Depth of Field 2008-2009 Series

Moving Images, Moving Art

In its second season, the Townsend Center’s Film + Video series, Depth of Field, used film’s status as the "seventh art" to explore its six predecessors. The term "seventh art" arose alongside many of the national and avant garde cinemas in the 1950s and ’60s, a time of renewed debate in the art world as to whether or not film constituted an art capable of standing with the more time-honored arts. Though few contest this notion today, the series used the designation to bring together films that explore the other six mediums: music, architecture, dance, literature, painting, and sculpture.

And while this list may constitute a conventional definition of the arts, the selection of films is anything but. Stretching from war-torn regions in Africa to rambling Danish estates, Depth of Field traveled the contours of these ancient arts in their modern-day manifestations, thereby offering a glimpse of the humanities at work in the lives of everyday people. Rather than tackling the masterpieces and classics of Western culture, territory already well covered, the series presented films that focus on those seeking to push the boundaries of art in exciting and often challenging new directions.

Seen in this context, The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun, our October selection on architecture, was less about the visionary genius of the lone architect and more about the people who live in spaces day in and day out once they exist. The November film, War Dance, looks at movement not as an art performed by professionals in a repertory context, but instead as one created by Ugandan school children competing in an annual dance competition in the midst of a twenty-year civil war.

Subtitled Moving Images, Moving Art, the series's spring semester films that took on literature, painting, and sculpture. With the static nature of painting and sculpture and the rather un-cinematic quality of words on the page, these areas present particular challenges for filmmakers. But as with the fall semester selections, each film offered an unconventional take on the artistic conventions of each of these mediums.

Films in the Series:

Music on Film:
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars (2005)
Directed by Zach Niles and Banker White

Architecture on Film:
The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun (2007)
Directed by Pernille Rose Grønkjær

Dance on Film:
War Dance (2007)
Directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

Literature on Film:
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2007)
Directed by Alex Gibney

Painting on Film:
Certain Doubts of William Kentridge (2007)
Directed by Alex Gabassi

Sculpture on Film:
Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides (2004)
Directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer

Curated by Kris Fallon, graduate student in the Film Studies department at UC Berkeley.