Abraham Ravett

career summary

film/video list

film/video summaries


Career Summary

Abraham Ravett was born in Poland in 1947, raised in Israel and emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1955. He holds a B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Filmmaking and Photography and has been an independent filmmaker for the past twenty years. Mr. Ravett received grants for his work from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Artist's Foundation, Inc., Boston, MA., The Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, The Japan Foundation, The Hoso Bunka Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His films have been screened internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, Anthology Film Archives, The Collective For Living Cinema, N.Y.C., Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley, CA., S.F. Cinematheque, L.A. Filmforum, Innis Film Society, Toronto, Canada, and Image Forum, Tokyo, Japan.

Mr. Ravett teaches filmmaking and photography at Hampshire College, Amherst, MA.


Film/Videography Summaries

Quelle Heure

(1975), 12 min., color, sound film.

An impressionistic view of New York City.

The North End

(1977), 120 min., 3/4" video tape documentary.

THE NORTH END is a direct cinema observation of an Italian-American neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts.

Thirty Years Later

(1978), 43 min., color, sound, documentary film.

Utilizing a diary format, the camera is used to record the emotional and psychological impact of the Holocaust on two survivors and the influence this experience has had on their relationship with the filmmaker -- their only remaining child.

Haverhill High

(1979), 120 min., 3/4" video tape documentary.

A direct cinema observation of student and faculty life at Haverhill High School, in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

After the Unveiling

(1981), 129 min., color, sound, documentary film.

After the Unveiling is a film about change. It is a personal documentary done in diary format of my mother's life immediately following my father's death. It begins with cultural rites proceeding death, that of sitting RshiveS, and goes on to record the many daily acts my mother once shared with her husband and now must face alone. Delineated, is the integral place that my mother's religion and culture holds for her, the inevitable influence it has on me, and the resulting conflict that is created for my mother and myself by me selecting a mate from a different religious background.


(1983), 130 min. 3/4" video tape experimental documentary.

A look at my daughter's first three years of life.

A Calming Breeze

(1984), 17 min., color, silent, 16mm experimental film.

A look at birth and the rite of circumcision.

Zeger's Note

(1984), 17 min., color, sound, 16mm experimental film.

A note from a friend in Holland invokes a series of memories and dreams from the past and reminds the maker of the fragility of his own existence.


(1985), 22 min., color, sound, 16mm experimental film.

A recently discovered photograph of my half-sister who was killed in the German concentration camp of Auschwitz, inspires the imagination to conceive a life that would have been.


(1986), 13 min., color, sound, 16mm.

In one continuous, twelve minute take, the filmmaker talks with his mother about her daughter who was killed in Auschwitz.

Jack Haber

(1987), 15 min., black & white, silent, 16mm. Jack Haber is a film about unheralded lives. Utilizing film material found and purchased in an antique shop, the filmmaker speculates on the life of one, Jack Haber.

The Balcony

(1988), 48 min., black & white, silent, 16mm.

The lives of people are observed within the confines of one, twenty-two story high rise apartment complex and its adjacent courtyard. Shot over a period of fifteen months and from one vantage point, THE BALCONY speculates on the evanescence of all our lives.

Everything's For You

(1989), 58 min., b/w & color, sound, 16mm.

A film which reflects the filmmaker's relationship with his deceased father, a man who survived both the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz. The film utilizes a combination of previously shot material (1974-78), family photographs, archival footage, optically printed current footage, cell animation sequences (by Emily Hubley), and computer graphics to create a mosaic, a meditation on filial relationships. Dialogue is in both English and Yiddish.

An Abu's Warning

(1992), black & white, 50 min. silent, 16mm.

A 20th century traveler comes to Japan and is confronted by a landscape, its inhabitants and cultural traditions quite different from his own experiences. Shot in the summer, 1987.

In Memory

(1993), 13 min., black & white, sound, 16mm.

In Memory is a tribute, a projected memorial to members of my family and ALL those who died under Nazi occupation.

Forgotten Tenor

(1994), 138 min., b/w & color, sound, 16mm.

Also see the Forgotten Tenor web page.

Forgotten Tenor is a film produced, directed, filmed and edited by Abraham Ravett. Five years in the making, Forgotten Tenor was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Regional Fellowship Program and a 1994 Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

This 16mm experimental film reflects on the short life of one of the greatest and perhaps most unheralded Jazz, tenor saxophone players, Wardell Gray. Starting his career in the big bands of Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine, Wardell went on to play and record with such well-known figures as Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie. Recognized for his melodic style and light tone, Wardell was considered by many in the late forties and early 1950's to be one of the most talented musicians on the contemporary Jazz scene. Unfortunately, he had only a dozen years to make his musical statement prior to an untimely, violent, and still unsolved death at the age of 34. Today he is virtually forgotten. The film undertaken reflects on the mutability and evanescence of all our lives, a meditation on time, memory, and the evolving histories of American Black Classical Music. The intent is to resurrect the presence of a great musician, pay tribute to his accomplishments , and speculate on the possibility of a life that could have been.

Utilizing a combination of rare archival footage, family, photographs, memorabilia, computer animation, and interviews with family, friends, and fellow musicians such as Art Farmer, Teddy Edwards, Clark Terry, Buddy Defranco, Gus Johnson, and Jimmy Lewis, among others, the film explores the socio-political landscape of post WWII, U.S.A. and what it was like for an itinerant, Afro-American musician to live and work during that time period.

Through interviews conducted by the filmmaker, as well as by listening to the music of Wardell Gray, as it is interwoven within the film, we are able to piece together a history of the life and specific musical contributions made by Wardell Gray to world music. By the end of the film, viewers will come to a deeper understanding of the musician, his music and the times that he lived in.

Much of the film's essence is bound up in the actual process of making the film. Some of the footage is shown to us in the more traditional documentary style, with the interviewees talking directly to the camera. Other parts of this process of gathering the threads of information are heard rather than seen. We hear the filmmaker making phone calls to Dorothy Gray (who had been married to Wardell Gray), Benny Carter, and record producer Bob Weinstock, among others. These RorchestrationsS are part of the work done in order to recreate a life from past memories and recollections.

As if to further emphasize the actual labor of piecing together fragments of information about Wardell Gray's fragile life, the filmmaker is seen periodically raking leaves, as his voice on the accompanying soundtrack continues the search to piece together relevant information.

Wardell Gray is not portrayed as a tragic or romantic figure. His involvement with drugs and resulting violent death is not dramatized or sensationalized. Instead his colleagues comment on their own respective tensions with substance abuse- set in the context of the times- and reflect on the tensions and pressures younger musicians felt to Rfit in.S


(1995), 33 min., b/w & color, sound, 16mm.

Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan is the setting for The Legends of Tono (Tono monogatari), a unique collection of regional folk tales, gathered in the early 20th Century by Yanagita Kunio. The tales manifest and explain invisible forces and malevolent events which shape the psycho-cultural dimensions of Japanese indigenous beliefs and folk faith.

Inspired by The Legends of Tono, HORSE/KAPPA HOUSE, records the surrounding landscape in a number of small villages throughout Iwate Prefecture in order to create a cinematic space which echoes by implication and association, the external and unseen world in the environment. The film embodies the idea so eloquently stated by noted historian, Mr. Umehara Takeshi, that Rall living things- animals and plants as well as mountains, rivers, and other natural phenomena have spirits and that these spirits are constantly moving back and forth between Heaven and this world, forming the basis of the Japanese ethos.

The form of the film was shaped in the editing and post-production process, as Mr. Ravett sought to embody the ephemeral into material form. He utilized a combination of time lapse cinematography, animation, optical printing and intertitles to provide a context for broader understanding of the legends. The audio track- a combination of indigenous sounds, field recordings of religious ceremonies, plus Komori Uta (lullabies) chanted by Abe Yae, a renowned singer and local farmer, adds a haunting, emotionally charged layer of meaning to the visual tapestry. For example, Dendera Field, seen today as a lovely pastoral landscape, was historically the site where children abandoned elderly parents who were seen as no longer productive. Framed by the sound of birds chirping, the long, time-lapse view of Dendera Field is presented as a space of loss, memory, and collective history.

With each landscape presented, the goal was to alter, amplify, and change our perceptions of time and sense of place thus invoking a greater receptivity for The Legends of Tono. The combination of the above creates a film that in form and content bridges the world of imagined, perceived and documented reality.


Contact Abraham Ravett at aravett@hampshire.edu.
Also see his web site at Hampshire University: http://helios.hampshire.edu/~arPF

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