. She encouraged filmmakers to be fearless in asking for connections and assistance.
The reception to follow was almost as interesting and eclectic as the evening's film program. WFPF committee members, filmmakers from the evening's event as well as other filmmakers and TFF attendees joined the party a few blocks from the venue. A humble and approachable Brendon Kingsbury was there. His film, One Over Wanderlust, is a loving exploration of nostalgia through past and present perspectives. I saw his short the previous afternoon at Shorts: Impressions of Memory screening. To say the least, the evening was full of personalities and great conversation. It ran late as a result and that was a good thing.
To donate to the Women's Film Preservation Fund, you can click here and have a hand in saving the legacy of women in cinema.