Re: JoAnn Elam

From: Cari Machet (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Jun 26 2009 - 20:55:20 PDT

this is very thoughtfully and beautifully written chuck
i so appreciate it
thanks very much

cari machet
nyc 347-298-9818
AIM carismachet
email suppressed
Skype carimachet - 646-652-6434
Syria +963-099 277 3243
Amman +962 077 636 9407

On Fri, Jun 26, 2009 at 11:00 PM, Chuck Kleinhans <email suppressed
> wrote:

> JoAnn Elam
> A few days ago, Chicago filmmaker JoAnn Elam died following a struggle with
> cancer. JoAnn lived in Yellow Springs, Ohio and San Francisco before
> moving to Chicago around 1970. She helped found Chicago Filmmakers and
> was active in its early years as a center for experimental film screenings.
> Her early films were short 8mm films, often with a whacky sense of humor,
> such as CHOCOLATE CAKE which showed the process of making the cake. It
> also commemorated an occasion in which her domestic labor and love in making
> the dessert was ignored by a group of males. The final shot shows her
> boot smashing the sweet treat. A cake was always served at screenings of
> the film, and those screenings were often in homes and lofts. The “home”
> in home movie interested her, and she thought domestic space was an
> important arena for artists. She supported alternative screening spaces
> and had a healthy skepticism about the formal artworld establishment and its
> often patriarchal attitudes and activities as well as a number of male
> figures of the New American Cinema avant garde she had seen at Antioch
> College, the School of the Art Instiute of Chicago, and passing through
> Chicago Filmmaker’s weekly screenings.
> JoAnn could be quite stubborn and cantankerous about matters which she felt
> strongly and very loyal and dedicated to friends and political causes. She
> was also very dedicated to improving the world. Her mother was a leader
> in the League of Women Voters, often organizing voter education events. Her
> father was a famous anesthesiologist who developed several devices used by
> doctors and who also originated the modern artificial respiration technique.
> He made a film to promote it, RESCUE BREATHING, which includes a staged
> drama of very young JoAnn using the technique to save the life of a
> playmate. Although she was later estranged from her father, her own films
> have the same commitment to examining an urgent issue and teaching audiences
> new ways of dealing with the world.
> She became best known for RAPE (1975, 16mm b&w/so 35m) a feminist
> investigation of the issue with three women telling their stories. "Short
> but very sharp, JoAnn Elam's film RAPE has three victims discussing their
> emotional, physical and intellectual responses, then and now, highlighted
> and commented upon by a series of visual interpolations, sometimes
> metaphorical .... In just 35 minutes the film manages to examine root
> causes, analyze attitudes, suggest alternatives, and firmly confront
> conflicts which make the usual finite conclusions so simplistic .... It's
> excellent, quite literally the best of its kind, and should be seen by
> everyone." - Helen Mackintosh, *Time Out* "RAPE is a rare film for its
> refusal to co-opt a feminist subject with a reactionary patriarchal form
> ...." - B. Ruby Rich
> She also made LIE BACK AND ENJOY IT (1982, 16mm, b&w/so, 8m) which
> combined optical printing and titles with a conversational soundtrack for a
> political analysis of the “male gaze.”* *"JoAnn Elam's LIE BACK AND ENJOY
> IT is an absorbing eight-minute dialectical film about the politics of
> representation. More specifically, it examines the politics of filmic
> representation of women under patriarchy .... An undergraduate male student
> paid it a true compliment in declaring that he can no longer look at a woman
> in a film without thinking about the consequences of the filmmaker's use of
> her as a person and as a spectacle .... The film is endowed with remarkable
> structural and rhetorical lucidity .... Its image track consists of
> technologically manipulated images of women, and some printed titles. Its
> soundtrack consists of a dialogue between a Man (a filmmaker) and a Woman
> (of whom he's going to make a film) .... Everyone who watches movies with
> women in them ought to see it." - Claudia Gorbman, *Jump Cut. *Both films
> are available at Canyon Cinema and the NY Filmmakers Coop.
> JoAnn had a strong lyrical sensibility and WELLINGTON AND WOLCOTT captured
> a late afternoon in Chicago looking out the second story window at
> Kartemquin Films as snow piled up on frozen streets. Kids in the
> residential neighborhood began “skitching” automobiles: grabbing onto the
> rear of a slow moving vehicle while it attempted to navigate the ice and
> thus skating along with a free tow. The combination of improvisational
> daring, crazy and slightly dangerous behavior, adaptation to urban
> environment was set along a late afternoon turning into twilight.
> In the 1980s she began working on EVERYDAY PEOPLE, a film about letter
> carriers and the working conditions of the Postal Service. Elam was
> especially influenced by Harry Braverman’s analysis of working conditions
> under capitalism and the film illustrated both the attempts of the USPS to
> control workers and the workers’ endless inventive ways around the “rules.”
> * *Herself a letter carrier for many years, the film combined a
> social/political realist topic and an extremely experimental, Brechtian,
> form. In repeated screening of it as a work in progress around the US, it
> was clear that postal workers and union members who attended the events had
> no problem with the “radical” form because they found the subject matter
> compelling. The film remains unfinished.
> Elam left the post office after many confrontations with postal managers,
> and she learned tax preparation to support herself, eventually deciding to
> get a BS in accounting. She specialized in bookkeeping and tax
> preparation for nonprofit arts and political organizations and artists and
> activists. She also expanded her love of gardening and attained a Master
> Gardener status and then helped communities, particularly in the inner city,
> develop gardens and landscape neighborhoods. She often spoke of a fantasy
> of letter carriers also being master gardeners, delivering the mail and
> seeds and gardening advice to their neighborhood. A perfect evening for
> her was a gathering of friends, meal of fresh fruits and vegetables from her
> garden (supplemented by her husband’s Southern style barbeque), and rhubarb
> pie or chocolate cake followed by several people screening past films and
> work-in-progress.
> * *
> Elam is survived by her husband, Joe Hendrix, and her siblings.
> __________________________________________________________________ For info
> on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.