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April 11, 2013 | posted in Filmmakers
Marielle Nitoslawska is a professor at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Quebec. Her film, “Breaking the Frame” is an exploration of the life and work of artist, Carolee Schneemann.
CIFF: How did you first come to know the work of artist Carolee Schneemann? How did her work impact you?
MN: Before becoming a filmmaker I did a first degree in painting and art history. I was drawn to art ever since I can remember, from my earliest childhood. In my early twenties I saw Schneemann’s film, “Fuses” by chance in a local art- house cinema. It made a huge impact on me – it was the first time I’d ever seen a painting in motion! Though I’d never seen explicit lovemaking images like this, they didn’t shock me. Somehow, I knew that they weren’t meant to be shocking. So I always remembered this film, though I had no idea who the author was, or where this work was coming from.
Thirty years later, when I was researching women’s representations of sexuality for my film, “Bad Girl,” I remembered “Fuses.” I researched Schneemann’s work, and began to grasp its significance. I knew that if I ever pursued the theme of the female body, I’d focus on Schneemann. Right after I finished this film, it was as if she’d fallen from the sky! She had just rented a studio in Montreal. We met. I visited her magical home in upstate New York and the adventure began.
CIFF: In your director's statement you said of Schneemann's work "perhaps has no bottom." Can you elaborate on that statement?
MN: I was referring to Schneemann’s archives, realizing that it perhaps has no bottom. Since she was very young artist in the late 50s, she collected letters, photos, sound recordings, filmed diaries, exhibition posters, 50 years of daily diaries, notes and sketches for all her works so there was an extensive and eclectic archive collected over 50 years.
This was an enormous amount of material to sift through – and then to find the connections and correspondences –early on in the film I realized that it was an impossible task to go through everything, though I can’t say how many hundreds of hours I spent going through that archive.
CIFF: What were the biggest challenges you faced in making this film?
MN: The practical challenge was sifting through the enormous amount of material I had to research: [Schneemann’s] works, her archive, her correspondence. On the other hand, the formal challenge was to break away from the standard film-on-art genre, where you have key critics or historians telling viewers what to think [about the artist-subject]. I wanted to show the artist ‘from the inside’, I always thought I’m making the film through Schneemann not about her. So the film is as much an essay and a conversation, a call and response between Schneemann and myself, an investigation and exposition. The multiple shifts of perspective required innovative audiovisual strategies, and a lot of experimentation.
CIFF: This year's theme is "Be The Applause." What aspect of your film do you hope will inspire the applause of CIFF audiences?
MN: “Breaking the Frame” is made to be hypnotic – to enable [the viewer] to enter into a different realm of reality, to consider how we can shape reality through cinema. There’s room in the film for audience to shape their own views. I would like audiences to be open and experience the film at a visceral level.
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