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A Goodbye That Is Also a Beginning

We lost a magical human being on March 29. Agnès Varda, the brilliant French filmmaker who made her first feature, La Pointe Courte, in 1955 died in Paris at age 90 last month. Just a year ago, Agnès was nominated for a best documentary Academy Award for her documentary Faces Places. She and her daughter and frequent collaborator, Rosalie Varda attended the ceremony wearing matching Gucci silk pajamas. It was a playful middle finger to the demands on how women should look when they attend the ceremony. Agnès was working on a new film when she passed. She spent 64 years making groundbreaking art, and yet, she is not as well known as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Alain Resnais, her fellow French New Wave filmmakers.

Yesterday during the last meeting for my graduate course, we were discussing a book on feminist research by Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch. One of the students brought up the book’s idea that in order to change the way that we think as a field, we need to make moves that are like tectonic shifts in our approach to scholarship. As we talked about the concept, we liked the idea of making changes that shake the very ground we stand on. Changes that result in hills and mountains, in new continents. We also talked about coming to terms with the fact that change of that magnitude is slow. All we can do is start working toward those changes because it will take generations for them to have their full effect. Change on a global scale is gradual and requires endless patience. Women artists rarely get the attention that their male counterparts receive regardless of their talent and the value of their work. It is thanks to pioneers like Agnès that we’re moving in the right direction, however slowly. Personal change, at least, can be a lot faster, and she lit a spark in thousands of women, inspiring them—maybe even compelling them—to tell their own stories. As one of those women, I want to thank her for setting whole continents in motion. Although I will not live to see the alchemy that movement ends up creating, I am glad to give it a push of my own.

Working on the Rough Draft for The Weeping Season

My editor Cristina Carrasco and I are beginning to see something that resembles the rough cut of The Weeping Season in our future. As we were Skyping today, we talked about the complicated choices that come with making a personal documentary, with taking the lives of a person and their family and trying to tell one story that joins together all those shiny threads. We are beginning to see that story come to life, and it’s at once thrilling and terrifying. If you’re interested in providing feedback on the rough draft, please let me know by replying to this email.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

There were certain things my dad talked about that would get lodged in my mind and reverberate for days and then years to come. I am not sure in what context he talked about moving mountains, but he did often and the idea used to perplex me. When you’re a child, metaphors are slippery—half reality, half imagination. Mountains looked so massive, so firmly stuck to the ground. I remember asking him if he’d ever moved a mountain himself. He looked at me very seriously and said that he had, but only a little. After he vanished, I’d close my eyes and see him, feet dug in the ground, arms flexed against a mountain as he attempted to slightly shift its position in the world. Now that I’m a mother who tries to explain the idea of metaphors to her boys, I wonder if his method was better. Perhaps by leaving me with that strange image running through my mind for years he gave me a deeper sense of metaphors’ haunting power. I like the honesty in his statement, the fact that he didn’t pretend to be a man of eternal strength but rather someone who was willing to exert great effort for little change. It has made my own behemoth tasks in life seem less daunting.

I Am One of the Women Filmmakers Commemorating Agnès Varda on IndieWire

IndieWire remembered Agnès Varda with “Miranda July, Greta Gerwig, and 15 Women Filmmakers on What Agnès Varda Meant to Them.” I was honored to be among the likes of Ava DuVernay and Lena Dunham discussing what Agnès meant to us.

Saying Goodbye to Agnès Varda on agnès films

Ten years ago, I co-founded the online publication agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers with my dear friend Caitlan Spronk. Since we named the publication after her, we wanted to say farewell to her in that publication. You can check out my tribute here.

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