Bertha's Children


Dir. Roberta Friedman, Grahame Weinbren, 16mm Color Sound 00:07:00

Page Contents


My great aunt Bertha had seven children who are now between fifty and sixty-five years old. They all grew up in New York CIty and, even after they became adults and had their own families, lived in the same geographic region. When I visited New York one winter, I asked each of them to be in a film, and all of them agreed. When I returned the following winter, however, only David, Marty, Aaron, Bernie and Thelma would do it. Frieda, concerned about the crazy people who might see the film and then write her nasty anonymous letters, refused, and Sylvia was in Florida at the time. -- Roberta Friedman

The intention was to construct a film out of a set of contrasts and similarities: between five siblings, between these five and the environment in which they are placed, between 'real' and 'filmic' motion, and between the verbal and visual presentation of information. One of our practices in creating film is to build into the composition at least one set of indeterminacies, so that some aspects of the resultant work are deliberately unpredictable. In this case, the image was composed according to a strict scheme on two separate rolls, and the sound track on five. The combination of these eight elements was seen and heard for the first time when the answer print was screened at the lab. -- Grahame Weinbren

The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete' - Sol LewittFour related persons perform and describe four everyday acts. Photographed separately, they occur in the film in sub-screens in groups from one to four. The center of the experience is time: actions and commentary are interrupted randomly. The flow of time is Forward: cut, Forward: cut. In the cut, the figure seems to jump back to an earlier stage of the motion. Spatial arrangement of the screen is frequently re-arranged so as to allow the figures, alone in their screens, to dance together in the illusion. The sub-screens touch at the edges, and their friction has some of the grittiness of the walls of the old room. Thick round buttocks pound against spindly wooden chairs, round faces smile and enunciate, smooth fingers fumble neatly pressed jackets. Gertrude was right.... -- Pat O'Neill

[Source: Filmforum Program Notes, 9/30/77]
[Source: Pat O'Neill]

Other Credits

Camera: Anthony Forma