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Robert Gardner Retrospective

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POSTALThe 4th Visual Anthropology Meeting: Perspectives and Perceptions (Perspectivas y percepciones) was organized in conjunction with the DocsDF documentary film festival, the Cineteca Nacional and the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), with the first-ever screening in Mexico of a retrospective of Robert Gardner’s work, from 1 to 4 October 2008, in Sala 4 of the Cineteca Nacional.


Robert Gardner (1925), a legendary US anthropologist and filmmaker is without doubt one of the most important figures in ethnographic documentary filmmaking. His most important films: "Dead Birds" (1964), "Rivers of Sand" (1974) and "Forest of Bliss" (1986) have become classics of non-fiction cinema. During a career spanning over fifty years he has made several films on indigenous peoples and tribes all around the world, directing various productions on great artists such as Mark Tobey, Sean Scully and Octavio Paz and for a number of years anchored “Screening Room”, a television program on cinema and the arts. As part of his academic career, he was the first professor of cinema at Harvard University and in 1963 he founded the university’s Film Study Center and then directed it for a long period. He has written several books that have made significant contributions to the field of ethnology and visual anthropology such as "The Impulse to Preserve" and "Gardens of War".

Gardner’s films have been distributed across the world, picking up important awards and prizes. Retrospectives have been shown in many countries. His work has sparked intense debates within the field of visual anthropology, especially in regard to the relationship between art, anthropology and esthetics, and a large number of specialist books and articles on his particular style and extraordinary film work. However, in Mexico his work has remained virtually unknown. Therefore we set about the task of disseminating the work of this important figure.

During the four-day event, his most outstanding films could be seen on the big screen, with Spanish subtitles and some using his original 35mm version, from his first black and white short, "Blunden Harbour" (1951), his most famous feature-length productions "Dead Birds" (1964), "Rivers of Sand" (1974), "Deep Hearts" (1981), "Forest of Bliss" (1986) and "Ika Hands" (1988), as well as a sample of his more recent work.

We also had the great privilege of Robert Gardner himself presenting his work and talking in front of an audience with important Mexican anthropologists and filmmakers, such as Nicolás Echevarría, Raymundo Mier, Ricardo Pérez Montfort and Scott Robinson, who were invited to comment on Gardner’s films.

On the last day of the retrospective we presented the premier of his Gardner’s most recent work: a series of cinematic vignettes on Octavio Paz, including a reading of his famous poem "Nocturno de San Ildefonso".



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