The Gleaners, an oil painting by Jean-François Millet.
In her documentary The Gleaners & I (2000), Agnes Varda’s point-of-departure is a 1857 painting by Jean-Francois Millet portraying three women gleaning the fields. The painting, hanging in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, is captured in the film through crowds of onlookers. While in his painting Millet sought to give a voice to the plight of the 19th-century poor, Varda expands the topic and draws a contemporary picture of what it means to glean in the 20th century.
With camera in hand and a small crew, Varda, who was in her 70s at the time, criss-crosses France. On her way from Paris to the northern countryside, to the wine region of Burgundy, to the oyster farms on the seashore and back, Varda meets gleaners of a vast array of agricultural products. Men and women who sift through tons of unmarketable potatoes, apples, and tomatoes, and who take over a deserted vineyard. In the city, she highlights urban excess, market-day leftovers and supermarket waste.
Maintaining a sense of humor, she places magistrates in black robes in the field to inform us that gleaning of food follows 16th-century laws. However, gleaning of rejected objects, images and impressions has no regulations. Artists collect discarded articles to create objects of art, and Varda partakes in the activities and in doing so the factual and the personal intermingle. While narrating the story she takes her own camera and gleans images of her aging hands, of trucks passing by, and of abstract shapes on her wet ceiling. A remarkable film which is as informative as it is entertaining.
— TOVA BECK-FRIEDMAN
Welcome to NYWIFT, Toby Perl Freilich! Toby is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and writer, focusing on cultural reporting. Her work explores all sorts of perspectives, from senators to artists, spanning across the world. She co-produced and co-directed Moynihan, a film about the late New York senator, policy expert, and public intellectual. She also directed, produced, and wrote Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment, about one of the world's longest running and most successful experiments in radical, secular communal living. Right now, she is producing and directing I Make Maintenance Art: The Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles about the pioneering ecofeminist and the first Artist in Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. Read about Toby’s inspiring past and future projects here!READ MORE
Finding your tribe is one of life’s greatest pleasures—and losing it is one of the greatest sorrows. In NYWIFT Member Amy Nicholson’s beautifully observed film Happy Campers, working-class Americans gather every summer at a seaside trailer park in Chincoteague, Virginia, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a scrappy, no-frills vacationland, and each other’s company. When a developer buys the land and reimagines the property, the inhabitants of this shabby Shangri-La wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air. Happy Campers just made its world premiere at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Mention for the Grand Jury Prize. Amy spoke to us about her unique process making this film, biggest challenges and triumphs, and the commodification of some of life’s simplest pleasures.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Melisa Ramos! Melisa is a filmmaker and professor from Puerto Rico, bringing 14 years of post-production and motion graphics experience to New York. Her first production, Puerto Rican Voices, a docu-series about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Following Puerto Rican Voices, Melisa continued to share Puerto Rican and Latin American stories. In 2020, she directed and produced From Performers to Spectators, a doc-series showcasing New York City performers during lockdown. She is currently in production on Hoop Warrior, her first feature film. Read all about Melisa’s journey as an editor and artist here!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Lorena R. Valenica! Lorena R. Valencia is a Mexican writer-director based in New York. Her directorial debut and MFA thesis film, Cuanacaquilitl (Dandelion), received the 2022 National Board of Review Student Award and is an Official Selection in several international film festivals, including the Morelia International Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the New York Latino Film Festival, and the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival. Lorena is passionate about both narrative and documentary storytelling and is interested in addressing issues such as reproductive rights, identity, and belonging. Currently, she is directing Mi Ranchito, a documentary short film that explores resilience and love for the land, while she is developing her debut feature film, Mayahuel. Lorena spoke to us about inspiring empathy through storytelling, the overlap of narrative and documentary filmmaking, and her latest projects.READ MORE