In 1968, Agnès Varda made a film titled Black Panthers. She traveled to Oakland, where protests had been erupting over the imprisonment of activist Huey P. Newton. She interviewed Newton himself, and spoke with other activists involved with the Black Panther Party, including Kathleen Cleaver, who shared her thoughts on the natural hair movement. Varda does not speak over the course of the entire movie, cobbling it together entirely from interviews and footage of the events she witnessed.
Twelve years later, Varda returned to the Golden State, but this time to Los Angeles. She was captivated by the city’s brilliant murals. Murs Murs (“Walls Walls”) is a more essayistic film, with Varda relaying her observations and opinions (she doesn’t care for the blondes on the beach, or the Hollywood stars). She interviews some of the muralists, and follows rollerblading pedestrians along the Santa Monica boardwalk. The film is a fabulous portrait of LA in the early 1980s.
You’ll have the chance to see both of these films this Friday at the Anthology Film Archives, as part of its month-long series, Documentarists for a Day, which “highlights the documentary achievements of directors more widely known for their fiction films.” In the casa of Varda, however, she is also known for being a visual artist and photographer. She has always liked to mix her talents and blur the boundaries of genres, casting professional actors alongside everyday people and combining fictional and real-life elements. And, in fact, in recent years, Varda has returned to documentary filmmaking, directing the Oscar-nominated film Faces Places last year with the artist JR.
When: Friday, February 2, 9pm
Where: Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue, East Village, Manhattan)
More info at Anthology Film Archives.