Flaherty NYC, an independent media organization named after renowned documentarian Robert Flaherty, strives to illuminate the human spirit through cinematic confrontation. In efforts to push boundaries, discover new voices, and reaffirm the independent filmmaker, the Flaherty introduces new programmers each season to create a program surrounding one theme that further positions the institution on the cutting edge of cinematic discourse. The 2016 fall season presents “Wild Sounds,” exploring the registers and resonance of the female voice in a male-dominated cinematic world. Genevieve Yue and Chris Stults wove together a program rich in the female voice that ultimately reflects and regenerates a space for the female voice in film.

Genevieve Yue is an assistant professor at the New School’s Eugene Lang College in the department of Culture and Media. She is currently completing a book on gender and film materiality, and is a regular contributor to Film Comment, Art-Agenda, and Film Quarterly. Currently Yue holds the Eugene M. Lang Professorship for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring, and received her Ph.D. from USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2012.

Chris Stults is an associate curator at the Wexner Center for the Arts who has taught history of experimental filmmaking at the Ohio State University. Stults’ 2012 travel series through Brazil, entitled Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary, was the largest film survey presented in North America. His writing has appeared in Film Comment, Cinemascope, and the Vienna International Film Festival catalogue, among others.

This fall’s Flaherty NYC program will feature independent and experimental film at Anthology Film Archives every other Monday evening at 7pm through December 12. Find a preview of the program here. “Wild Sound” artists include: Martine Syms, Gunvor Nelson, Courtney Stephens, Kollectiv (Pablo Salas/Pedro Chaskel), Wu Tsang, Eduardo Coutinho, Elisa Giardina Papa, Louise Carrin, Anne Charlotte Robertson, Mounira Al-Solh and Lucy Clout.

POV was able to speak with the programmers about their experiences and thoughts in creating “Wild Sounds”, and what that might mean for cinema today.

POV: What does ‘Wild Sounds’ mean to you and how does it fit in with current cinema and cultural trends and conversations?

Chris Stults: The series, for me, is a corrective to things like last night’s vice-presidential debate, where the two male candidates’ voices blustered away over top of each other and, especially, drowned out (or ignored) the questions and interjections from the female moderator. Somehow still far too often in dominant media, women are meant to be seen but not heard, to paraphrase a homily. The “Wild Sounds” series provides a space to listen to a spectrum of women’s voices, with an emphasis on voices (and modes of filmmaking) that dominant culture has no interest in representing.

POV: Describe your programming process—where do you find these films? What elements create a cohesive film program?

Stults: There were a handful of films that Genevieve and I each thought were essential for this program and we started the process by searching for films that would complement those first selections. We strove to pair things that would normally be programmed together to hopefully create generative relationships, as well as to draw out certain aspects of the individual works. A cohesive program finds the right balance of confusion and comprehension, contains both difficulties and accessibilities, and hopefully has space for laughter. To continue the voices metaphor, a cohesive program should sound like a conversation. And our hope is that the conversation continues once the program ends.

POV: How might these films challenge viewers’ perceptions? How did they challenge your own perception?

Genevieve Yue: The films in the series ask a viewer to listen in ways they are perhaps unaccustomed to doing. Cinema is historically biased in favor of the visual domain, and our emphasis on the voices of women, voices that demand to be heard, opens up new spaces for meaning and contemplation. As programmers, we were excited by the possibility of letting our ears guide us through our selection process, making connections that we might not have come to otherwise.

POV: Where do you see film, and topics surrounding cinema, headed in the next 5-10 years? How does the “Wild Sounds” program reflect or challenge the cinematic zeitgeist?

Yue: The moving image is in a really exciting and uncertain place right now. Film has long since been declared “dead,” and yet there are new artist-run film laboratories springing up around the world, driven by a younger generation of makers eager to get their hands on 8mm and 16mm film. We are seeing a proliferation of digital and internet art, works that not necessarily bound to the experimental film or documentary or art world, but move easily across all of these spaces, perhaps in a “wild” way. It’s very hard to say what is exactly happening in this contemporary moment, but we wanted to show some of its most dynamic aspects.

At the same time, we didn’t want to only emphasis the present moment, but put it in dialogue with the past. We have included several films that might be considered “classics” of avant-garde and documentary film: Gunvor Nelson’s My Name Is Oona (1969), Pedro Chaskel and Pablo Salas’s Somos + (1985), Anne Charlotte Robertson’s Five Year Diary project (1981-1997), and Cauleen Smith’s Chronicle of a a Lying Spirit (by Kelly Gabron) (1992). We feel strongly that it is important to consider the many places from which a poetics and politics of the voice have been expressed, so that they may resonance all the most deeply in the current moment.

POV: How does “Wild Sounds” honor Flaherty’s mission to to ‘illuminate the human spirit’?

Yue: Our process has been very dialogic — Chris and I were in constant communication as we organized the series, and the program we assembled is very much like a conversation. There are contentions, disagreements, questions, answers, and many more questions. This emphasis on dialogue, which extends to the way the films speak to each other, and how the filmmakers during the Q&A are encouraged also to respond to each other’s films, is very much in keeping with the Flaherty’s mission in sustaining the human spirit. It is, for us, a spirit that speaks, often brilliantly, but perhaps more importantly it is one that also listens for voices that aren’t as often heard, and that might even express themselves in ways entirely beyond speech.

The Flaherty NYC Fall 2016 “Wild Sounds” program runs every other Monday night at 7pm, from October 3rd to December 12th at Anthology Film Archives. Tickets are on sale at the box office 30 minutes prior to the screening. Some filmmakers will be present for discussion at the end of each event.

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.