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November 05, 2018

Denver Film Festival - An Evening with Barbara Hammer

barbara hammer now.jpg

As part of my coverage of the Denver Film Festival, I usually make a point of attending the presentation of the Stan Brakhage Vision Award. Part of my own film education was watching what were called "underground films" both on my own and in a formal class at New York University. I also got to know Stan Brakhage a little bit in the mid 1970s, exchanging some correspondence at the time.

My awareness of Barbara Hammer was totally by chance. I had lived in Miami Beach for a couple of years a bit more than a decade ago. I was a regular at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, at that time operating out of a small storefront with folding chairs for seating. The Cinematheque's curator, Dana Keith, presented Ms. Hammer and her film, Lover Other on May 15, 2007. A small birthday celebration followed the screening.

Two films were shown at the Denver Film Festival, Still Point (1989) and Tender Fictions (1996). I don't feel like I have the vocabulary to describe either film with the appropriate words or intelligence required. What I've seen might be compared to abstract collages, fragments of images and recorded words. Tender Fictions has a narrative line, it's autobiographical up to a point, but Hammer also plays with the concept of the "unreliable narrator". This is a combination of home movies, documentaries and outright play, her own little slapstick comedy with the barely disguised, cross-dressed bank robber.

Barbara Hammer almost didn't attend last night's tribute. She's been battling cancer. But she talked a bit about knowing Stan Brakhage, his first wife, Jane, and the influence Brakhage had on her own filmmaking. Following Tender Fictions was her wondering if she was more autobiographical than originally intended.

Festival co-founder, Ron Henderson, who created the award, announced his retirement from the festival that evening. I can't avoid the cliche of calling this "the end of an era".

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 5, 2018 10:05 AM