+ otherwise pictures llc

Press

Deafening Silence

… successful combination of experimental art film and political activist film

Peter Kinoy (Skylight Pictures)
Letter
October 8, 2010

I meant every word, and the following days I was talking with different people about what an interesting and successful combination of experimental art film and political activist film Deafening Silence is. …you have created a memorable film that challenges the audience, and does not let them become complacent.  Each time that you start people down a cinematic path, just as we, as the viewer, are getting comfortable and relaxing into a scene you switch it up on us, exactly like in the turmoil of real life. 

But what keeps us ultimately tied to the phantasmagorical deluge of imagery is your deep humanity, your compassion for the people and place, and your outrage against the murderous regime. …now you have to begin to penetrate the art world with this piece.  You are in a unique position to light a fire under a lot of people who will come to this film as a brilliant personal artistic statement and walk away with an increased desire to do something … This is the hardest part, since Deafening Silence is not your typical agittprop piece (Thank god!) but therein lies its strength. 

Fisher’s compelling vision of Burma is essential viewing

Thomas R. Lansner
Visiting Professor, School of International Affairs, Sciences-Po Paris
Letter to HF
September 1, 2013

“…Fisher’s compelling vision of Burma is essential viewing for anyone interested in this fast-changing Southeast Asian country.  The military has softened its decades of strict dictatorship, but glimmers of democratic space may prove limited and even ephemeral. … freedom of expression remains tenuous, and the army continues offensives against minority peoples whose human rights have been particularly abused for decades.  DEAFENING SILENCE offers images of and witness to life in Burma that daily news reports, and even traditional documentaries, cannot. The film is reportage of another order that not only illustrates harsh contrasts, but also illuminates its subjects in a manner that allows us to connect with them beyond the archetypal media panoply of victims and heroes….”

Deafening Silence, everywhere at once, essay, film festival

An amazing accomplishment

Bill Brand, filmmaker & professor
Email letter to HF
April 4, 2011

… It is an amazing accomplishment…hard for me to even imagine mustering the fortitude to go back to that material and spend the time and effort to make this new – and for me at least – truer film with it… thoroughly interwoven, slow to reveal its development and structure, insistently visual first, deeply complex in its political and moral questions and responses, and ultimately very satisfying as a viewing experience.  It will be hard as hell to get to an audience.

This film you create will … serve us as one of our weapons

Lian Uk, ethnic Chin exile from Burma, now living near Washington DC
Letter to HF
April 11, 2011

Dear Ms. Holy Fisher

 …There were there in the film Moe Thee Zun, May Oo, Zarni and Vumson whom we know them personally as the starring actors and actress. … a very good historical document to remind us the intolerable life we led in the country in which Than Shwe could say now he is in victory to be able to oppress us the people to overcome all our fight against him in succeeding to complete his repressive seven road map by forming his tricky military regime as  a civil government like a fox covering with a sheep skin…He and his followers twist and turn things like a magician who plays sleight of hands…play the trick to make him still the supreme power holder as a senior General…by creating all these deceptive civilian feature government and parliament and President…we are to keep on fighting against his deceptive constitution with which he performs all these tricks… This film you create will do serve us as one of our weapons to destroy his tricky and deceptive constitution in restoring the real normal democracy and federalism in the country.

A fascinating amalgam of print and image

Yvonne Rainer
Choreographer, filmmaker
Letter to HF
March 11, 2012

...Deafening Silence is a fascinating amalgam of print and image, facts and daily life. I can’t tell you enough how filled with admiration I am at your gumption to take on such a project and artistry in carrying it off.

… some of the brightest minds of a generation in resistance

Edith Mirante
Author of “Burmese Looking Glass” and “Down the Rat Hole”
Letter to HF
February 11, 2013

Holly Fisher’s valuable and inspiring DEAFENING SILENCE uses the art of film (sensitive camera work, unerring editing) to tell the story of Burma, a large multi-ethnic Asian nation finding ways to survive and overcome decades of severe oppression. Interviews revealing some of the brightest minds of a generation in resistance are interspersed with found footage and quirky, memorable images from streets, temples and shops, on a journey that winds through urban and jungle landscapes. Her film contains indications of the current changes — and current setbacks — in Burma (aka Myanmar) and a universal message of hope overcoming fear.

Doc of the Day: Deafening Silence

Dan Schindel
Film critic
Days of Docs, Reviews by Dan Schindel
March 20, 2012

A trippy odyssey through the landscapes and people of Burma.

Dir. Holly Fisher, 2012, 118 min

We of the West have a fascination with Third World monsters that is fickle as it is morbid. Already Joseph Kony seems to be evaporating from our collective conscious (and conscience). Books, news articles, and, of course, documentaries all breathlessly report the extremes of ethnic violence, bitter poverty, and military tyrants, among other injustices. They come, rouse some of the golden “awareness,” and then go. What does it take to truly lodge these things in the mind? Lars von Trier said that movies should be like a stone in one’s shoe. This should fully apply to documentaries about impoverished countries. How do you make the right stone?

Holly Fisher has cracked this dilemma with Deafening Silence. She’s molded a stark testament to life in Burma, or “Myanmar.” In a first for this site, I might be giving this film its first review, as it had its world première tonight at the Environmental Film Festival. It’s a hard sell, but this doc deserves to go places. Big places. Using footage from two trips she took to Burma (one as a legitimate tourist and one covertly and illegally), news reports, YouTube videos, interviews, and more, she crafts a nonfiction tone poem that feels more like Apocalypse Now than any doc I can think of.

Doc of the Day: Deafening Silence

Chickenstew

Films of Holly Fisher

Richard Peterson
Film Curator
Poster, The Walker Art Center
January 7, 1984

“…an extraordinary combination of technical virtuosity and personal expression.”

Regarding HF early films (up through Rushlight (aka Here Today Gone Tomorrow).

From The Ladies

Experimentalfilmerin Holly Fisher

Katharina Sykora
Art historian, professor, and author
Film Journal, Die Zeitschrift für das andere kino
April 1, 1986

[Translation from German to come…]

Experimentalfilmerin Holly Fisher

Ghost Dance

“Film to be felt in the flesh & in the bones –– in the spine and on the bottoms of the feet!”

“Film to be felt in the flesh & in the bones –– in the spine and on the bottoms of the feet!”, letter to Holly Fisher –– Ghost Dance & s o f t s h o e

Pat O’Neil
Experimental filmmaker and artist
Letter to HF
July 15, 1993

Dear Holly – Many thanks for the loan of your prints. I finally got around to an unhurried screening. I had to watch Ghost Dance at 24 fps, sorry to say, my trusty Bell & Howell finally burned out its motor and I’ve had to resort to lesser machines. But the film looked really good; I imagined it slower. It was hypnotizing and did such curious things in the correspondence between top and bottom and center black bar with attached fauna…

De Chelly is a good place too – lots of knowledge there… And Soft Shoe which does such an elegant and unpredictable fracture of space and makes such uncanny rhythm!

This is good – film to be felt in the flesh & in the bones — in the spine and on the bottoms of the feet!

I hope you are having a good summer – perhaps our paths will cross in the fall – I’ll be in N.Y. for a few shows –

Thanks again – Pat

“Film to be felt in the flesh & in the bones –– in the spine and on the bottoms of the feet!”

Rushlight (aka Here Today Gone Tomorrow)

Postcard for Rushlight

Postcard, Rushlight (AKA Here Today Gone Tomorrow)

Postcard for Black Maria Film Festival
February 1, 1997

Postcard for Rushlight

s o f t s h o e

Postcard for s o f t s h o e

Postcard created for screening at Cineprobe, The Museum of Modern Art
January 1, 1987

Postcard for s o f t s h o e

Everywhere at Once

Palimpsests

Palimpsests: Holly Fisher and the new Houston Cinema Arts Festival

Patty Zimmerman
FLEFF – OPEN SPACES, Blog following screening at Houston Cinema Arts Festival
November 13, 2009

“It’s more about a kind of structuring, where the viewer is at the center of the piece,” offered experimental filmmaker and editor Holly Fisher. She described her improvisational process in dealing with images and editing strategies: “It’s a weave.”

…Last night, Fisher, an influential figure in American experimental and documentary cinema (she was the editor of the landmark documentary Who Killed Vincent Chin? in 1989 and is the director of Bullets for Breakfast made in 1995), screened her new work Everywhere at Once. It’s what I would call a cinematic portrait of how women are visualized and idealized in what the festival program says is a “sumptuous” film reflecting on love, beauty and mortality. It felt like one of those only-in-Texas-bigger-than-life-screenings: a difficult and demanding experimental work in a multiplex theater in downtown Houston, with an image as big as the Texas sky, with great sound to boot. In this context, the film had an epic quality few experimental films can sustain (so epic and operatic for the audience that none of us knew until after the screening that the digital video had been mistakenly screening in 4 x 5 format rather than the more horizontal 16 x9). All of the audience stayed for the discussion, utterly entranced.

Repurposing and conjuring the photographs of arts and movie stars by sophisticated fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh, Everywhere at Once features an evocative voice-over written by poet Kimiko Hahn. The voice-over is read by Jeanne Moreau, a major iconic figure of the French New Wave. Her gravelly voice contrasts with the sleek modernist fashion images. The film is an opera of the everyday and the psychic labyrinths women inhabit. It’s a film about dreams, about feelings abandoned, inaccessible and lost. The first image of the film provides a clue into its visual strategies: a woman is photographed from above in a fetal position, a spiral into the self where leg and hand and back transform into a spiral…

Palimpsests

Bullets for Breakfast

A blatant hybrid of documentary and experimental style

Fritz Buehner
Lubec, Maine, August 1991
August 1, 1991

As with her earlier films, ‘Bullets for Breakfast’ was produced on an optical printer. Filmed originally on S.8 film, Fisher deconstructs her original material and uses each character first as a main player, then as context for the next. As each subject is introduced, framed, reintroduced, reframed, and decontextualized, a complex shaping of each is achieved. The subtle and not-so-subtle juxtapositions and recombining of subjects begins the process of seeing the hidden depths of subjectivity…

‘Bullets’ is full of wit and humor and is beautiful to look at, but it is a demanding film. Even its form is a blatant hybrid of documentary and experimental style. Objectivity is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

A blatant hybrid of documentary and experimental style

… surrealistic reverie of pictures kissed with irony, unreels in dream time

review, US premiere of Bullets for Breakfast

Robert S. Cauthorn
The Arizona Daily Star
April 23, 1993

Holly Fisher’s BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST weaves disparate elements together in an often spellbinding abstract film.

It is, essentially, a meditation that considers two opposing cultural phenomena. On one hand, you have male figures being inserted into a faux history of the male figures being inserted into a faux history of the macho Western. On the other you have actual women being excised from their rightful place in our historical record.

The ideas and their interrelationship are hardly new. In fact, they’ve almost been talked to death. However, the active word above is meditation, and that makes all the difference.

BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST doesn’t traffic in polemics and defiantly remains less interested in scoring points that it is in marveling at our state of affairs. The movie’s style, a surrealistic reverie of pictures kissed with irony, unreels in dream time.

The experimental design of the movie works splendidly. …the director makes canny decisions throughout her movie…

She culls her imagery from art books of classical works and modern media footage from television and the movies (“My Darling Clementine” in Particular). The pictures are manipulated and recombined through various print processes. Employing superimposition stacked like transparent tiles and blessed with a dazzling eye for color, Fisher delivers a movie that can be downright ravishing.

… surrealistic reverie of pictures kissed with irony, unreels in dream time

Fisher Eats Boys’ Cinema and Values for Breakfast

Cameron Bailey
Film critic & currently artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival
January 21, 1993

Review from screening at The Arizona International Film Festival

BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST (Holly Fisher, 1992) is one of the most magnificently obsessive films in recent memory. A precisely made flood of images, text, and My Darling Clementine cuts a swath across easy comprehension.

Two characters who exist in voice only trade sign systems, one steeped in feminist questioning, the other in the boys’ own heroism of the old west. As western pulp writer Ryerson Johnson reminisces about his craft’s cynical plots, poet Nancy Nielsen repeatedly dismantles the prison house of history.

Fisher constructs the film along the twin axes of visual sophistication and handmade aesthetics — it’s both beautifully meticulous and gorgeously frayed. BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST takes all the concentration you’ve got, but it’s worth it.

… women filmmakers have used serial organizations, while refusing to be rigidly bound by them

Footnote reference from "Motion Studies"

Scott MacDonald
Professor, Film Critic, Author of A Critical Cinema 2 and Motion Studies
May 5, 1994

Often, we act as if the evolution of cinema left certain pleasures behind — outgrew certain “primitive” pleasures — as narrative melodrama established itself as the primary focus of popular film going. For most filmgoers, the movies are a storytelling medium, and those forms of film that do not conform to this expectation are considered “marginal” and inessential to mainstream film history. Indeed, the more fully filmmakers working in arenas other than the commercial mainstream — and especially in what has been variously called avant-garde film, independent film, experimental film, underground film… — cut themselves loose from storytelling, the less central to our awareness they can seem. In my view, this framing of independent cinema is problematic because it ignores both the complex nature of our pleasure in cinema and the historical realities of that complex pleasure.

While it may be true that cinema achieved its status as a primary popular entertainment at the moment when the development of film language allowed cinema to merge with narrative and dramatic prose fiction, the pleasures that seem to have instigated the cinema are quite distinct from those of melodramatic storytelling. The technological/ aesthetic evolution that produced the “philosophic toys” of the Nineteenth Century; Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic motion studies and Zoopraxiscope; Etienne-Jules Maray’s photographic gun; and ultimately, the Lumière Cinématographe and the first motion pictures (in the modern sense of the term) seems to have been fueled primarily by an interest in studying motion, and a fascination with those visual technologies that allowed movement to be analyzed and resynthesized for popular pleasure and enlightenment. When people purchased new phenakistascope discs for the parlor, attended Muybridge lectures, and later, screenings of Lumière and Edison motion pictures, they seem to have been primarily interested in being able to study and enjoy how things move.

… women filmmakers have used serial organizations, while refusing to be rigidly bound by them

“Bullets” an arresting film

Fisher’s experimental “Bullets” an arresting film

Robert S. Cauthorn
Film critic
The Arizona Daily Star
April 23, 1993

Holly Fisher’s BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST weaves disparate elements together in an often spellbinding abstract film.

It is, essentially, a meditation that considers two opposing cultural phenomena. On one hand, you have male figures being inserted into a faux history of the male figures being inserted into a faux history of the macho Western. On the other you have actual women being excised from their rightful place in our historical record.

The ideas and their interrelationship are hardly new. In fact, they’ve almost been talked to death. However, the active word above is meditation, and that makes all the difference.

BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST doesn’t traffic in polemics and defiantly remains less interested in scoring points that it is in marveling at our state of affairs. The movie’s style, a surrealistic reverie of pictures kissed with irony, unreels in dream time.

The experimental design of the movie works splendidly. …the director makes canny decisions throughout her movie…

She culls her imagery from art books of classical works and modern media footage from television and the movies (“My Darling Clementine” in Particular). The pictures are manipulated and recombined through various print processes. Employing superimposition stacked like transparent tiles and blessed with a dazzling eye for color, Fisher delivers a movie that can be downright ravishing.

BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST possesses an admirable balance between progression and reassertion of critical pictures.

Wisely, Fisher avoids the pitfall of paralyzing an audience’s sensibility by adding a soundtrack that carries a slender, but effective, narrative quality. Fisher constructs the soundtrack like an aural montage. An interview with pulp Western writer Ryerson Johnson occupies one thread, poet Nancy Nielson another, the conversation of women in a smoked-herring plant is the third dominant element.

BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST cuts gracefully back and forth among these narratives, Johnson talks about writing for pulp magazines, Nielson reads poetry, the factory workers chatter about professional wrestling and television shows.

…the interaction of picture and sound offers a vibrant, almost musical, interplay. Nielson and Johnson hold center stage. One’s a poet, the other a writer for hir, and as the film advances we discover something surprising. They have more in common than one might expect. The artist has an interest in relating to the average person, while the hack writer ponder the wider concerns of responsible fiction. … Fisher, a former documentary director, comes up with one of the most arresting experimental films in several years.

Bullets for Breakfast, women's cinema

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster on Bullets for Breakfast

Film Scholar/Filmmaker Gwendolyn Audrey Foster on Bullets for Breakfast and other early works by Fisher

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
Filmmaker, film scholar, and Willa Cather Endowed Professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary
Greenwood Press
November 14, 2013

Glass Shadows is a kinetic study of the female body. Fisher appeared in the film and used a window pane to reflect images of her body into the camera. Maureen Turim described Glass Shadows as “…a film that challenges feminist theory to expand its vocabulary and judgment to include not only a mode of critique, but also a more positive exploration of visual pleasure. … “ Fisher, like Valie Export, is centrally preoccupied with reclaiming female representation and sexual pleasure from phallocentric discourse. From the Ladies continues in this vein. Shot in multi-mirrored bathroom, Fisher again explores the tensions resulting from the dialectic between herself as object/actor and herself as subject/artist. In From the Ladies Fisher demonstrates a ludic playfulness toward image and narrative technique. …“Bullets for Breakfast is a tour de force of optical printing.”

Feeling the attention flip back and forth… Like real life! A letter from Pat O’Neil

Letter to Holly Fisher from filmmaker Pat O’Neil

Pat O’Neil
Experimental filmmaker and artist
Letter to HF
January 13, 1994

Lookout Mountain Films
8331 Lookout Mountain Avenue
Los Angeles, California, 90046

Thanks again for lending me the cassette of Bullets. I am sending it back by way of my friend George Lockwood who also didn’t see it when it was shown here. I enjoyed it greatly, and am intrigued with your thematic concerns as well as the familiar pleasure of seeing two or three things at once and feeling the attention flip back and forth…Like real life!

I wish I knew what to do by way of distribution… I have been using an agent on W&P and he has made a few foreign sales as well as handling the odd theatrical booking. You might send him a cassette if you’re interested.. don’t know if he’s taking on anything now – but he is conscientious and I think honest… though a little bit discouraged, from what he says.

In the larger sense of what to do I’m really up against it…given it’s worth losing a bunch of money in the hope of attracting future support. That seems to be getting a little better – for me. I’ve been trying to get a large-ish project off the ground for a few years & perhaps am about to get underway. It involves quite a few performers and a large empty hotel.

Thanks again – Pat O’Neil

Imag(in)ing Pictures: A Conversation with Holly Fisher, Peter Brunette in Film Quarterly

Imag(in)ing Pictures: A Conversation with Holly Fisher

Peter Brunette
Film critic and author
Film Quarterly, Volume 47, Number 2
December 1, 1993

By means of the optical printer, Bullets provocatively juxtaposes—literally, through double and triple exposure—postcard images of women taken from the entire history of Western art with images of working women in a Maine herring smokehouse and some 8mm footage from John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (uncannily marked with English subtitles, since there’s no sound) that Fisher found abandoned on a back shelf of a hardware store on Canal Street in New York City. Sometimes the image is single, while at other times three or four different images may be superimposed over each other, thus greatly affecting the way we interpret them. Images are often beautifully revealed through the play of the light and dark portions of an image that is superimposed over them. The film also occasionally pauses for a perfect match between two images, as when the face of gunslinger Victor Mature is nearly placed over the face of the woman in Vermeer’s Woman with a Pitcher. The opposition between movement and stillness is also an important visual motif that endows this film with the beauty of early Rauschenberg but with the added pleasure of dynamic motion.

Imag(in)ing Pictures: A Conversation with Holly Fisher, Peter Brunette in Film Quarterly

Bullets for Breakfast at Gene Autry Museum

Bullets for Breakfast screens at Gene Autry Museum in LA – Program Notes

John Stout
General Manager & Co-Founder, Free Speech TV, (former Director, LA Filmforum)
Program notes for LA Film Forum screening
September 1, 1994

Synopsis:

Images from My Darling Clementine form the basis for thought-provoking interpretation in Fisher’s BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST. Combining stunning optical printing with a dense weaving of poetry, storytelling, and visual narrative, Fisher’s film explores the violent underside of another frontier — gender relations. Juxtaposing a pulp-western writer with a feminist poet, or women working at a herring smokehouse with those depicted in paintings by European Masters, Fisher reorders stories and images like musical motifs. A captivating hybrid of experimental and documentary technique, BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST mines the depths of subjectivity, blurring the lines between myth and reality, fact and fiction.

1993 Arizona Film Festival: Screenings give audiences rare chance to nibble at offbeat movies

Robert S. Cauthorn
Star Movies, The Arizona Daily Star
April 16, 1993

… And in some cases this festival is way ahead of the national scene. A major discovery of the event is experimental director Holly Fisher from Boston. Her “Bullets For Breakfast” showed at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival, but she is largely unknown in this country. That’s likely to change.

Her movie is a remarkable piece of work that will almost certainly revise the standards by which abstract film is judged…

BULLETS FOR BREAKFAST: Holly Fisher’s hypnotic experimental film entangles the myths of cowboy heroes with the way history has treated women. It plays almost like cultural memory burned onto film. Fisher fills the screen with complicated manipulated visions of existing films, still works of art and photography. The soundtrack records snatches of conversations with the likes of feminist poet Nancy Nielson and Western pulp writer Ryerson Johnson (“Everything we wrote about the West was a lie”).

While it pads its length somewhat, this is a startling piece of work that will be long remembered. It has the kind of power experimental films frequently dream about and seldom achieve. Fisher will introduce screenings of her movie and answer questions afterward 1992, 77 min.

1993 Arizona Film Festival: Screenings give audiences rare chance to nibble at offbeat movies

… a field of clashing perspectives – reminiscent of early Rauschenberg: Peter Brunette reviews Bullets for Breakfast

Peter Brunette
Film critic and author
Chicago Reader
October 15, 1992

… a field of clashing perspectives – reminiscent of early Rauschenberg: Peter Brunette reviews Bullets for Breakfast

…a feminist response to the (“masculine,” “phallic”) rigidity of the structural tradition

…a feminist response to the (“masculine,” “phallic”) rigidity of the structural tradition – Essay on H. Fisher’s “experimental” feature Bullets for Breakfast

Scott MacDonald
Professor, Film Critic, Author of A Critical Cinema 2 and Motion Studies
October 1, 1992

One of the interesting developments in independent cinema during the past decade or so, at least in North America, has been the synthesis of filmmaking approaches and traditions that, in earlier decades, developed in isolation from one another. Holly Fisher’s Bullets for Breakfast is a distinguished instance. It is, simultaneously, an “experimental” film in which Fisher demonstrates, as she has so often in earlier films, her mastery of the optical printer; and a documentary of a small town­—Lubec, Maine–and the people Fisher has grown to know during her visits there, including western “pulp” novelist Ryerson Johnson, poet Nancy Neilson, and several women and men who skin fish at the local smokehouse. Bullets is, at once, a work in the “structural” tradition of Ken Jacob’s Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, Michael Snow’s Wavelength, and Larry Gottheim’s Mouches Volantes; and a feminist response to the (“masculine,” “phallic”) rigidity of the structural tradition….

…a feminist response to the (“masculine,” “phallic”) rigidity of the structural tradition

Thickening the Plot… LA Times

Thickening the Plot : 'Bullets for Breakfast,' an experimental film, cracks open typical story lines on the West and women's place in the world.

Nancy Kapitanoff
Writer, director, and producer
LA Times
September 18, 1992

Jon Stout, Filmforum’s executive director, sees “My Darling Clementine” as the perfect complement to Fisher’s film, and came up with the idea to show them together. “The two films deal with the Western frontier. We’re reaching out to a broader audience beyond the experimental film buff,” he said.

Stout first saw “Bullets for Breakfast” at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in March, where it won the award for “Best Experimental Film.” It was the last film of the day.

“When I saw it, I absolutely fell in love with the piece. It sustained this engagement after six hours of watching films,” he said. “It’s stunning on a visual basis. The optically printed images and the rhythms she evokes with them are seductive.”

“I’m trying to set things up so there’s this afterglow and resonance, a reading between the lines. That’s really where the film takes place, between the screen and your mind or heart,” Fisher said. “If you work from a preconception, the work has to measure up to that as best it can. The way I work, I never quite know where it’s going, but I like it that way. To me, it’s the only way to get somewhere you’ve never been.”

Thickening the Plot… LA Times

Maureen Turim essay about Bullets for Breakfast

Essay written for Bullets for Breakfast by Film Scholar/Professor Maureen Turim

Maureen Turim
Film scholar and professor, University of Florida, Gainsville
Essay
June 22, 1992

… Each narrative conditions the others, interwoven so as to lace each entity with intertextual resonance. What startles is not the form, per se, but Fisher’s magnificent handling of subtle ironies, rather than caricatured oppositions, even when addressing such seeming polarities as male genre writing and feminist poetry, or daily economic realities and cultural fantasies…

Maureen Turim essay about Bullets for Breakfast

Essay for the Black Maria Film Festival

Rushlight and Bullets, Black Maria Film Festival

Margarita De la Vega-Hurtado
Film producer, curator, and professor
“Women’s Cinema”, written for The Black Maria Film Festival Catalog, 1997
January 1, 1997

“…Holly Fisher has combined her poetic vision with powerful montage to create unique films that become indescribable experiences where the concrete and the abstract mingle, such as Rushlight, and Bullets for Breakfast.”

Click to arrow read full article

Essay for the Black Maria Film Festival

t h i n k t a n k

t h I n k t a n k

Michel Moushabeck
Publisher/Editor
April 18, 2014

Oh, I can think of a million places for thinktank – from the big screen in Times Square to places where people have to wait for a long time (hospitals emergency waiting area, concert halls and movie theatres, football arenas, doctors’ clinics waiting rooms, consulates visa waiting rooms, airport boarding areas, corporate reception waiting areas, government offices, etc…) – and, dare I say, Chinese restaurants (just kidding!).  

Michel Moushabeck
Publisher/Editor
Interlink Publishing
46 Crosby Street
Northampton, MA 01060
Tel: 413-582-7054
Fax: 413-582-7057
michel@interlinkbooks.com
www.interlinkbooks.com

a question of sunlight

… juxtaposes the jarring memories of 9/11 with the haunting trauma of the Holocaust

Karen Remmler on A Question of Sunlight

Director of the Five College Women Studies Research Center, Professor of German Studies, Critical Social Thought, and Gender Studies 
March 24, 2013

A QUESTION OF SUNLIGHT juxtaposes the jarring memories of 9/11 with the haunting trauma of the Holocaust. We see and hear in vivid close-ups the artist José Urbach as he relives the scenes of Nazi invasion in his childhood Poland when faced with the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Towers on 9/11. In contrast to the many documentaries with interviews of Holocaust survivors that we have seen for the past decade, this film moves us to locate the narrative within images of life. We hear of destruction, but see the bustle of city life slowed down in a Parisian café or glanced through a window glistening in the sun. Life goes on, people recoup their dignity and ability to create beauty, even as the images of death continue to haunt them.

A Question of Sunlight is a hauntingly strange film about memory

John Crowley (novelist)
March 1, 2013

A QUESTION OF SUNLIGHT is a hauntingly strange film about memory — its harms, its powers, its lapses, its surprises. A man speaks of a dreadful thing he believes he saw — and maybe he did. Around this sole figure a fractal cloud of images come and go, as partial and repetitive as memories. A unique and striking work.

… a monument to humanity at its best

Jordi Torrent
Film Director and Project Manager of Media and Information Literacy initiatives at UNAOC
March 4, 2014

Yesterday, finally, I stopped and watched and listened.

Congratulations! It truly is a monument to humanity at its best (because of Jose’s generosity of spirit). You were able to capture the gentle spirit of Jose Urbach with all his luminosity. Wow, what story and what a grace in telling it… not an ounce of anger in his words. Just the consciousness that all is fragile in its complex simplicity. In its brutality. Not an ounce of revenge, event towards those guards up there in the towers that surrounded his first childhood. And a media maker with her camera there to capture it all. I liked as well the noises of the cars crossing the streets. A reminder of those towers with guards and the rifles on their arms…

Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing

A nation dying a slow death… How do you get that on camera?

Tom Lansner
Professor Columbia University, School of International and Professional Affairs, New York City. Former Asia correspondent London Observer.
Written for the Amnesty International Film Festival, Amsterdam
January 1, 2001

“…Kalama Sutta commands the viewer’s attention, but also demands their engagement, and their active seeing. Images and information are layered and build toward a deeply empathetic vision of peoples who inhabit a land of thousands of shining pagodas, and survive at the point of hundreds of thousands of bayonets. A nation dying a slow death, asks a Burmese democracy activist interviewed in Kalama Sutta. How do you get that on camera? Fisher somehow manages to do just that, but with a human face that also allows us hope for Burma’s eventual revival.”

HF receives Project Maje Award

Edith Mirante
Founder of Project Maje and author of “Burmese Looking Glass”
Project Maje (www.projectmaje.org)
October 18, 2002

HF receives Project Maje Award

LA Filmforum – Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing

Holly Willis
Chair of the Media Arts + Practice Division in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California and author
LA Weekly, review, prior to screening at LA Filmforum at The Egyptian Theater
September 27, 2002

Responding to the surfeit of data in the information age, many documentary filmmakers have adopted a collage aesthetic, layering disparate images and sounds into a mélange that resonates through primal emotion and jarring contradiction. New York-based experimental filmmaker Holly Fisher, known for a series of conceptually complex and visually elegant films, studies Burma in her latest project, Kalama Sutta, moving beyond picturesque travel images to examine the country’s political upheaval and oppression. Mixing old, hyperbolic documentaries with recent TV footage, scrolling text, interviews, voice-over commentary, Website imagery and video footage shot while on a visit to the Southeast Asian country, Fisher creates a dense patchwork of information that eschews a single perspective. Tales of torture and political struggle against the military dictatorship contrast with garish Web visuals and shots of the country’s beautiful landscape. Indeed, Fisher structures the film around this dichotomy, playing off the invitation to foreign tourists to visit Burma: “Seeing is Believing” is the hypocritical entreaty, an assertion deftly undermined by Fisher’s collection of personal testimony from exiled activists. The film’s title comes from the Buddhist Charter on Free Inquiry, which says we should doubt appearances; Fisher does just that with her poetic essay, refuting the propaganda of a government bent on attracting tourists while brutalizing its people.

Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing

David Raphael Israel
Cinema Electronica Forum
Blog following DC screening, co-sponsored by Earth Rights International & Human Rights Watch
April 17, 2002

Kalama Sutta has the virtue of delving into complex political / conflictual material in a way that’s not exactly polemical, but rather is done with a due & ample sense of paradox, complexity, and even (amid the rather brutal wash of information) elements of credible lyricism.

Kalama Sutta played at the Digital Talkies festival in Delhi last April. But the version I saw last night was probably a newer, revised edition — Holly said this is the 4th cut (in all, she’s worked on Kalama Sutta for six years). She also has considered a broader, more fragmentary, multi-screen installation version. But truth to tell, the one-screen version I enjoyed is very strong as-is. Also to note: the DLP projection (direct from a DVCAM tape) was quite good. In fact, the director mentioned that some time ago she had gotten tests done for a film-transfer version — but what she saw last night looked a heck of a lot better than that. I like tremendously how she mixed up media — screen-shots from internet, liberal appearances of her own editing interface (looks like FCP I think) — even DV footage from the darkened cinema-house in Burma (playing a Bollywood film), which was oddly gorgeous; liberal use of scrolling text (a la Jost); as well as old documentary footage (mixed in in ways that somewhat reminded me of what Jon did in Speaking Directly); several interviews (esp. w/ Burmese activists) spaced out thru the work (with due & thoughtful use of subtitles, often even when they’re speaking English); along with a lot of ground-level / water-level daily-life observation which gives the whole a strong base (the rivers with Burmese one-oar boat-taxis are visually arresting & memorable). About 2/3 of the way thru, there’s a simple shot of a water buffalo munching in the mud — an image on which the camera lingers in a way that works tremendously in the story-flow: at once (or at last) we’re at rest in placid nature, and/or are in midst of an animal monstrosity.

In all, I feel KALAMA SUTTA to be an excellent example of multi-layered work; I especially appreciated how Fisher pulls back into a neutral / contemplative mode toward the end of the film (the final 15 min. or so), in a way that offers some honest/earned relief (according to my sensibility anyway) to the horrors & contradictions & complications which comprise the central material. The crux of the work involves a fundamental contradiction in a visitor’s perception of Burma — which on one hand is being marketed as an exotic tourist destination, and on the other hand is (behind the scenes) suffering through brutal dictatorship and a simmering civil war.

Must say (or add): the more I ponder Kalama Sutta, the more I realize that it at once does much justice to, and also in a way transcends the particularity of its material. Arguably that’s what one most wishes from any artwork. As such, it merits considerable respect.

New Documentary Blows Lid Off Burma

Edith Mirante
Founder of Project Maje and author of “Burmese Looking Glass”
Piece written for Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing
January 20, 2002

Why the silence about what’s going on in Burma? Why is the trouble in this paradise not cause for outcry? We’ve heard of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her heroic but unsuccessful efforts to achieve freedom and justice in her country. Beyond that, Burma (renamed Myanmar by the current military dictatorship) has slipped almost completely from the US media and our collective attention.

“Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing” is an extraordinary new film that will remedy this gap in our personal and public consciousness. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Holly Fisher, this 90 minute documentary is both highly informative and deeply inspiring. Smuggled footage, archives, and web imagery counterpoint sights and sounds gathered by the filmmaker to expose the the human rights abuse, environmental degradation, and ethnic genocide inflicted by Burma’s brutal military regime. Searing narratives of exiled leaders struggling for democracy and indigenous rights are laced into this poetic essay about the truth of appearances. The result is a powerful drama that is also a dazzling collage, a surprising tapestry, and an unforgettable artistic experience.

Here is an unprecedented view of a country in purgatory, its citizens enslaved. What the military junta presents to tourists and the outside world is light years from the reality of current conditions. To get beneath appearances and understand the real political, cultural, and artistic truth of this country, you must see this film; as it unfolds, the story of the Golden Land that is Burma becomes a conduit to discover shared vulnerabilities in a globalized world.

Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing

Josef Silverstein
Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University
Piece written for Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing
January 20, 2002

Kalama Sutta is a kaleidoscope—constantly changing and each fragment revealing a tiny bit of the story which only becomes whole as the pieces move around their own axes and blend for a moment…the war and suffering are only a small part of a long and unfinished story of people who will survive and retain their unique identities despite the foreign cultures which bombard their senses but do not change them…(her) camera and sound have caught all of it for just one moment and stopped it for eternity…”

Josef Silverstein, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University

Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing

Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing

Thomas Lansner
Professor Columbia University, School of International and Professional Affairs, New York City. Former Asia correspondent London Observer
Piece written to/for director Holly Fisher
January 1, 2001

Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing is a compelling and kaleidoscopic journey into the little-known Southeast Asia country of Burma. It is a mesmerizing — and sometimes almost hallucinatory — voyage of discovery through space and time that paints both Burma‘s astounding beauty and the harsh reality of its brutal dictatorship.

Kalama Sutta builds around superb images shot inside Burma by filmmaker Holly Fisher that capture an exotic otherworldliness sustained by the country‘s long isolation. These images of a “golden land” are Fisher‘s tableau for the disturbing realities of repression and suffering that are today visited on Burma’s diverse peoples. Fascinating archival and contemporary footage provide context for Burma‘s colonial past and dictatorial present. Interviews with Burmese who have escaped to exile offer extraordinary human insights to the brutishness of the army junta and the bravery of people who have dared oppose it.

The international movement to support human rights and democracy in Burma, and the internet technologies that have helped it grow, are also showcased, from web video of Burmese democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to the signing of a Burma sanctions bill by New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Kalama Sutta is not a routine, easily-classified or even “easy” film. It commands the viewer’s attention, but also demands their engagement, and their active “seeing.” Images and information are layered and build toward a deeply empathetic vision of peoples who inhabit a land of thousands of shining pagodas, and survive at the point of hundreds of thousands of bayonets. “A nation dying a slow death,” asks a Burmese democracy activist interviewed in Kalama Sutta. “How do you get that on camera?” Fisher somehow manages to do just that, but with a human face that also allows us hope for Burma‘s eventual revival.

Glass Shadows

Childhood Memories and Household Events in the Feminist Avant-garde date

Childhood Memories and Household Events in the Feminist Avant-garde date: Summer-Fall 1986

Maureen Turim
Film scholar and professor, University of Florida, Gainsville
Journal of Film and Video–38 (Summer-Fall 1986,“Four Women Filmmakers”, pp 86 – 92)
June 1, 1978

“…The great fluidity is filled with ambiguities of intention and randomness…There is a willful looseness, a hesitancy of process as we witness a film being made.”

Glass Shadows shares with Meshes in the Afternoon the exploration of the space in which a couple live. In Glass Shadows this space is a loft apartment bordered on two sides by windows. The woman, Fisher, does all the filming, but both she and the man move through the spaces, nude, more as models than actors, taking rather stationary poses. They become statues of a sort, though by no means statuesque; rather, they simply stand. A mirror on a dresser provides an important interior frame reflecting the positions of the filmmaker and the man, as the hand-held camera pans and tilts through this space. Superimposition overlays the images, creating a great ambiguity of window-mirror reflection. Sometimes the two figures appear to be mere traces that embody a potential sexuality. Light through glass on a glass combines with the transparency of the layered images to efface the opacity of presence into a more ephemeral suggestion of the having been or the perhaps being. The images are voluptuous and airy all at once. Mostly the figures are distanced in the frame, sometimes fragmented by the framing. One close-up mirror-reflected tilt covers the curve of the filmmaker’s body, a region from breast to hip, the curve a certain feminine. This image contrasts graphically with other images of the filmmaker shooting, her gaze characterized by the camera which she holds, though not always at eye level. When the camera is held lower, centered on her body, we sometimes see her gaze echoing that of the camera, intent, serious, concentrated. The great fluidity is filled with ambiguities of intention and randomness–is this next shot a whim or a planned venture? One never knows. There is none of the constraint of purpose one senses in the pans of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) or Yvonne Rainer’s Journeys from Berlin/1970. Instead we have a willful looseness, a hesitancy of process as we witness a film being made. Fisher is light-handed, but not in the sense of frivolity or even the purely random, for there is also a sense of estimation and hypothesis in her selected camera gaze. Can one be both spontaneous and disciplined, motivated by theory, but charged with the risks of multivalent inspiration in a camera movement (as are great oriental brush painters in their gestural craft)?

Childhood Memories and Household Events in the Feminist Avant-garde date