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in Filmmaking
on Nov 25, 2008

New on the FilmInFocus site is “575 Castro Street,” a short film by San Francisco filmmaker Jenni Olson (The Joy of Life). The film contains images shot on the set of Gus Van Sant’s film over which audio from the real Harvey Milk is played.

Excerpted from her director’s statement, which can be read in full at the link above:

The visuals of 575 Castro St. (the play of light and shadow upon the walls of the Castro Camera set for Gus Van Sant’s Milk) harken back to those gay short films of the ‘70s: The films that passed through Harvey Milk’s hands to be processed and developed. The films that inaugurated an event that would grow to become not just the largest LGBT film festival on the planet, but a media arts non-profit dedicated to serving filmmakers and audiences in myriad ways.

One of the first films I got to see when I attended my first Frameline festival in 1989 (looking for films to curate for my queer film series in Minneapolis) was Warren Sonbert’s Friendly Witness. That same year I also got to see my first queer experimental works by filmmakers like Su Friedrich, Abigail Child, Barbara Hammer and Ulrike Ottinger.

These are the cinematic visions that have shaped and sparked my own vision — first as a curator, and then as a filmmaker myself. It is fitting that the style of 575 Castro St. should match the style of the pioneering gay films that Harvey Milk helped to develop (in all the meanings of that word).

For me, the joy of my films is found in the poetry of the static image —in the experience of time passing on film, undistracted by plot, actors, dialogue and other narrative conventions. An internal drama is evoked in the sensitivities of each viewer who is open to the subtleties of these mundane shots that are almost bereft of movement and sound. So quiet, so still. All the better to showcase the range of emotions evoked by Harvey Milk’s words.

The audio track is an edited down version of the 13-minute audio-cassette that Harvey Milk recorded in his camera shop on the evening of Friday, November 18, 1977 (a few weeks after his election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which made him the first openly gay elected official in America). Labeled simply: “In-Case” the tape was to be played, “in the event of my death by assassination.”

The video is embedded below, but please check out Olson’s complete statement at the FilmInFocus site.

575 Castro St. from FilmInFocus on Vimeo.

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