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May 2 - May 16, 2002

Close Encounters

Harvard Film Archive invites members of the community to select a favorite film to introduce to the public. We are pleased to host visiting filmmakers Robert M. Young and Barbara Hammer and our great cinéphile colleague Professor Susan Suleiman.

Introduced by Director Robert M. Young
May 2 (Thursday) 8:15 pm


Directed by Robert M. Young
US 1978, 35mm, color, 110 min.
With Domingo Ambriz, Trinidad Silva, Edward James Olmos

The first solo feature by one of America’s foremost independent filmmakers, Alambrista! was groundbreaking for its portrayal of the harsh realities of Chicano life. After the birth of his first child, a young Mexican man slips across the border into the United States in search of the American dream. Seeking work to support his impoverished family back home, he finds only heartbreak and exploitation instead of opportunity. The aesthetic developed over three decades of Young’s documentary filmmaking finds its way into this poignant drama in the form of powerful handheld camerawork and a dynamic visual style. Alambrista! won numerous awards, including the prestigious Camera d’Or at Cannes. We are pleased to present the world premiere of a new director’s cut of the film, with a new score and new ending. This event is co-sponsored by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. 

Born into a filmmaking family (his father, an editor, co-founded the Du Art Film Laboratories in New York City), Robert M. Young served as a photographer in the Navy during World War II and eventually found himself an English Literature major here at Harvard, where he co-founded the Harvard Film Society and made his first “real” film—a vignette of the turtle-crossing-the-road sequence from The Grapes of Wrath, shot from the turtle’s point of view. From this humble cinematic beginning, he would go on to win the Peabody and George Polk awards for his NBC White Paper report on the early civil rights movement and accolades as co-writer, co-producer, and cinematographer for the acclaimed independent feature Nothing But a Man. Across the span of his fifty-year career, Young has created a unique body of work, including such theatrical features as Short Eyes and The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez and a celebrated corpus of documentary work.

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Introduced by Professor Susan Suleiman
May 8 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Sociology is a Martial Art (La sociologie est un sport de combat)

Directed by Pierre Carles
France 2001, video, color, 146 min.
French with English subtitles

Pierre Bourdieu, whose death this past January made front page news in France, the U.S., and elsewhere, was a highly influential and at times controversial intellectual—a “committed” thinker in the ranks of Foucault, Barthes, and Lacan. Last year, this documentary film about his life became an unexpected hit in Paris. Its very title stresses the degree of Bourdieu’s political engagement as he took on the mantle of Emile Zola and Jean-Paul Sartre in French public life and slugged it out with politicians because he considered those lucky enough to have spent their lives studying the social world could not be indifferent to struggle. Filmed over three years, Sociology is a Martial Art follows Bourdieu as he lectures, attends political rallies, travels, and meets with his students, staff, and research team in Paris. The screening will be followed by an informal discussion on Bourdieu’s work and influence. Assistance for this program was generously provided by the French Consulate of Boston.

Professor Susan Suleiman is the C. Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She is author of such volumes as Authoritarian Fictions: The Ideological Novel as a Literary Genre (1983) and Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-garde (1990), and editor of Exile and Creativity: Signposts, Travelers, Outsiders, Backward Glances (1998). 

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Introduced by Barbara Hammer
May 16 (Thursday) 7 pm

The Atomic Cafe

Directed by Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, Pierce Rafferty
US 1982, b/w and color, 35mm, 92 min.

Made over a five-year period by a team of young documentary makers, The Atomic Café is a meticulously assembled independent production that focuses an amused eye on the duplicity of Cold War ideology in postwar America through a vast array of excerpts from newsreels, educational films, and government sponsored documentaries about “the bomb.” The film displays such landmarks in the arsenal of nuclear propaganda as dispassionate test footage at the Bikini Atoll, the civil-defense “Duck and Cover” advisory (replete with an Andrews Sisters up-tempo tune), and newsreel clips of home bomb shelter designs. Even twenty years after its release, The Atomic Café remains a compelling, amusing, and cautionary work that suggests the continuing power of the media to reflect, inform, and shape our fears and beliefs.

Barbara Hammer, an internationally recognized film artist who has made eighty films and videos, is a pioneer of lesbian-feminist experimental and documentary cinema. The recipient of numerous awards, she was recently honored with the Frameline Award in San Francisco and a current Bunting Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute. Her most recent works address global issues in such documentaries as My Babushka: Searching Ukrainian Identities (Ukraine 2001) and the work-in-progress Resisting Paradise, which recounts the histories of French Resistance fighters along with those of the painters Bonnard and Matisse, who continued to produce landscapes, portraits, and still lifes in a land of light and beauty even as the Nazis occupied France.

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