The Actualities of Agnès Varda at the Film Society of Lincoln Center
by Susan Kouguell
In a salute to Agnès Varda at the Film Society of Lincoln Center Art of the Real, Documentary Redefined Series in New York City, Varda’s short films and features were included in the Actualities of Agnès Varda program, featuring the acclaimed filmmaker in person.
I had the honor of speaking with Agnès Varda at the 2014 Locarno Film Festival at two separate events, which I covered for this publication:Conversation with Varda: HERE and Highlights from the Locarno Film Summer Academy Master Class : HERE
Speaking before and after each of the following short films, Agnès Varda is ever the powerful and poignant storyteller with a provocative sense of humor.
“Black Panthers” (1968, 31 minutes)
Centering on a “Free Huey” rally in Oakland California in 1968, Varda discussed her experience filming this short documentary.
Varda: “Tom Luddy told me I should come to Oakland because of these demonstrations. Every Saturday I flew from Los Angeles to be there. I had a 16mm camera. I shot a lot of it alone; and I had some help from some others. I needed to get their speeches. I needed to understand the mind body theory. So far, the theory of black men was written by white men. This was the first time they were really involved in their own history. I remember thinking about the women, and also for the first time in the sixties women were writing about their history. I was fascinated by the equivalence. It was a precise time in 1968; two years later it was almost gone. It was so important at the time; I thought and everyone thought it would change the history of black people. The documentary bore witness, the testimony of that time of the Black Panthers. The film was not shown in France; they were afraid to wake students. It was not shown in the U.S. then either.”
“I bore witness. I was discreet as much as possible. It belongs to their history. Each time there is a film about Black history, we are asked about it.”