October 3, 2019

Radical Nonfiction Film Series: My First Film and a live performance by Zia Anger, presented by the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts

On Thursday, October 17, the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University continues the fall film series, Radical Nonfiction: Fantasy, Observation and Elasticity in the Documentary Film, with a screening of My First Film and live solo performance by filmmaker and artist Zia Anger, along with a screening of Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s short film Walled Unwalled. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. in the James Stewart Film Theater and is free and open to the public. The series is organized by filmmaker Robert Greene.

The series has been put together by Greene to take the current pulse of the ever-changing documentary film form. He notes, “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 realities— 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.”

silhouttes with fire in background

A still from Zia Anger’s My First Film, courtesy the filmmaker.

“An expanded cinema performance” is how the trailer touts filmmaker and artist Zia Anger’s new work, My First Film. “Anger’s performance piece-meets desktop documentary-meets total deconstruction of everything you think a movie is supposed to be is a searing, hilarious, imaginatively interactive and deeply personal look at the idea of failure and what it means to subject yourself to system that has seemingly been built to treat you as an enemy,” notes Greene. My First Film tackles Anger’s strained relationship with an often misogynistic, always risk-averse film business and looks at her forced-into-invisibility first feature, Always All Ways, Anne Marie. “Anger performs the piece live in the theater,” explains Greene, “adding to the already intense sense of intimacy she conjures onscreen, where her ironic, palpably intense mode of interrogation makes something glorious free spirited out of stunted frustration.”

Her performance is preceded by the short film, Walled Unwalled, by Lawrence Abu Hamdan.

woman in blue sweater stands in doorway

Filmmaker Zia Anger, courtesy the filmmaker.

Anger works in moving images. Her most recent short, My Last Film, premiered at the 53rd New York Film Festival. In 2015 her short I Remember Nothing had its world premiere at New Directors/New Films and its international premiere at Festival del film Locarno. Other screenings include AFI Fest, Denver Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art,  and Vienna Independent Shorts. She has made music videos for various artists including Angel Olsen, Mitski, Julianna Barwick, Beach House, Maggie Rogers, and Jenny Hval, whom she has also toured with as a performer and stage director. Her music videos have been featured in various online publications including Pitchfork, the Guardian, and NPR. She has performed at Pitchfork Music Festival, Basilica Soundscape, and Oya Festivalen. In 2018 she began touring My First Film as a new solo performance that traces the last ten years of her lost and abandoned work.

In 2016 Anger participated in the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Intensive. In 2015 she was included in Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” issue. She is a 2015  New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in film/video. In 2008 she was the recipient of the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant for her short film, Lover Boy. She holds B.A./B.S from Ithaca College and M.F.A. from School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Greene’s films include Bisbee ’17, which screened at Princeton on September 26, and Kate Plays Christine (2016), which won a Jury Award for Writing at Sundance. His documentaries include the Gotham Awards-nominated Actress (2014), Fake it so Real (2011), and the Gotham Awards-nominated Kati with an I (2010). Greene 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. He has been a Sundance Edit Lab Advisor and was on the U.S. Documentary Jury for Sundance 2017. He has edited over a dozen feature films and writes for outlets such as Sight & Sound and Indiewire, as well as serves as the Filmmaker-in-Chief for the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the University of Missouri.

The final event in the series is a screening on November 7 of Hale County This Morning, This Evening; Easter Snap; and other new short films by RaMell Ross, who uses legacies of racial objectification to create new ways of seeing, followed by a conversation with Ross and Greene.

The film series is supported through the John Sacret Young ’69 Lecture Series fund. Sacret Young is a 1969 graduate of Princeton and an author, producer, director, and screenwriter. He has been nominated for seven Emmy Awards and seven Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards, winning two WGA Awards.  He is perhaps best known for co-creating, along with William F. Broyles Jr., China Beach, the critically acclaimed ABC-TV drama series about medics and nurses during the Vietnam War, and for his work on the television drama The West Wing. Young has also received a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award, and his original mini-series about the Gulf War, Thanks of a Grateful Nation, was honored with his fifth Humanitas Prize nomination.

For more information on the Program in Visual Arts and the more than 100 performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures presented each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts, most of them free, visit

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