After thoughts

Influence

I have looked at other films where the documentary maker’s presence is included. The Gleaners and I (2000), by Agnes Varda, is an example. In this film the French New Wave veteran travels across France meeting people who glean. Not only do we learn about the keen environmentalists who pick up the waste others have discarded, but also of Varda’s personal feelings on aging, illustrated by shots of her wrinkled hands and her graying hair. What I like about The Gleaners and I is the way that Varda does not keep strictly to the topic of gleaning. On her journey she will often wander from the subject, including the spontaneous things that happen while she travels.

Preparing for an exhibition and making a film is another type of journey. On this trip I have aimed to show the anxieties and joys that both filmmaker and artist experience, as well as establishing a sense of Allie Eagle’s background and the concepts and motivations that surround her oeuvre. I have used a narrative that follows the chronological order of this journey and at the same time has enables me to string various themes, visual montages, and layers of meaning together.

I have been inspired by Jane Zuster’s photographic exhibition Where did you go to my lovely. In this show the artist displayed photographs of her friends in the 70s next to recent photographs of them in 2001. “These days I am interested in snapshots that say something about where we were. The 70s were wild and passionate times in which we were living out the revolutions. We were innocents and we really did believe that we were going to changes the world.” —Jane Zusters, Where did you go to my lovely catalogue, 2002.

Importance of this film / and International significance

In the 70s Allie was very aware of other feminist art movements happening around the world and was interested in making connections with artists abroad, including Judy Chicago who she had hoped to organise an exhibition with. Her passion and dedication to art, her honesty, and her often controversial opinions is what attracted me towards Allie as a subject. Her approach to her exhibition Sudden Imperative could be compared with that of another feminist veteran, Germaine Greer. Allie’s decision to recontextualise her 70s work in is similar tc Greer’s recent book, The Whole Woman. Here Greer attempts to readdress the issues she first raised in The Female Eunuch, an influential feminist text in the 70s. Greer is also well known for changing her mind on some things.

The West Coast of New Zealand has established a profle of being creative, beautiful and community orientated and my film promotes and extends this view. Allie lives in a humble house next to Bethells Beach, Te Henga, and the Waitakere wetlands. This landscape is a predominate feature in her work, and also in the documentary. The film also recognizes the beach community which Allie is heavily involved in, she has had a long term commitment to the Beach Care project and has set up an atelier workshop on her properly, where she supports and encourages local emerging artists. These aspects are particularly relevant to New Zealand culture, and they identity a significant part of our arts community and landscape.

Dear Allie,

We shot Allie Eagle and Me in 2003 — now it is 2007. I can’t believe how long it has been! Now a chunk of my life has been captured on tape and will always be there. I will look back as an older woman and still be 22 years old walking through the Te Henga wet land. I find this concept amazing and it is something that fascinates me about the documentary medium.

Now three years later, I watch the film in a different way. I don’t think about the storyline or the issues I was talking about. I start to think about how I felt while making it and what was going on in my life at that point. I remember being very much in love with one of the members of the crew. I also remember feeling very insecure about the film and my directing. It was the first time I had embarked o a project of this size and I was very unsure of whether I was doing it the right way.

What I know now, and which I didn’t then, is that there is no right or wrong way of directing. I just needed to know how my story was going to fit together and what exactly I wanted to say. I did know these things and I really had nothing to worry about.

When I look at the shots of the swamp I can’t believe how beautiful they are. I think the DOP did the most amazing job. Partly the reason they do look so amazing is because we got up really early in the morning — around six or so. It was Autumn which was the perfect time to shoot the film. Everything was ablaze and the swamp was on fire. I had planned it to be this way so that it would relate to the red panel and the continuing red theme throughout the film.

I want to thank my family for supporting me — they were really amazing I also need to thank you Allie for agreeing to participate. What makes the film so rewarding is that you and I are honest; I think this is the best thing about the work. I believe people appreciate watching honesty and that is why the film has appealed to so many different people, men and women of all ages.

In the end it doesn’t matter whether the audience agrees with your position. Well, perhaps it does to you, but for me I hope that the film is able to give people an insight into how one artist is thinking and reacting to the world around her and how this is reflected in her art.

So much television and even movies aren’t honest enough — they are just candyfloss for the eyeballs. I like to watch or make a film that makes us think — and hopefully even produces a little debate on the way home.

Thank you for helping me make that film,
X Briar

Dear Briar,

I am still gobsmacked at how a film gets put together. And how carefully you orchestrated your first looking and listening of your “old artist friend and neighbour and how you ‘got’ my story line and my desire to have you in the film… and how you stayed true to the main things I wanted to communicate. (I must say I rather wondered if I wasn’t indeed the set-painter for “the” Briar March Film sometimes!)

It was incredibly challenging for me to stay focused on painting my pictures and still being attendant to the process of your needs in making the film. An interesting tension between young and mature artists, both honing their own work whilst working symbiotically.

I think we both worked hard to make space for each other to play our fullest hand. I like the feeling that somehow our mix gets the viewer to intergenerational conversations.

It was good too, developing more of an idea of where the atelier studio might go, I am very grateful to all the people who worked with me on that: Anna Nicolson, Jess Nicolson, Vickie Worthington, Tessa Standen, Brenda Willering, Spike, Ben Beattie, Asher March, John Mayne and Kimiko Kanai and Dora.

There’s all this memorabilia now from the film and a stretched part of me that might not ever take its pre-“Allie Eagle and Me” shape, (well I should by now have been working out in a gym at least!. Having seen the film quite a few times am still not too impressed about that aspect! But hey….lt has this ability to touch people. That really is special. And I don’t feel as if it’s just about you and me…. It’s about a lot of people. Most of whom we don’t know.

I’d do it again for the sake of the longer conversation. Eve if it drove me nearly spare! You are a hard taskmistress!

I liked the fact that the Film archive projectionist said he still wasn’t bored with the film after having shown it several times at the (New Zealand International) film festival. Usually he’s over it by the second time round.

God Bless.

Your friend,
Allie xxx