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October 2 – October 14

Luminosity – The Films of Jerome Hiler

Since the early seventies, Jerome Hiler (b.1943) has refined a uniquely multimedia artistic practice dedicated to the creation of meticulously crafted works of 16mm cinema, painting and stained glass. A trio of roughly contemporary, fortuitous events were crucial inspirations to Hiler's singular vocation: his time as assistant to Gregory Markopoulos, his discovery of Stan Brakhage’s early films and, most importantly, his meeting of lifelong partner and fellow independent filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky at the screening of Dorsky's debut film, Ingreen. Hiler and Dorsky joined one another on a creative path as fellow 16mm artists, collaborators and indelible influences on each other’s work. After a spell in New York City, they took a break from urban life, retreating to Lake Owassa in New Jersey, to an idyllic cottage featured prominently in both Hiler’s recently completed film Into The Stone House and in Dorsky’s celebrated Hours for Jerome.

After relocating to San Francisco with Dorsky in 1972, Hiler began to withdraw his films from the public eye, only screening camera originals to an inner circle of friends at his home. Nevertheless, Hiler remained extremely active during this time, shooting his own work and assisting other filmmakers in a variety of roles. Soon after, Hiler began to work in stained glass, an art and craft that combined his love of painting, luminous color and projected light. It was not until the late nineties that Hiler's films began to be more widely seen, with screenings at cinematheques and museums throughout the world, capped by a major New York Film Festival retrospective and a prominent place in the 2012 Whitney Biennial.

Formally and visually astonishing, Hiler’s films were for years notorious for being more talked about than seen. The recent rediscovery of Hiler’s work finds him, often together with Dorsky, lavished with much-deserved accolades and recognition as a dedicated craftsman and poet of his chosen media, able to capture the rarest essence, beauty and magic of light and daily life in each of his exquisite films. In today's world of endless distraction, Hiler's patient and rapturous films seem to offer an unusual and ultimately invigorating oasis, a place where vision can be renewed. Hiler's films also clearly resonate with a new generation of filmmakers during a time of great shifts and uncertainty, not unlike the period when Hiler first chose his artistic path. 

The HFA is pleased to welcome Jerome Hiler to share his unique vision of cinema. In addition to co-presenting an evening of Stan Brakhage’s films co-curated with Nathaniel Dorsky, Hiler will also deliver an illuminating, illustrated and interactive talk on stained glass.

Presented in partnership with the Film Study Center, Harvard.

Special thanks: Antonella Bonfanti and Seth Mitter—Canyon Cinema. 

All prints courtesy the filmmaker.       

Monday October 2 at 7pm

In the Stone House

Directed by Jerome Hiler
US 2012, 16mm, b/w & color, silent, 35 min

In the Stone House chronicles the life-changing four years Hiler spent in retreat from urban life with Nathaniel Dorsky in rural New Jersey. Disillusioned with the New York film scene, Hiler and Dorsky searched for a simpler, more spiritual way of life focused on art-making and proximity to nature. Far from a monastic seclusion, however, the filmmakers’ idyll was frequently interrupted by welcome city friends escaping to their house, dissolving the boundaries between the two poles.

Following the course of three seasons, Hiler records everyday events in the country, along with trips to Manhattan and Queens to visit with family and friends. Although In the Stone House was shot at the same time Dorsky was filming Hours for Jerome, Hiler edited his film many years later. Similar to New Shores, Hiler was able to reconstruct a temps perdu and capture the magical poignancy of memory, delicately paced by pauses of black leader which offer thoughtful breaths between each vibrant scene.


New Shores

Directed by Jerome Hiler
US 1971-87/2014, 16mm, color, silent, 35 min

A companion work of sorts to In the Stone House, New Shores is partially a record of Hiler and Nathaniel Dorsky’s 1972 move to the West Coast. Blending a rich variety of styles and techniques with masterful editing, Hiler juxtaposes intimate scenes—moments and portraits from his life with Dorsky and friendship with poet Anne Waldman in particular—with meditative landscapes, seascapes and intimations of the changing seasons. An extended static shot of a plume of smoke rising from a shipping boat counts among Hiler’s most beautiful, rapturous images. New Shores fathoms the deep joy of discovery, the excitement and fear of life changes, and the bittersweetness of returning to the past, realizing one can never go home again. Hiler takes the title of the film from his idol Douglas Sirk's 1937 German film Zu neuen Ufern, or To New Shores. Hiler: “That film also deals with displacement, chasing pleasures to escape the overall atmosphere of imprisonment and a final capitulation.”

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Monday October 2 at 8:30pm

Words of Mercury

Directed by Jerome Hiler
US 2011, 16mm, color, silent, 25 min

Hiler’s now best known work was immediately hailed as a revelatory masterwork when it premiered in 2011, as a camera original reversal print, at the influential and now sorely missed “Views from the Avant-Garde” section of the New York Film Festival. Offered by Hiler as a poignant yet celebratory farewell to the recently discontinued color reversal 16mm film stock, Words of Mercury makes remarkable use of lyrical superimposition to give dazzling life to the rich range of colors, textures and rhythms that animate the film. Although Words of Mercury’s interweaving of quadruple layers of image and color often seems to be precisely timed and structured, Hiler, quite remarkably, edited his film in camera, trusting in his intuition, never knowing the exact outcome, but certain that it would remain true to his singular vision. Mirroring the saturated colors of Hiler’s stained glass work, imagery in Words of Mercury is transformed by the reverberant overlapping of colors and shapes, with the flow of layered and superimposed images periodically interrupted by the relative calm of more direct, “single-layer” scene. Hiler described his film as, “the film takes a journey from darkness and a bare world through the seasonal spreading of seeds to a place almost choked and repugnant with color—a place that invites death. The final couplet from Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost speaking of the place of death, supplies me with my title."



Directed by Jerome Hiler
US 2016, 16mm, color, silent, 23 min

Marginalia is a contemplation in shades of grey and periodic color on the state and place of society in a quickly changing environment. It could be seen as a view from the margins. Or, as its title suggests, it might be expostulatory comments on the page-edge of our shared circumstances. Its air is filled with things slipping away to make way for an as yet unknown birth. The characters that we approach most proximately are a family with two young sons. The forebodings in this film have a kind of antidote in the way ideas and skills can be passed along to young generations outside the margins of the main arena of digital entertainment. As educators discuss dropping cursive writing from the syllabus of future grade schools, my interest in all things handmade becomes acute. Scribblings course their way across the screen as scratches: the margins invade center stage. Images of electrical power occasionally appear as well as a distant Facebook headquarters. Will future writing depend on such things? Could a power outage bring an end to the written word? Not really, but so much and so much more in our lives is dependent on mega-energy.

As with my films, so far, Marginalia is silent. The above description should not be considered the correct reading of the film. Images simply flow by and are not at all laden with purpose other than to connect with the viewer's sight and mind. Be unburdened with thoughts of understanding what the filmmaker is trying to say. Most people who find themselves watching poetic films are pretty familiar with what marginal means. – Jerome Hiler

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Jerome Hiler in Person

Saturday October 14 at 7pm

Cinema Before 1300

Over 800 years ago, a confluence of technological, philosophical and financial upswellings converged to create the most advanced form of mass media the world had known: stained glass.

Built en masse across France, Spain, England and Germany, great cathedrals were designed to display giant windows that told stories through light, color and form. Every day, thousands of viewers arrived to marvel at the glorious colors and hear stories recounted beneath their realization in light. Modern visitors to a cathedral would probably not suspect how many activities took place in the building during medieval times. It was truly a community center, and community members had the right to be there because they all took a great part in the construction of the building. Tonight’s program will take a look at the first 100 years (or so) of stained glass’ magnificent birth and culmination. It was during this fortuitous time frame that the most care, effort and expense were applied to the new art. By a sad irony, technological innovations making glass more uniform and the tasks of the craft easier destroyed visual interest and soon degenerated the art altogether. 

In our time, we have seen cinema rise and fall in a comparable period. Also, technological developments that have replaced film, to my eyes, have appreciably downgraded visual interest. I am still a filmmaker. I shoot film out of love for film. I am loyal to my loves. Not only to film, but to the light of the projector—and the soft, reflective light of the screen. This is hardly a match for the glorious starlight that flows through glass, but it echoes the reflected light of the moon, that first of all films and most beloved of all revivals.  

I also work in stained glass. Though, in recent years, I have put more of my efforts into filmmaking, I’ve found myself transferring physical techniques, such as painting and abrading, to my film work. But from my earliest film efforts over fifty years ago, I drew inspiration from the idea that my films were to be like stained glass glowing in a space of sacred darkness. I knew that both my film work and stained glass itself were based on a discontinuity given an illusory wholeness by the blessings of light. I will conclude the evening’s program with a short film of my own. – Jerome Hiler

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