Danni Shen, Curatorial Fellow in Visual Arts, organizes and interprets exhibitions at Wave Hill.
As part of Wave Hill’s Sinful Weekend events, Sunday August 9 from 2 to 4pm, guest curator Andrew Ingall has selected five recent films by independent filmmakers for a program of “Wrath and Resilience: film shorts. The viewing includes Eternal Storm (2012) by Jamie Stuart, Kombit (2014) by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, One Child (2014) by Zijian Mu, Can’t Stop The Water (2013) by Jason Ferris and Rebecca Marshall Ferris and Glory at Sea (2008) by Benh Zeitlin.
Following the screening, Ingall will lead a discussion with participating filmmakers Rebecca Marshall Ferris, Jamie Stuart, and Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, followed by a Q&A. Danni Shen interviewed Andrew beforehand to learn more about the curatorial process behind the film selection, as well as his own interests in film. Sinful Weekend events are keyed to the exhibition Wrath—Force of Nature in Glyndor Gallery, itself part of a multi-institution presentation of The Seven Deadly Sins organized by the Fairfield Westchester Museum Alliance, of which Wave Hill is an active member.
Danni Shen: Most of the film shorts you selected for the Wrath program seem to be documentary based, with the exception of Glory at Sea, a cinematic narrative about a “group of mourners [that] build a boat from the debris of New Orleans in an allegorical journey from Hades.” Can you talk about your curatorial process for this selection—how you approached it conceptually and cinematographically, in terms of genre, and so on? How does one curate films?
Andrew Ingall: My search for films directed in the last seven years involved scanning selections from highly regarded film festivals, consulting with other curators, and fishing on the Internet. This process resulted mostly in documentaries, as you note. Ultimately, I was looking for the best stories; that was the most important criterion. And geographic diversity was important, too. There’s poetry in Benh Zeitlin’s narrative film, but you can see lyricism in the other films as well.
In terms of how I curate, I think it’s helpful to be clear about what to communicate, the context and the audience. For the program at Wave Hill, your visual arts curators Jennifer McGregor and Gabriel de Guzman were helpful in providing some of that background and I went from there. The theme of resiliency just naturally emerged—I wasn’t looking for it. Later, I read Rebecca Solnit’s book, A Paradise Built in Hell, in which she describes the resourcefulness, generosity, empathy and bravery that occurs among people during disasters. I think these filmmakers communicate that as well.
DS: Films function on many levels in that they can be expository, socially-engaged or critical, or even just optimistic or creative ways to look forward. What is it about film as a medium that interests you?
AI: I love film because of its flexibility. While most of the films selected are narrative-driven, Jamie Stuart’s film Eternal Storm is an example closer to how one experiences painting—say, for instance, a work by Angela Dufresne in Wave Hill’s Wrath—Force of Nature exhibition currently on view. No protagonists or characters speak. Instead, powerful visuals provide impressions and ideas rather than linear stories. Film certainly demands more of a viewer’s time and energy than other media.
AI: I am not a practicing filmmaker, but a long time ago I took a Super-8 filmmaking class at the San Francisco Art Institute. We developed the film ourselves in buckets of chemicals. I was taking voice lessons at the time and I made a film that mashed up the Broadway musical “Brigadoon” with the queer culture of San Francisco in the early 1990s. It involved me dancing in a kilt in idyllic Golden Gate Park accompanied by an audio recording of me and my singing teacher. The film screened only once. I’m better suited for curating and enabling other artists.
DS: What experience do you have with film and moving image?
AI: I kind of fell into film after graduate school, where I studied performance. I worked at The Jewish Museum for many years as the archivist for the its television and radio collection. I organized screenings of this material, and curated exhibitions of video art and new media. For several years, I also managed the New York Jewish Film Festival, a collaboration between the Museum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center. I also served on the selection committee in 2010 for The Museum of Modern Art’s “Documentary Fortnight” festival. More recently, I directed a documentary film fund and served as a guest curator for the exhibition “Videofreex: The Art of Guerrilla Television” at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art/SUNY New Paltz.
DS: How did you first become interested in film?
AI: I suppose I first got interested in film as an art form when I was a teenager. I was lucky to grow up in a small city like Providence, Rhode Island, where we had theaters for independent and alternative film. My mind was blown when I attended the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Cinerama to celebrate my 8th grade graduation from Orthodox Jewish Day School. I also remember seeing the cult film Liquid Sky at the Avon Cinema and David Lynch’s Eraserhead with an audience sitting on smelly couches at the Cable Car Cinema.
DS: Do you know any of this weekend’s filmmakers personally?
AI: I don’t, but I’m excited to meet the four who will be here our post-screening Q&A.
DS: Of the ones you’ve selected for this weekend, is there one that you’re particularly drawn to?
AI: I like the impact that these films create when shown together. I hope the audience will, too!
Pictured above, from the top: Still from Can’t Stop The Water (2013), directed by Jason Ferris and Rebecca Marshall Ferris; Still from Eternal Storm (2012), directed by Jamie Stuart; Still from Glory at Sea (2008), directed by Benh Zeitlin.