A film about Robert Gardner’s classic works of anthropological cinema including conversations with the filmmaker and his collaborators. Read more
This project's funding goal was
Well, two more days to get a lot done! Thanks to all the friends who are reaching out! Your generosity with funds and connections is heart-warming.
Here is an excerpt from Robert Gardner's book, The Impulse to Preserve - Reflections of a Filmmaker, about his return to New Guinea in 1989.
My reunion with Pua, after our long absence from each other's company, began as I, making my way along the Aikhe to the village where Pua now lives, met a man who somehow recognized me and I he. It was Siba, Pua's older brother. He knew why I had come and instantly called out, in the inimitable Dani manner, PUA-A-A-A-OOOOOO, the last vowel propelled into space by a musical escalation of pitch and volume. Immediately I heard the answering call indicating that Pua had heard and would be on his way. In a matter of moments, a figure of unmistakably familiar gait came through a grove of bushy trees. This man of middle age displayed all the distinctive attributes of Pua the boy I had known many years before. We exchanged countless and, for me, strangely unreal greetings.Who, I asked myself is this impostor I'm told is the child who lived, just yesterday, the life of a stone-age swineherd?
With a growing collection of people I had known in 1961, we walked toward Pua's model village where he brings to life bygone days. I did not realize at first that we were in the Dani equivalent of such phenomena as our own Williamsburgs. The village looked quite familiar until it was clear that no one lived in it. No animals, fires, or crying children were present, only a full-scale diorama waiting for people to animate it like some back-lot movie set. Pua used a strange word to describe this village. He called it his "lodgment". I finally understood this was what he thought a place where tourists spent the night was called. He explained that he had arranged everything so tourists could come to it and experience authentic Dani life.
Freeze frames of Pua below are from Dead Birds by Robert Gardner. The 1989 photograph of Gardner and Pua is by Susan Meiselas.
Well, friends, we are getting down to the wire on kickstarter when they start counting the time left in hours! Thanks very much to all who are alerting their networks. This is how we're going to make it, one person at a time.
Here is a little philosophy of filmmaking from Robert Gardner, excerpted from his book: Just Representations (2010) -
Film is not simply a mirror recording our physicality, but a medium achieving a transfiguration of our ordinariness. In my own work, I have frequently thought that looking closely at lives utterly different from my own held both danger and a kind of promise. The danger was, and always is, in the possibility of the bizarre or exotic distracting and overwhelming the senses, such that the human significance of what I saw and photographed was overwhelmed or beclouded by difference. The promise seems to be that in worlds as apparently different from my own as, for example, the Dani of New Guinea, the Hamar of Ethiopia, or the Borroro of Niger, I would be released from the familiarity and monotony, the white noise, of my own cultural surroundings, and see with a clarity of innocence an entirely believable humanity in the unfamiliar. In other words, film experience is a mediating that allows a coming to one's senses through, paradoxically, film's ability to alienate or "strange-ify", to bring about what Erik Erikson called "distanciation". Wearing a hollow gourd to cover your penis is pretty curious haberdashery, but it is also the only garment Dani men ever wore. Only the most radical cultural relativism would permit anyone to think them ordinary.
Stills below are from Robert Gardner's Dead Birds about the Dani of New Guinea -
I am very happy to report that our project is now a staff pick!! (See link above.)
And our first backer through that status, I believe is a Frenchman, Guillaume David. I would like to salute all of our international backers today, beginning with Miel de Botton in Europe, (Executive Producer on Oscar-nominated Waste Land), Dr. Inna Rogatchi in Finland, Ildefonso Leyda Pineda in Spain, Natasha Lebedeva of Russia (now in Wash, DC), Dorje Lama of Tibet (now in Calgary, Canada), Gregory Freidin of Russia (now in Berkeley), Georgiy Pavlov of Bulgaria (now in Oakland), Syed Shariq of the Subcontinent (now at Stanford), Doveen Schecter in Hong Kong, and Chris Haskett in Holland. Well, it is fitting to have an international bunch for this multi-cultural project.
Thank you for all your support, and don't forget to tell a friend, as we enter the final 3 days!!
Here's a little music below. Don't miss Juke Joint Jonny's sweet smile at the very end of the clip.
WooHoo! It's a bright morning in Oakland. We broke $10k just now, thanks to two friends. My old buddy and mentor, Glen Pearcy, brought us up to the edge. Glen made the searing and courageous documentary, Fighting For Our Lives (1975) about Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers movement, that was nominated for Best Doc Oscar. And then, Jordan Tamagni, my long-lost friend, brought us over the top. Jordan was one of the brightest and most alive people on President Clinton's White House staff, and now does great work for UNICEF.
Here is an excerpt from anthropologist Akos Ostor's paper on the film he made with Robert Gardner: Forest of Bliss.
Forest of Bliss (Anandavana) is an epithet of Banaras, the ancient religious center of India....Among other names is Kashi, the Luminous One, the City of Light. A lesser-know name is Mahashmashana, the Great Cremation Ground, where the devout achieve liberation from the ever-recurring cycle of rebirth. To die in Kashi is the wish of millions of Hindus, fulfilled for those who are cremated at one of the two great cremation grounds, the Manikarnika and the Harishchandra ghats (a ghat being a pass, landing ground, or steps leading to a river.)
Forest of Bliss is a film devoid of words and commentary, one that attains the level of an interpretive film of ideas.... It is not ethnographic in the strict sense of the term, yet it is true to the study of Indian civilization and Benares society and culture. It is a radiant film, in that it presents visually the genius and well as the central fact of Benares. (from East-West Film Journal, 1994)
All stills below are from Forest of Bliss -
Please click on the frame below to watch a short clip of my music video of Juke Joint Jonny's song Going to Mississippi.