Plenary 4: ARCHIVAL SCREENING: Anthology Film Archives and the History of the Documentary Avant Garde

Still from Toby and the Tall Corn

A selection of several short non-fiction masterpieces from Anthology’s collection, including the classic TOBY AND THE TALL CORN, by documentary legend Ricky Leacock (who passed away this spring); the exceedingly rare film EYES ON RUSSIA, by the photographer Margaret Bourke-White; RITUALS AND DEMONSTRATIONS, a fascinating record of Jewish religious rituals in 1970s Brooklyn by the gifted Jerry Jofen; and FILM MAGAZINE OF THE ARTS, a sponsored film by Anthology’s own co-founder Jonas Mekas. Program notes courtesy of Anthology.

Margaret Bourke-White


1934, 9 minutes, 16mm, b&w.

Ricky Leacock


1953, 30 minutes, 35mm-to-video.

“Made for OMNIBUS, TOBY is a heartwarming and entertaining portrait of one of the last traveling variety shows in the U.S. Leacock captures the heat of the summer night on the faces of the appreciative audiences, the thrill of the live performances, and the challenge of the set-up. … Its candid style caught the eye of filmmaker Robert Drew [with whom Leacock would make] PRIMARY, a film that launched the American vérité movement.” –Shannon Abel, HOTDOCS

Jonas Mekas


1963, 20 minutes, 16mm.

“In Spring, 1963 SHOW MAGAZINE called me and asked that I make a film on arts in New York. I told them, why did they want me to make it – didn’t they know I was a bit unusual? … ‘We want something unusual’, they said. So I went out and made a newsreel on arts. SHOW people looked at the rough cut of the film and became very angry. ‘But there is nothing about SHOW MAGAZINE and DuPont fabrics in the movie’, they said. ‘What has that to do with the arts in New York!’ I said. The battle was short. The film was destroyed. Really, I have no idea what they did with it. This workprint of the first FILM MAGAZINE OF THE ARTS is the only print in existence, as far as I know.” –J.M.

Jerry Jofen


1977, 42 minutes, 16mm.

A record of authentic religious rituals – circumcision, upsherung (the cutting of the boy’s hair at age three), Bar mitzvah, betrothal, children learning Aleph-Beth and Chumash, young men studying Talmud, celebrations of festivals, and a farbrengen, a gathering of the Lubavitcher Rebbe addressing thousands of his disciples on Chassidic and Kabbalistic interpretations of the particular occasion.

“[The film’s] most effective scenes celebrate the collective energy of Chassidic life. There are some wonderfully observed street scenes of Purim in Williamsburg…and a particularly lovely wedding ceremony; a sequence of an elderly Torah scribe carries so great a sense of tradition and awe as to render explanation superfluous…. Jofen’s film testifies to the inexhaustible richness of his subject matter.” –J. Hoberman, VILLAGE VOICE

Total running time: ca. 105 minutes.

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