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October 17, 2016

An Evening with Brigid McCaffrey

Brigid McCaffrey's films proceed along one of two axes (or both): documentary portraits of an individual or a small group of individuals, and meditations on the place of nature in the contemporary world, especially the American Southwest. McCaffrey has been making nonfiction cinema that is both carefully observed and politically engaged since before her 2009 graduation from CalArts (including collaborating with Ben Russell on Tjúba Ten/The Wet Season [2008]). Her films boast soundtracks that carefully construct both a natural environment and a social context for visuals that range from Castaic Lake’s gentle pastoral to the intimate monumentality of Paradise Springs to the surprising inventiveness and formal play of Bad Mama, Who Cares.

The HFA is pleased to bring McCaffrey to Harvard to present her most recent work. – David Pendleton

Co-presented by the Film Study Center, Harvard. All prints courtesy the filmmaker.

$12 Special Event Tickets
Brigid McCaffrey in person

Monday October 17 at 7pm

Castaic Lake

Directed by Brigid McCaffrey
US 2010, 16mm, color, 29 min

Castaic Lake is a California State Recreation Area formed by a reservoir in northwestern Los Angeles County. In this exploration, McCaffrey’s camera unhurriedly maps the lake and captures some of those who visit it, revealing the location as both landscape and social site. Mixing interviews and observational footage, the emphasis is on an immersive experience of place rather than exposé or explanation. Nevertheless, McCaffrey is careful to point out the workings of the labor and infrastructure behind Southern California’s leisure industry.

Paradise Springs

Directed by Brigid McCaffrey
US 2013, digital video, color, 33 min

Paradise Springs is the portrait of a figure in a landscape—in this case quite literally so, since the film’s defining images are those that locate Ren Lallatin, a geologist who studies the Mojave Desert, in the terrain that means so much to her. Just how much is revealed by Lallatin’s measured but impassioned soliloquies that describe the desert and its life. Lallatin’s solitary existence, McCaffrey’s gently inquisitive camera, and the desert’s austere beauty form an entrancing whole whose tranquil beauty serves as a counterpoint to the precarity both of the land and of Lallatin’s prized independence.

Bad Mama, Who Cares

Directed by Brigid McCaffrey
US 2016, 35mm, color, 11 min

McCaffrey's latest film is a second portrait of Lallatin that may indicate a radical new direction in her filmmaking. Playing with and manipulating the image, McCaffrey seems, on the one hand, to be looking back to surrealist and trance cinema while also acknowledging the possibilities for image manipulation in the digital era. The result is a liberation of the unruly forces that always seemed to be roiling just beneath the realist surfaces of her previous films.

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