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April 19 - 20, 2002

Dick Rogers: In Retrospect

Richard P. Rogers (1944–2001) maintained two full-time careers: he was a celebrated director and producer of (mostly nonfiction) films and an inspired teacher of still photography and filmmaking here at Harvard. Rogers’s appetite for knowledge was omnivorous, taking him from the jungles of Nicaragua to the fountains of Rome, from the bedrooms of colonial New England to the streets of working-class Albany, New York. Throughout these travels, his unsparing artist’s eye turned as often back onto himself: touching on a range of topics from art and architecture to history and literature, his films spoke in many voices, from the politically engaged to the personal and experimental. Among his best known works are two long-form independent documentaries, Living at Risk and Pictures from a Revolution (both collaborations with Susan Meiselas and Alfred Guzzetti); an award-winning portrait of William Carlos Williams, made for the PBS poetry series "Voices and Visions"; and the dramatic feature A Midwife’s Tale. At Harvard he was mentor to a new generation of committed filmmakers, and under his directorship, the Film Study Center became an important catalyst for nonfiction production. During his brave battle with illness last year, he continued to teach full time and to work on an independent documentary about the social, economic, and ecological changes affecting the community on Long Island where he lived for many years. We honor his immeasureable contributions to Harvard and to the field of nonfiction film with this retrospective of his work. All events are free and open to the public.

April 19 (Friday) 4 pm

Memorial Service at Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts

An informal convocation of friends, colleagues, students, and admirers of Dick’s work will gather to share thoughts on a remarkable life and career.

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Introduced by Filmmaker Robert Gardner and Author William Kennedy
April 19 (Friday) 8 pm


Directed by Richard Rogers
US 1970, 16mm, b/w, 12 min.

This portrait of an abandoned quarry in Quincy, Massachusetts, captures the striking natural beauty of the site as it explores the social rites of the young people who gather along its rugged shores to create leisure in what was once a place of toil.


Directed by Richard Rogers
US 1973, 16mm, b/w and color, 27 min.

A self-portrait of the filmmaker at twenty-nine, this provocative collage of family photographs, street scenes, and interviews with family and friends seeks to prove that "one’s consciousness is the result of one’s relationship to power and not, as many believe, vice-versa."


Directed by Richard Rogers
US 1992, video, color, 60 min.

Produced and directed by Rogers for PBS, this engaging portrait of writer William Kennedy examines his literary accomplishments against the charged urban environment of the capital city that inspired them.

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Introduced by film scholar Tom Gunning
April 20 (Saturday) 11 am


Directed by Richard Rogers
US 1984, 16mm, color, 23 min.

In this personal, experimental work, Rogers created a "minimalist soap opera" out of messages left on his telephone answering machine over the course of an entire year. Together with the accompanying visuals of scenes visible from the windows of the filmmaker’s loft, they provide an amusing account of life caught between the public and the private.


Directed by Richard Rogers
US 1988, video, color, 58 min.

In this portrait made for public television’s acclaimed series on American poetry, Rogers presents the complex figure of poet-physician William Carlos Williams. The film is structured, like the poetry itself, as a modernist collage, with documentary footage, surreal dramatic scenes, interviews, and animation sequences intercut to evoke the poet’s imaginative world, his work as a community doctor, and his relation to the visual arts.

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Introduced by Susan Meiselas and Alfred Guzzetti
April 20 (Saturday) 2:30 pm


Directed by Susan Meiselas, Alfred Guzzetti, and Richard Rogers
US 1991, 16mm, color, 90 min.
English and Spanish with English subtitles

In 1978, photographer Susan Meiselas documented the insurrection in Nicaragua that overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza and brought the Sandinistas to power—work that won her the Robert Capa Award for courage in photojournalism and resulted in her acclaimed book Nicaragua: June 1978–July 1979. Just before the tenth anniversary of the revolution, Meiselas returned to Nicaragua with filmmakers Dick Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti to discover what had happened to the people pictured in her book after a decade of revolution. What results is a remarkable meeting of the artistic and the real in a portrait of the vitality of the Nicaraguan people amidst the devastation of war.

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Introduced by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
April 20 (Saturday) 8 pm


Directed by Richard Rogers
US 1996, 35mm, color, 89 min.
With Kaiulani Sewall Lee and Laurel Ulrich

Rogers’s sole dramatic feature is this highly acclaimed adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize–winning book by historian Laurel Ulrich. A Midwife’s Tale unfolds like a detective story as it recounts the true tale of two women who lived two hundred years apart in time, linked by the massive but cryptic diary one has left behind. The world of frontier midwife and diarist Martha Ballard gradually takes shape as the contemporary author (played by Ulrich herself) pieces together the turbulent decades after the American Revolution in a small Maine town where social turmoil and religious conflict make survival a full-time job.

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