Renowned Director Barbara Hammer Visits

Image from Welcome to This House.

Throughout the academic year, students in FIT’s Film and Media program are treated to contemporary films, followed by dialogues with the films’ directors as part of the Film and Media Screening Series. On October 25, experimental auteur Barbara Hammer presented her new documentary, Welcome to This House, about the life and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979).

The director of more than 80 films, including frank depictions of lesbian sexuality, Hammer has been honored with retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, Jeu du Paume in Paris, and the Toronto International Film Festival. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013 to create Welcome to This House.

Through interviews with poets, friends, and scholars, the film details Bishop’s life, the places she lived, and the women she loved, from the early death of her parents until her own death. Dramatizations of life in her homes in Great Village, Nova Scotia; Key West, FL; Santos, Brazil; and Cambridge, MA, are spliced with historical photographs and impressionistic imagery. A hypnotic soundtrack by Joan La Barbara complements Hammer’s layered visuals. What results is an immersive and unflinching portrait of a brilliant poet and flawed woman.

Associate Professor Michelle Handelman, Director Barbara Hammer, Professor Amy Lemmon.
Associate Professor Michelle Handelman, Director Barbara Hammer, Professor Amy Lemmon.

Before the Bishop film, Hammer screened the 1974 short, Dyketactics, a four-minute fever dream of lesbian fellowship and eroticism.

Afterward, Hammer discussed the film with Michelle Handelman, associate professor of Film, Media, and Performing Arts; Amy Lemmon, professor of English and Communication Studies; and a number of students in the audience who were moved by what they saw.

“I wanted to show [Elizabeth Bishop] as a whole person, not as a figure who was idealized,” Hammer said. “I wanted to give the film as a gift to the [LGBTQ] community, because people read her poetry and don’t know she’s queer.”

On September 13, Peruvian filmmaker Juan Daniel F. Molero presented his award-winning film VIDEOFILIA (and other viral syndromes). The third and final installment of the fall semester screening series, to take place on November 15, will be In the Eye of the Spiral, a documentary by Eve Blouin and Raynald Leconte about Haitians who produce art as a path toward redemption and survival.

The Film and Media Screening Series is supported by the Diversity Council; the Student-Faculty Corporation; the School of Liberal Arts; the Department of Film, Media, and Performing Arts; and the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. All screenings are free and open to the public.

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