Re: Maya's Haiti footage (was: Frameworker in the news)

From: bryan mckay (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Feb 24 2010 - 12:46:40 PST

How Deren—coming into Haiti as an outsider and observing (no matter
how embedded) through the lens of an outside—can have an "emphatically
black … cultural perspective" is beyond me. And beyond the scope of
this conversation, I'm guessing, as Frameworks really isn't the place
to debate the politics of race and cultural identity.

As far as restoring and properly preserving the footage, while I agree
it would be a worthwhile undertaking, I think you're hugely
overstating the cultural significance of the footage. As an
ethnographic document, it's certainly interesting, but calling it "one
of the most important cultural documents" seems to blow out of
proportion its place in the canon of ethnographic cinema. Conversely,
as a document of experimental cinema, seeing as it's unedited, raw
footage (and lengthy, at that) it will interest only a small subset of
Deren's potential audience.

Financially, it would be a very large undertaking with very little
payoff. The people with money to throw at supporting avant-garde
cinema (and there aren't very many of them, I imagine) probably think
there are things more deserving of their dollars. Frankly, I don't
blame them.

And, to address your last claim that "we in the Frameworks community
are every bit as responsible for the unjust neglect this masterpiece
has suffered," I suppose if you consider my disinterest in the matter
unjust, then so be it. But I do my part to support living, breathing
cinema—contemporary filmmakers and their art—and I don't really think
it's fair to lay the burden of preservation on every single fucking
person on a mailing list.

On Feb 24, 2010, at 3:13 PM, David Baker wrote:

> Chuck,
> Your response is not unanticipated.
> I hold no doubt that every individual in the Frameworks community
> has contributed according to their very maximum capacity to give to
> the Haitian relief effort
> and will continue to do so. In no way can this or will this mitigate
> the horror and tragedy of what has happened.
> (Nor will this protect the Haitian people from what is to come,
> see:Naomi Klein-The Shock Doctrine).
> I can not for an instant separate a people from their cultural legacy.
> I would argue there has never been a better time to
> bring Deren's Haitian vision to bear on the here and now.
> She witnessed with her camera cultural practices that have never
> been documented before or since,the Living Gods
> and ancestors of Haiti made manifest through her lens .
> (Some of us hold no relation whatsoever to the "art world" you speak
> of.)
> I believe Deren's unedited footage to be "special"
> in much the same way that Artaud's work is "special".
> Make no mistake Deren's unedited footage is one of the most
> important cultural documents
> by one of the most consequential practitioners in the history of
> experimental film,
> as gender specific as it is emphatically black in its cultural
> perspective.
> The obvious question that must be asked of your tutorial:
> given that it has fallen on principally white men to act as
> stewards of this
> singular material,
> would work of this consequence be left so long unpreserved
> had it been done by a white male practitioner of the similar caliber?
> Or if it was not so emphatically black in the cultural perspective
> made manifest therein?
> (I ask this question with the highest respect for Jonas Mekas
> and the people who work with him at Anthology Film Archives.
> They are the indispensable center of my own cultural life in NYC.)
> I believe we in the Frameworks community are every bit as
> responsible for the unjust neglect this masterpiece has suffered.
> David
> On Feb 24, 2010, at 12:11 PM, Chuck Kleinhans wrote:
>> It strikes me that given the recent events in Haiti, this is
>> exactly the wrong moment to be shouting that restoring a 60 year
>> old set of unedited footage should be deserving of special
>> restoration funding.
>> Perhaps this can be a "teachable moment" about the realities of the
>> economics of film preservation, and not so incidentally, art world
>> attitudes to actual human disasters.
>> Chuck Kleinhans
>> On Feb 24, 2010, at 8:16 AM, David Baker wrote:
>>> Mark,
>>> Thank you for responding.
>>> As you can tell it was not your blog per se that enticed me to ask
>>> the question.
>>> (I am certainly one of the legion of anonymous audience members
>>> who have gotten
>>> the utmost pleasure from scrutinizing every inch of your website
>>> however.)
>>> Your title 'Academy Film Archive Preservationist" is what enticed
>>> me to send a query your way.
>>> Anthology is definitely the sole steward of the unedited Haitian
>>> footage.
>>> I have spoken with Andrew Lampert at Anthology. The impression I
>>> have is that while this is a project
>>> "in development" ,it has been so every year,year after year since
>>> it left Maya's hands.
>>> How to break the stasis this wildly consequential film has achieved,
>>> and get it seen by the public?
>>> Do you know of any precedent for restoration of material of this
>>> consequence being shared by two archival institutions?
>>> (If Maya could pick up and throw a refrigerator from one side of a
>>> room to the other,
>>> see: Stan Brakhage in Martina Kudlacek's In "The Mirrror Of Maya
>>> Deren" then somebody
>>> ought to be able make visible the woefully unseen unedited Deren
>>> Haitian footage.)
>>> Next stop Jonas,
>>> David
>> __________________________________________________________________
>> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

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