The Flaherty

The Flaherty

Decades in the Cause of Independent Cinema
Patricia R. Zimmermann and Scott MacDonald
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/15/2017
Format: Hardback 9 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02624-8
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This is the inspiring story of The Flaherty, one of the oldest continuously running nonprofit media arts institutions in the world, which has shaped the development of independent film, video, and emerging forms in the United States over the past 60 years. Combining the words of legendary independent filmmakers with a detailed history of The Flaherty, Patricia R. Zimmermann and Scott MacDonald showcase its history and legacy, amply demonstrating how the relationships created at the annual Flaherty seminar have been instrumental in transforming American media history. Moving through the decades, each chapter opens with a detailed history of the organization by Zimmermann, who traces the evolution of The Flaherty from a private gathering of filmmakers to a small annual convening, to today’s ever-growing nexus of filmmakers, scholars, librarians, producers, funders, distributors, and others associated with international independent cinema. MacDonald expands each chapter by giving voice to the major figures in the evolution of independent media through transcriptions of key discussions galvanized by films shown at The Flaherty. The discussions feature Frances Flaherty, Robert Gardner, Fred Wiseman, Willard Van Dyke, Jim McBride, Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, Erik Barnouw, Barbara Kopple, Ed Pincus, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Bruce Conner, Peter Watkins, Su Friedrich, Marlon Riggs, William Greaves, Ken Jacobs, Kazuo Hara, Mani Kaul, Craig Baldwin, Bahman Ghobadi, Eyal Sivan, and many others.

Author Bio

Patricia R. Zimmermann is Professor of Screen Studies at Ithaca College. She is the author of Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (IUP, 1995) and Open Spaces: Openings, Closings, and Thresholds of International Public Media, among many other titles.

Scott MacDonald is Professor of Art History at Hamilton College. He is author of many books including, most recently, Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema and Binghamton Babylon: Voices from the Cinema Department (a nonfiction novel).


“Part myth and half truth, The Flaherty Seminar’s reputation as a hot bed of polemical debate attests to its absolute centrality to the documentary tradition. And here’s the proof: historical context provided by the authors and scintillating encounters generated between filmmakers and participants. Raw, incendiary, insightful: it’s a treasure to behold.”
 — Bill Nichols, author of Introduction to Documentary, 3rd edition

“The co-authors amply demonstrate that there’s much to appreciate about the Flaherty history, 55 years of discovering and celebrating independent cinema and independent filmmakers from around the world.”
 — ArtsFuse

“Thoroughly readable . . . [Readers] will be impressed by the history and inspired by the possibilities as yet unknown in the world of independent film, as seen through the lens of The Flaherty Way.”
 — Documentary Magazine

“This would seem like mere lore, were it not for the contribution of The Flaherty, Scott MacDonald and Patricia Zimmermann’s new volume on the history of this singular institution that has indelibly shaped independent and documentary filmmaking, as well as its critical reception, both in the United States and internationally.”
 — Film Quarterly

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Table of Contents

Patricia Zimmermann: Imagining a History of the Flaherty Seminar
Scott MacDonald: The Logistics of Transcribing and Editing Flaherty Discussions

1. The Flaherty Way
1959 Francis Flaherty--opening remarks at the Seminar

2. A Seminar, 1955-1959
1958 Robert Gardner with John Marshall--on The Hunters (1957)

3. An Organization, 1960-1969
1963 Francis Flaherty—on Nanook of the North (1922) and Moana (1926)
1967 Fred Wiseman—on Titicut Follies (1967)
1968 Willard Van Dyke--opening remarks at the Seminar
1968 Jim McBride and L. M. Kit Carson—on David Holzman’s Diary (1967)
1969 Michael Snow—on Wavelength (1967)

4. Politics, Cultural and Formal, 1970-1980
1970 Hollis Frampton—on Zorns Lemma (1970)
1970 Erik Barnouw, Paul Ronder, and Barbara Van Dyke—on Hiroshima-Nagasaki, August 1945 (1970)
1977 Barbara Kopple and Hart Perry—on Harlan County USA (1976)

5. Shock of the New, 1981-1989
1981 Ed Pincus—on Diaries (1971-1976) (c. 1980)
1983 Trinh T. Minh-ha—on Reassemblage (1982)
1984 Bruce Conner—on Ten Second Film (1965), Permian Strata (1969), Mongoloid (1978), and America Is Waiting (1981)
1987 Peter Watkins and others—on The Journey (1987)
1987 Su Friedrich—on Damned If You Don’t (1987)

6. Crises, 1990-1999
1990 Marlon Riggs—on Tongues Untied (1989)
1991 William Greaves—on Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1972)
1992 Ken Jacobs—on XCXHXEXRXRXIXEXSX (many performances after 1980)
1992 Kazuo Hara—on Extreme Private Eros (1974)
1994 Nick DeoCampo—on Revolutions Happen Like Refrains in a Song (1987), Memories of Old Manila (1993), and Isaak (1993)
1994 Mani Kaul—on Uski Roti ("A Day’s Bread," 1969) and Dhrupad (1982)
1995 Craig Baldwin—on Sonic Outlaws (1995)

7. The Brand, 2000-2015
2000 Sergey Dvortsevoy—on Paradise (1995); Vicky Funari—on Paulina (1998)

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