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SUNDAY - The Decisive Moment: Photographers Turned Filmmakers

Programmed by: Ian Resnick

Eadweard Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion (1878), a series of 12 cabinet cards depicting the gallop of a horse, was the first documented example of chronography—a technique used to capture the passage of time through a series of rapidly alternating photographs. The cabinet cards could be viewed through a zoetrope to render the illusion of motion. The Horse in Motion is considered to be the first “motion picture,” showing that filmmaking is quite literally born out of the medium of still photography. One can step into the Doc Films projection booth and still see proof of this fact; peer down at a 35mm print stretched out on the light table, and you will see frame after individual frame, 1/24th of a second of your favorite films frozen in time.

The histories of filmmaking and photography run parallel. Both struggled to acquire recognition as artistic mediums, relegated to labels of scientific tool or popular entertainment. This series seeks to shed light on the intersections of cinematic and photographic history—their shared figures, theories, and techniques. Here are presented works from filmmakers who began their careers as professional or amateur still photographers. The films presented span the 20th century, and reflect the photographic sensibilities of their directors: the pioneering modernist photography of Paul Strand and Willard Van Dyke, Robert Frank’s intimate documentations of American life, Gordon Parks’ civil rights photo-journalism, Spike Jonze’s BMX and skate videos. These works highlight the preoccupations of the wandering photographer, the concern with historical documentation, the visual spontaneity, the attunement to gesture, shape, and space.

8:00PM Sunday, March 26th

The City (1939) still

Manhatta (1921) // The City (1939)

Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand // Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke · 10m // 43m · Digital

A pioneering work of social criticism, The City depicts the problems of modern urban life and the purported salvation of planned communities. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation, this documentary has been criticized for its propagandist inclinations. Yet its co-directors, modernist photographers Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, lend the work a remarkably poetic perspective. Preceded by painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand’s Manhatta.

Tickets can be bought here.

8:00PM Sunday, April 2nd

Fear and Desire (1953) still

Fear and Desire (1951) // Day of the Fight (1952)

Stanley Kubrick // Stanley Kubrick · 72m // 16m · 35mm

Stanley Kubrick’s feature directorial debut, Fear and Desire was produced with a small crew of 15 people and an original shoestring budget of only $10,000, raised largely by Kubrick’s family. An anti-war film released under the context of the Korean War, Kubrick reportedly quit his job as a staff photographer for Look Magazine to make the film. Preceded by Day of the Fight a short documentary produced by Kubrick during his days with Look Magazine.

Preserved by the Library of Congress.

Note: DAY OF THE FIGHT had previously been billed as 16mm, but the format has changed to 35mm.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, April 9th

La Pointe Courte (1955) still

La Pointe Courte (1955)

Agnès Varda · 80m · DCP

A professional photographer before becoming a filmmaker, Varda cited a fluid relationship between her photography and filmmaking. Of La Pointe Courte, Varda recounted “I started making films with the sole experience of photography, that's to say, where to place the camera, at what distance, with which lens and what lights?” The film moseys through a port city in France, loosely following a couple contemplating their marriage, a fisherman, and a regatta.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, April 16th

Le Joli Mai (1963) still

Le Joli Mai (1963)

Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme · 165m · DCP

Following the end of World War II, Chris Marker began traveling the world as a journalist and photographer. His experiments in photography led him to an interest in filmmaking, and an acquaintance with the Left Bank film movement. His first film, La Jetée, was constructed almost entirely from still photographs. Co-directed with Pierre Lhomme, Le Joli Mai is Marker's first feature-length film and documents street interviews with everyday Parisians.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, April 23rd

Being John Malkovich (1999) still

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Spike Jonze · 113m · DCP

Spike Jonze got his start as a teenager taking photographs of BMX riders and skateboarders for the Transworld Skateboarding magazine. The style he developed led him to direct music videos and soon after, feature films. Being John Malkovich was Jonze’s feature debut, a collaborative effort with writer Charlie Kaufman. The film follows a puppeteer (John Cusack) who, while working odd-jobs, discovers a hidden portal into the mind of John Malkovich.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, April 30th

Me and My Brother (1969) still

Pull My Daisy (1959) // Me and My Brother (1969)

Robert Frank // Robert Frank · 30m // 91m · Digital // DCP

A docu-fiction involving Allen Ginsberg, Joseph Chaikin, Peter Orlovsky, and his schizophrenic brother Julius, Me and My Brother serves as a significant document of the Beat movement in New York. A Swiss photographer, Robert Frank, provided an outsider’s eye to American life, traveling across the United States in the '50s and '60s and publishing the groundbreaking photobook The Americans. Preceeded by a short film also by Frank, Pull My Daisy.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, May 7th

The Learning Tree (1969) still

The Learning Tree (1969)

Gordon Parks · 107m · DCP

Based on his eponymous semi-autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree is Gordon Parks’ first major film effort and the first Black-directed movie for a major American studio. Alongside other classics like Shaft, Parks is recognized for his photojournalism career, in which he documented poverty, African American life, and civil rights issues. This film carries Parks’ photojournalist perspective, documenting his experience growing up in Kansas.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, May 14th

Office Killer (1997) still

Office Killer (1997)

Cindy Sherman · 95m · Digital

As a photographer, Cindy Sherman is regarded for her conceptual self-portrait photography, which probes questions of identity, celebrity, and representation. Sherman made her feature film debut with Office Killer, a camp horror film about a copy editor (Carol Kane) who tumbles into a murderous rampage directed at her co-workers. At once comedy, horror, melodrama, noir, and feminist art piece, this film is sure to surprise, provoke, and tickle the senses.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Sunday, May 21st

Los niños abandonados (1975) still

Born to Film (1982) // Los niños abandonados (1975)

Danny Lyon · 33m // 63m · DCP

In 1974, Danny Lyon flew to Santa Marta, Colombia and spent twenty days filming a local group of homeless boys. This footage became Los niños abandonados, a compassionate and unblinking portrait of the daily lives of these abandoned children. It is preceded by Lyon's autobiographical short Born to Film, which mixes photographs from his father's archive with footage of himself and his son to create a tender tribute to Lyon's own life and family.