RaMell Ross’s HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING may be the most radical film ever nominated for an Oscar. The photographer/filmmaker’s subjective, conceptually rigorous portrait of a community of African Americans — some of whom were his students — in Hale County, Alabama, was made from 1300 hours of intensely personal footage and edited into a meditation on life, the performance of identity and the legacies-on-legacies of representation of black and brown people onscreen. With such disparate influences as southern photography, Alan Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Godfrey Reggio’s “Qatsi” trilogy, the film is a singular, remarkably moving vision that both revels in abstraction and depicts the rhythms of life as it is actually lived. With the unexpected success of HALE COUNTY, Ross has become one of the most important voices of a documentary film community trying to find new ways of communicating the experiences of the world. The film will be preceded by Ross’ Sundance short film EASTER SNAP (2019) and will be followed by an extended conversation between the filmmaker and Robert Greene.
ABOUT THE FILM SERIES
Fantasy, Observation and Elasticity in the Documentary Form
Programmed by ROBERT GREENE
Documentary film is full of contradictions; the staged meets the observed, intervention meets the authentic. Documentary film uses observation to show us the world we inhabit, but nonfiction images are also records of the fantasies of both filmmakers and subjects. What we believe, how we subjectively formulate our experiences — the fantasy of our own realties— can be captured and magnified by the camera and how we edit images together. This is documentary: an elastic, ever-changing attempt at working with the world as it is and as we hope it be. RADICAL NONFICTION is a series put together by filmmaker Robert Greene to take the current pulse of this ever-changing form. The images of RaMell Ross use legacies of racial objectification to create new ways of seeing. Zia Anger takes the role of the filmmaker playing herself to new heights of immediacy. Lawrence Abu Hamdan uses sound and precise performances to electrify his political interventions. Meanwhile, Garrett Bradley has found a language all her own, mixing performance, history, journalism and the gallery space to challenge modes of representation in exciting ways. Films by these innovators (and a look at Greene’s own work) serve as a temperature check for this enduringly exciting cinematic form.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
RaMell Ross is an artist, filmmaker and writer based in Rhode Island and Alabama. His work has appeared in the NY Times, Aperture, Harper’s Magazine, TIME, Oxford American, and at Walker Arts Center. He is recipient of an Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer’s Fellowship and a Rhode Island Foundation MacColl Johnson artist fellowship. Ross recently had a solo exhibition at Aperture Gallery in NY. His feature documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening won a Special Jury Award for Creative Vision at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for an Oscar at the 91st Academy Awards, and has screened at the Museum of Modern Ross double-majored in English and Sociology at Georgetown University and teaches in Brown University’s Visual Art Department. Images from South County, AL (a Hale County) and new work will be displayed in a solo exhibition at the Ogden Museum in late 2020. www.ramellross.com
ROBERT GREENE’s latest film BISBEE ’17 (2018) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and screened on POV on PBS. His previous film KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (2016) won a Jury Award for Writing at Sundance. Robert’s documentaries include the Gotham Awards-nominated ACTRESS (2014), FAKE IT SO REAL (2011) and the Gotham Awards-nominated KATI WITH AN I (2010). Robert was an inaugural Sundance Art of Nonfiction fellow in 2015, is a three-time nominee for Best Director at the Cinema Eye Honors and received the 2014 Vanguard Artist Award from the San Francisco DocFest. His first documentary, OWNING THE WEATHER (2009), was screened at the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Robert has edited over a dozen features, including HER SMELL (2018), GOLDEN EXITS (2017), QUEEN OF EARTH (2015) and LISTEN UP PHILIP (2014) by Alex Ross Perry, Amanda Rose Wilder’s award winning APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT (2014), Charles Poekel’s Spirit Awards-nominated CHRISTMAS, AGAIN (2015) and Douglas Tirola’s HEY BARTENDER (2013). He has been a Sundance Edit Lab Advisor and was on the U.S. Documentary Jury for Sundance 2017. Robert writes for outlets such as Sight & Sound and Indiewire and serves as the Filmmaker-in-Chief for the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri.
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