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Fresh at FLEFF

News, Views, Updates and More about the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival

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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 11:29AM   |  10 comments
Albert Maysles, documentary director

Blog written by Ann Michel, FLEFF internship coordinator and principal of Insights International.

The First Checkpoint for FLEFF 2011:

The 3 day visit by Albert Maysles, director of Salesman, Grey Gardens, and Gimme Shelter, to name a few.

Gimme Shelter played at FLEFF partner Cinemapolis to a sold-out, packed house. The audience  stayed to listen to Maysles'  stories about The Rolling Stones and shooting directi cinema, while the rest of the country watched the Steelers and Green Bay.

Maysles then spoke at free screenings of Grey Gardens and Salesman at Ithaca College, kicking off FLEFF's return to the screens and community of Ithaca.   If you weren't there, you missed it! 

A special shout-out to Professor Arturo Sinclair in the Television/Radio Department and the Roy H. Park School of Communications for all of their work to bring the Mr. Maysles, one of the pioneers of direct cinema, to Ithaca.

This screening of Gimme Shelter with Mr. Maysles was just a taste of what is to come: carefully curated shows, premieres, specially commissioned works with live music, and an active website.  

Stay tuned!



It was such an incredible experience to have Mr. Maysles visit Ithaca. I have bragged to my friends from back home that I am getting so much out of my eduction at Ithaca because I get chances to interact with such well known, respected figures. The interaction with Mr. Maysles has tied into my Nonfiction Film Theory class where we have discussed his films further and related them to the topics we are reviewing. I am looking forward to more exciting events and interactions with FLEFF 2011.

For one student's love letter to Albert Maysles, see her excellent recap of the visit on Rattle:

It is always amazing to watch a film accompanied with the filmmaker, especially old ones when there can be so many questions about context and technique. I most enjoyed Grey Gardens, a hilarious observation of an older woman and her mother living day to day. It was so thrilling to have Albert Maysles reveal things about the production process, having seen the finished production made so long ago. One question was raised about how Maysles made the two women comfortable enough with his presence that they could actually have a serious emotionally engaged fight with him shooting. He was nonchalant, answering that he'd just come in and film. I loved how aware of the camera the women allowed themselves to be, it was not only humorous but made me feel more comfortable as an audience member. In one scene of emotional climax, Maysles literally films the himself and his camera in the mirror so we become relievingly alienated as audience members, allowing for a more comfortable omniscient position. Having the old man physically there in the audience was exhilarating. It added a whole new aspect of being an audience member.

It's easy to confirm that an entire different feeling is added when you are able to see a film with the filmmaker there. Especially an older film, which allow questions about context that might never have been answered to be responded to. My favorite of the films was Grey Gardens. One of the questions asked of Maysles was how did he get the women to open up such an emotional argument with him filming and his response was so nonchalant, they just did. It was also interesting to me the acknowledgment of the camera. With all the controversy about if the presence of the camera changing the behavior of the subject, I just thought it was sweet how obvious and charming the relationship between Maysles and the two women were.

Yes Kaela, meeting the filmmaker, and watching their film with them present is a rare and highly valued life experience. You made the right decision to go.

And yes, that is the question, how did Mr. Maysles get that level of trust and collaboration with the Beals? Meeting Albert, and feeling the Maysles gaze reveals it: he loves what he does. This is not something that can be learned, it is just his nature, unforced and genuine.

Albert Maysles was such a sweet director. I'm really glad FLEFF gave us that opportunity to talk with him. I can't wait for more FLEFF events!

Some of the things that Mr. Maysles said after the screening were enlightening. I remember he said that "Narration was a lazy way to tell a story." Thinking about that made me realize how beautiful and well done his documentaries are compared to a lot of the more recent and loud ones we see more of today.

I was intrigued with many of the things that Albert Maysles said during the Q&A session. As Shawn stated above, Maysles said that narration is a very unprofessional way of creating a documentary. I had never really thought of narration in that way. I also liked that he "just filmed what (he) saw." He didn't try to make something more of his style than what it was. He was just capturing the events of the moment and showing the people of the time. This is what I consider a true documentary.

I am used to seeing documentaries that are compiled mostly of "talking heads" and b-roll so Maysles' direct cinema style was a fresh experience for me. I found it enlightening, and fascinating for me, as a viewer, to feel almost as if I was intimately intruding in the lives of the two women from "Grey Gardens." At first it felt somewhat uncomfortable, but as the film went on, and I began realizing the genuine relationship between the mother and daughter, I embraced the intimacy Maysles is so gifted in creating.

I was captivated when watching Salesman. It was the dramatic feature length movie that Maysles intended. I am beginning to think that the presence of a camera evokes drama. Editing plays a crucial role, but I can't help but think that with the camera's presence the expectation of drama is created, and from that expectation drama manifests itself. So the camera allows our everyday lives to unfold in a way that is cinematic. The most provocative point bring the truth and meaning we derive from the camera.

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