“Dancer, bride, runaway film maker and pioneer - Shirley Clarke is one of the great untold stories of American independent cinema.” - New York Times

Breaking with her Park avenue upbringing Shirley Clarke was the personification of the Beat era. As a dedicated activist that expressed her political and personal views through dance, film and art her work crossed the great gaps of race and class of America in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Attending New York’s only film school in the early 50’s, her short films soon started winning awards at international film festivals like Edinburgh and Venice. She soon became involved in the cinema verite movement and worked with a closely knit group of filmmakers such as Richard Leacock (director of 1966 Monterey Pop) and DA Pennebaker (director of “Dont Look Back:” that followed Dylans first tour of the UK in 1967).

Of her films she said “For years I have felt like an outsider, so identified with the problems of minority groups”. The Connection, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival paid homage to this connection that she had with groups of outsiders. Adapted from Jack Gelber’s off Broadway play, about a documentary of a group of junkies that are waiting to score. With a jazz soundtrack, drugs and scandal The Connection if epitomised Beat culture and made Clarke a hero of the independent cinema.

Another highlight of the program is The Cool World, based on the novel by Warren Miller that follows the life of an aspiring gang leader in Harlem, the film blurs the line of documentary and narrative film. She made no secret of how difficult it was to produce these films as a woman and also that an African- American film would only receive funding from investors as long as there was a white director at the helm. Her films do a great service to expose the political and cultural clashes between her subjects and stories and the popular Hollywood films that were produced at the time. The use of the grainy black and white and a background of Jazz roots the films in the inner city and underground culture of 1960’s New York.

Alongside Shirley Clarke's films are a number of other independent films that were made by her peers such as Chelsea Girls - Andy Warhol and Grey Gardens - by Albert and David Maysles. The season runs from the 24th of October to the 5th of November, so if you are feeling inspired to discover the 60's Beat culture of New York and would like see the backdrop that inspired the artwork Warhol and writers such as Kerouac and Ginsberg check out the ACMI website.



24 October 2013
Federation Square Flinders Street Melbourne 3000 VIC (03) 8663 2211
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