Essay Film Festival 2017: Interview with Babette Mangolte

Babette Mangolte was present for a retrospective of her work at the Essay Film Festival in 2017.

  • What was it about film-making that led you to become interested in cinema?

I discovered cinema around 1959.  At that time, I didn’t think I could make films – essentially I was a spectator interested in watching films, in particular silent films and foreign films. I felt films could show you places you will never go to as well as reveal ideas to you that could not be expressed with words.

Prior to 1959 when I went to Paris to go to university I had seen only a few films. I was mostly interested in theater and novels when I was young, so I was familiar with English, Russian, Italian, American and French literature but I had serious gaps in German literature, so discovering Weimar cinema was a wonderful surprise.

When I was a teenager, I was essentially reading six hours every day. Later I replaced my reading evenings with watching movies at the French Cinematheque. I think silent films shaped my taste and made me discover the image. By 1962 I was watching films from 10 AM until midnight and so I had to find a way to  make a living of it.  I decided to become a cinematographer – the image and the camera movements were the most interesting to me. Continue reading “Essay Film Festival 2017: Interview with Babette Mangolte”

Session #4: Three Landscape Films by Babette Mangolte + Filmmaker in conversation

Photo © 1982 Babette Mangolte


Sunday 26 March 2017

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

2:30-6:00 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Filmmaker Babette Mangolte will be in conversation with Laura Mulvey and Lucy Reynolds


This second programme devoted to the work of Babette Mangolte focuses on her trilogy of films about landscape: There? Where?, The Sky on Location and Visible Cities. These essay films are both studies of specific locations and a sustained reflection about the art of landscape cinematography.

The filmmaker describes the first film, There? Where?, as “a naive look at Southern California by an outsider, and/or an essay on displacement through the disjunction of Californian images and off screen voices. Where is the location of these voices, here or there? Are the images near or far in relation to the voices? Are the images commenting on the images or vice versa?”

Documenting seasonal changes across the American West, from Wyoming to Oregon, the second film, The Sky on Location, is an affecting meditation on untamed nature and the atmospheric effects of climate on the landscape. Weather and ambiance, the wilderness and the Sublime, Mangolte articulates the shifting ways of looking at Nature, from the nineteenth to twentieth centuries, and her keen cinematographer’s eye captures an awe and reverence for the American wilderness. The Sky on Location confronts us with a vision of the natural world, translated into a palette of ambient colour and visceral mood.

Finally, in Visible Cities, two women looking for a home in Southern California realise, in Mangolte’s words, that “the single-family home [is] the locus of the exclusion of the other. It is also unaffordable. They both feel as if they are invisible citizens. They witness how the architectural landscape imposed on the California desert appears as a reversal of nature, where exclusive living, gated communities and segregation go hand in hand. They dream of escape.”

There? Where?, Babette Mangolte, USA 1979, 16mm, 8 mins
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The Sky on Location, Babette Mangolte, USA 1982, 16mm, 78 mins
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Visible Cities, Babette Mangolte, USA 1991, 16mm, 31 mins

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BABETTE MANGOLTE

With the support of Open City Documentary Festival.

Session #3: The Camera: Je, or La Caméra: I, in the presence of Babette Mangolte

Photo © 1977 Babette Mangolte


Saturday 25 March 2017

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

6:00-8:30 | Cinema 1 | [Book here]

Filmmaker Babette Mangolte will be in conversation with Laura Mulvey


The first of two programmes devoted to the essay films of the great filmmaker, cinematographer and photographer Babette Mangolte, this session focuses on the act of looking through the camera, questioning the notion of “subjectivity”, the role of the spectator, and the relation between vision and power.

The Camera: Je, or La Caméra: I is a self-portrait about the process of taking photographs. Shifting from the artist’s studio to the streets of New York and back into the workshop, the film’s rhetorical structure acts as a form of self-portraiture of the artist during the years 1976-1977. Exploring the technique of “subjective camera”, the film offers a reflection on ways of seeing, and the interpersonal and power dynamics involved in producing images.

The short film Je, Nous, I or Eye, Us is, in Mangolte’s own words, “a mini essay that replies to a question about subjectivity in the 1970s while I was making my film The Camera: Je, or La Caméra: I about taking photographs. The new film from 2014 uses footage shot at the time of The Camera: Je but never used in 1976 and 1977 and adds to the 16mm film a series of titles about a photographer’s subjectivity then and now.”

The Camera: Je, or La Caméra : I , Babette Mangolte, USA 1977, 16mm (on HD video), 89 mins
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Je, Nous, I or Eye, Us, Babette Mangolte, USA 2014, HD video, 6 mins 30 secs 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BABETTE MANGOLTE

BABETTE MANGOLTE SIGHT AND SOUND ARTICLE

With the support of Open City Documentary Festival.