NYC Symphonies of the Millennium Film Workshop
Date & Time
16 – 17 February 2021
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, Floor T2/T1, The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2
New York, NY 10019
In the depths of winter, the cozy MoMA movie theatre will screen two artists moving image programs by Millennium Film Workshop filmmakers. Programmed by Victoria Campbell and Joe Wakeman, the assembly of works address the city, each one in its own unique way. Including works produced throughout the last 60 years, these are two unique programs that may never be repeated.
This event celebrates the inclusion of the Millennium Film Workshop and Howard Guttenplan Collections into the MoMA’s Department of Film. The series of films shown February 16th and 17th aims to invoke the spirit of the early City Symphonies and apply it to the New York of the late 20th century and the early part of this century. Each filmmaker in this program has been affiliated with Millennium over the years, some educated through its workshop programs, others active members of their ongoing screening community. Each film offers its own particular and idiosyncratic view of the city, but it is hoped that the screenings will offer something more than just a compilation. Rather, as with any great symphony, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps, when these short films are viewed together, the viewer will gain a deeper understanding of the city, its inner workings, its organic growth, and the profound changes that it has undergone in its recent history.
For decades, Millennium Film Workshop has served as a hub for independent experimental film production and exhibition, a place to bring forth personal cinema, open to anyone seeking a different vision beyond the mainstream. The many changes and adaptations Millennium has weathered over its long years of existence reflect the protean nature of the city it calls its home; though names and places may change, a certain character of filmmaking is always recognizably Millennium, just as our ever-changing city is always recognizably New York. Over the past few decades the filmmakers of Millennium Film Workshop have produced a wide range of films devoted to New York. These films can be understood as a continuation of the venerable “city symphony” genre and a modernization of the genre through new technology, interpretation, and techniques.
L.E.S. 1976/2011. USA. Written and directed by Coleen Fitzgibbon. With Tom Sigal, Diego Cortez, Robin Winters. Super 8mm transfer to digital. 17 min.
L.E.S. is a documentary-style critique of the Island of Manhattma’s fiscal state of affairs and the John Dough Cult, filmed in the Lower East Side at a time when the city was experiencing economic collapse. Crime was at a high and the landscape was a patchwork of ghostly, abandoned blocks.
Future Visions. 2019. USA. Directed by Robert Polanco, Anexsa Polanco. Digital. 6 min.
In the Fall of 2019, high school students and siblings Robert and Anexsa Polanco set out to make a dystopian film shot in their South Bronx neighborhood. They had no idea their film would be foreshadowing the events that erupted in the spring of 2020.
City Edition. 1980. USA. Directed by Alan Berliner. 16mm. 10 min.
City Edition immerses us in a lived experience of the fourth estate, beginning with the print-run and purchase of a single issue of the New York Times; a rapid found-footage montage of political happenings, wars, sports, celebrity, and natural disasters ensues—the whole world in bits and pieces. These disparate scenes are woven in and out of one another as though rendering visually the dissonance of reading the folded pages of a newspaper as a singular thread of events.
Hot Dogs at the Met. 2009. USA. Directed by Ken Jacobs. Digital. 10 min.
In this digital offering from Millennium founder Ken Jacobs, what first appears as distorted pixels gradually reveals itself to be an isolated detail of a stereoscopic photo tapestry of a family (Jonas Mekas’s) enjoying some of the city’s most basic pleasures. At once the subject of the photo and a part of the crowd it depicts, they are themselves a pixel in the three-dimensional tapestry of the living city.
Cheap Imitations, Part V/VI: Terms of Analysis. 1982–83. USA. Directed by Roberta Friedman, Grahame Weinbren. With Jim Fulkerson on trombone. Digital. 16 min.
“Initially the subject was the multiple threats constantly implicit in cinema…especially in the perceptual acts of unifying with which we respond to the discontinuities of editing. So the basic images were knives and salamis. But as the music was reworked, highly charged objects began to appear and reappear; instinctual navigation took over, as always, in the editing room…and the film seemed to adopt another subject entirely. A bankrupt, scrappy 1970s New York City, interiors and on the street, insists on reappearing, even as the calm palms of Los Angeles and the deep scarlet Fall of New England fail to offset it. As in all our work, many issues are in uneasy balance and the film refuses to find a center” (Roberta Friedman and Grahame Weinbren).
Visible Inventory 9: Pattern of Events. 1978. USA. Directed by Janis Crystal Lipzin. 16mm. 12 min.
Pattern of Events is a very unique and personal take on a highly specific element of life in this city. “The viewing through magnifying lens and the voice-over narration of personals printed in the Village Voice Bulletin Board point directly to chance as the organizing principle of life. Yet people continuously thrown together by chance become obsessed with one moment, one image, one word, one person. ‘I must see you again.’ …. This film makes the barest glance reverberate with potential meaning” (Steve Anker and Gail Currey, The Last 80 Langton Street Catalog).
I Love New York. 2019. USA. Directed by Michel Negroponte. Digital. 3 min.
“For most of my life, New York City has been my home. In the 1960s, when I was a teenager, I was inspired by the street photography of Gary Winogrand, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, and Lee Friedlander, who captured the unmediated energy of city living in their work. I do not take still photographs, but I have spent years roaming the streets with video and digital film cameras aiming to catch those fleeting moments that define the essence of my hometown” (Michel Negroponte).
West Side Highway. 1978. USA. Directed by Donald J Pollock. Digital. 8 min.
West Side Highway was first screened by filmmaker Donald J Pollock on a super 8mm print at an open screening at the Millennium Film Workshop on East 4th Street back in 1978. Unseen for decades, it’s a simple document of a place both familiar and no longer existent, moving in its quiet historicity.
In Betweens. 2011. USA. Directed by Victoria Campbell. Digital. 6 min.
In Betweens is a personal meditation on the change of time and space one feels in the city. Some of the last shots were filmed in the old Millennium Film Workshop on East 4th Street. The rooms were falling apart, stacked with reels of film, projectors, camera equipment, ripped flooring, and old Millennium Film Journal issues. It was right before a new tenant took over and gutted the space, renovating it into something new and unfamiliar. The film was shot in both digital and super 8.
Liberty. 2010. USA. Directed by Joel Singer. Digital. 4 min.
“I left the city in 2009. A year later, I returned for a few months and took the ferry out to see Ms. Liberty close up for the first time. On the ferry I recorded the voices of some of my fellow passengers saying ‘Statue of Liberty.’ I spent the next month recording many more people saying the words in a wondrous variety of accents and languages. I was moved by the delight and pleasure that people took in uttering these magical words: words suggesting freedom and hope for millions of immigrants” (Joel Singer).
Program run time: approx. 92min.
Dream City. 1986. USA. Directed by Steven Seigel. Digital. 18 min.
“I made the film in the mid-1980s, which, of course, was a difficult and troubled time for New York. Just a few years previously, the city had barely avoided bankruptcy. In the ’80s the city was slowly recovering from its fiscal crisis. It was also a time when the city was suffering from the twin social crises of crack and AIDS—which exacted a terrible toll on some neighborhoods…. My aim was to show the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers in the face of adversity. Then too, this sometimes jarring counterpoint may have furthered the overall dream-like ethos” (Steven Seigel).
sweet pie—or,goodbyetoLoathing(—or,goodbyetoMetrograph). 2019. USA. Directed by cherry brice jr. Digital. 7 min.
“I like to think of sweet pie as a romantic docu-fantasy—there were a few guys who I’d met at Metrograph who I found attractive—and who I would find myself often daydreaming about—but I was always too scared to act on my interest in them. So I made this short as an exorcism—to put the daydreams themselves out into the world as a way to free myself from some of the shame and self-loathing that originally got me stuck in those daydreams” (cherry brice jr.).
Love Letter to Pink. 2019. USA. Directed by Holly Overton. Digital. 3 min.
“This piece was made at Rodrigo Courtneys 2019 Millennium Filmmaking Workshop, where he took us to the streets of Greenwich Village for three hours to shoot improvised footage on our cell phones or cameras. In those three hours, I began gravitating to things of a pink color palette with sensual textures, sounds and words. I edited these elements to have a unified tone, as if to say thank you to the experience of finding pink” (Holly Overton).
Night Portraiture. 2013/2021. USA. Directed by Nikki Belfiglio, David J. White, Joe Wakeman. Digital. 8 min.
Night Portraiture was a series of experiments in improvised filmmaking, created during the hours between 1:00 and 6:00 a.m. across various New York locales (Gowanus, Kensington, the subway system). In semi-somnambulistic altered states, the artists play out scenes inspired by the night, the city, and found objects along the way. This eight-minute edit, recut by the filmmakers in 2021, comprises scenes from the first Night Portraiture.
N-York – a caminho do Anthology (N-York: On the Way to Anthology). 2021. USA/Brazil. Directed by Daniel Leão. Digital. 4 min.
N-York: On the Way to Anthology is a reflection, both literal and figurative, of a brief but deeply impactful time spent in New York City and the hours filmmaker Daniel Leão spent absorbing the work of Jonas Mekas, Marie Menken, Joseph Cornell, and Stan Brakhage at Anthology Film Archives. Shot in an off-the-cuff manner, moved by the city night and the image of himself and his partner, Djuly Gava, in the auto glass, this film contains a pilgrimage of wonderment in a deceptively simple moment.
Fulton Fish Market. 2003. USA. Directed by Mark Street. 35mm. 12 min.
Mark Street’s portrait of the late-night bustle of the historic Fulton Fish Market, filmed two years before its closing in 2005, shows a world not usually considered when people speak of “New York nightlife.” The textures of the gutted fish and trays of ice under the fluorescent light are complemented by Street’s hand-painted celluloid abstractions throughout the film.
Jack Smith’s Apartment. 1990. USA. Directed by MM Serra. Digital. 8 min.
Shot urgently on a borrowed camera, days after the death of the legendary Jack Smith, MM Serra’s documentary records for posterity the sumptuous handmade beauty of Smith’s Arabesque décor in the ongoing art project of his home, where the phantasmagoric sets for his films were constructed. Penny Arcade narrates biographical details and romantic memories of Smith while the camera tours from room to room, examining nooks and artifacts in loving tribute to his life and legacy.
Saffron Mourning. 2005/2020. USA. Directed by Paul Echeverria. Digital. 5 min.
“Saffron Mourning is an exploration of contrasting metaphors and sensibilities. The film illuminates a passionate canvas of color in combination with the dreary backdrop of winter. The waves of flowing saffron offer an array of potential emotions, including pleasure, happiness, and bliss. Conversely, the ripples of frost and shadow hint at an obscure outcome for the strolling participants” (Paul Echeverria).
Meet Me in the Meadow. 2021. USA. Directed by Erik Spink. Digital. 6 min.
“Even downtown, I never stopped thinking of the Meadow. In 2021, I turned my eyes away from that familiar skyline. This film forced me to look again. As I traced my relationship to this city, I was drawn back to the one place that is most meaningful. Each frame is tied to a moment of joy and an abundance of hope. After about two decades of capturing images, I’ve realized each film is an excuse for something. Usually, love” (Erik Spink).
D-Blok Snag. 1995. USA. Directed by Joey Huertas. Digital. 5 min.
“A land art film that examines the poverty of a residential block in the South Bronx. Torched stolen cars, abandoned mutt dogs and dirty laundry are a few of the visual anchors that weave this location study together. This film was shot on Tri-X film and in-camera edited using a 16mm Bolex camera” (Joey Huertas).
Condemned. 1976. USA. Directed by Jacob Burckhardt, Geoff Davis. 16mm. 6 min.
The crumbling beauty of a soon-to-be-demolished, impoverished Red Hook neighborhood in the mid-1970s is revealed to us moment by moment, structure by forgotten structure. The circuslike brass music suggests a public face of “a city in progress” while the addicts, thieves, and other lonely people are shown to us as the human cost: those who will be left out of that development.
Drift & Bough. 2014. USA. Directed by Lynne Sachs. Music by Stephen Vitiello, Molly Berg (“Back Again,” from the album Between You and the Shapes You Take). Digital. 6 min.
“I spent a morning this winter in Central Park shooting film in the snow. The stark black lines of the trees against the whiteness creates the sensation of a painter’s chiaroscuro, or a monochromatic ‘tableau-vivant.’ When I am holding my super 8mm camera, I am able to see these graphic explosions of dark and light” (Lynne Sachs).
Office Window Au Revoir. 2003. USA. Directed by David Reisman. Digital. 2 min.
“Office Window is a view from my cubicle on the sixth floor of Thirteen/WNET’s old address at 450 West 33rd Street in the early 2000s, overlooking the current site of Hudson Yards. The music is from an acetate that I bought at a now-closed thrift shop on 10th Avenue and 46th Street. While not exactly nostalgic, the video is a tribute to my old workplace and the transience of things” (David Reisman).
Program run time: approx. 88min.
Film selections and program text are by Joe Wakeman and Victoria Campbell.
Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, with Joey Huertas, Joe Wakeman, Victoria Campbell, Roberta Friedman, Steven Siegel, and Paul Echeverria of the Millennium Film Workshop.
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