It’s with a great range of emotions that Headroom Screening Series presents FOR THE MENDING: The Films of JONATHAN SCHWARTZ. Beloved filmmaker, Jonathan Schwartz, was just 45 when he died last October, leaving the experimental film community and the world in a shadow of his absence. He bent time with his love of light, poetry, and sound; and we’re fortunate to begin to mend and pay tribute with a program of his beautiful films.
Jonathan Schwartz (1973-2018) was a filmmaker, teacher, and source of inspiration for all his friends and students. Jonathan incorporated found and collected materials in many of his films, and simultaneously developed his unique 16mm vision through intimate exchanges with his subjects, handheld gestures, in-camera superimpositions, and a profound attention to the transient qualities of the world around us. Whether in his short collage films or works shot in his home, on his many walks, or during cinematic journeys to Israel, India, Turkey, or Iceland, his work simultaneously embodies a devotion to the ephemerality of external worlds and a gestural responsiveness to evanescent internal states. Often incorporating aurally textured poetic readings, and other times eschewing all words, Jonathan’s films both lacerate and console as we confront his unique cinematic expression of sorrow, disquiet, and exultation.
Jonathan received his MFA at Massachusetts College of Art where he studied under professors Mark Lapore, Erika Beckman, and Saul Levine. Over the years he taught courses at the School of Museum of Fine Arts and Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and at Bennington College in Vermont. From 2008 to 2018 he was Associate Professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire. He lived in Bratteboro, Vermont.
Jonathan’s films have screened nationally and internationally at venues such as New York Film Festival’s ‘Views from the Avant-Garde’ and ‘Projections’ programs and Toronto International Film Festival’s ‘Wavelengths’ program. Other festival screenings include International Film Festival Rotterdam, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Images Film Festival, Media City Film Festival, Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Exis (Seoul, Korea), and TIE. His films were also presented in solo shows at the Austrian Film Museum, UnionDocs, Cinema Project, and San Francisco Cinematheque as well as alongside the work of Mark Lapore at the 13th Brakhage Center Symposium. In 2010, he was included in The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Avant-Garde Poll in Film Comment as one of 25 Filmmakers for the 21st century.
Biography courtesy of Irina Leimbacher.
Animals Moving to the Sound of Drums
2013 | 8 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
That fall it was not intentional to have a Galway Kinnell book on the table near where the caterpillar in the doorway, feeding on our offerings, became the butterfly, feeding on honey water, staying in our house until we let it go. Or it was not known about the deer in Putney or that the baby birds in the raspberry bushes would cry to us in summer. A beloved, old friend once visited Vermont to do some work for Galway Kinnell and she described a stone table in the field where they ate meals in the afternoon — it sounded like a song and so I looked at the book and from Little Sleep’s-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight here is that line: “The still undanced cadence of vanishing.” – JS
For a Winter
2007 | 16mm | 3 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
“for a winter without much snow, we can all see the evidence in the exhales.
or I was wondering if shadows pass faster and faster then, collectively, we might all see you by our sides.” – JS
If the War Continues
2012 | 16mm | 5 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
“and before I could be noticed again and taken to task, I spoke to the tiny blessed star within me, shut off my heartbeat, made my body disappear into the shadow of a bush, and continued my previous voyage without thinking about returning home ever again.” -H.Hesse
2008 | 16mm | 3 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
…refers to Schwartz’s grandfather-in-law’s age during the making of the film–an anniversary celebrated with the gift of piloting a U.S. army light aircraft, the kind he used to maneuver in the Second World War. While he rises and falls, watched by the impassive but attentive look of a woman who could be his wife, he is the protagonist of a flight into the past. Again, there is tension emphasized by an impending sound in crescendo, this time the one of the jet engine. This jump into the void is a recurrent creative preoccupation that might refer to distance, wounds, and risks. – Monica Saviron
A Mystery Inside of a Fact
2016 | 16 mm | 17 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
It arrives, in a fog, with songs, through dance or majestic animals or faces (gliding on the street), and in shapes of light, maybe on a large bird of prey in flight–gesture skyward. Some origins can be difficult to pinpoint, others blink back–infinitely. – JS
In a Year with Thirteen Deaths
2008 | 16mm | 3 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
a film structured by the directly recorded cyclic sound of a needle on the silent track of a vinyl album. The picture from the title, and the subsequent mirror images, lightly shake and abruptly jump in a tractile movement that resembles the pulse of the heart, sizing memories into the present. Light painting and nature imagery are captured in 13 shots of different points of luminescence, on the 13th anniversary of Schwartz’s mother’s passing, and as a homage to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s personal In a Year with Thirteen Moons (1978). In this film, Fassbinder reacts to his lover Armin Meier’s suicide by telling the story of Elvira, who visits some of the important places and people of her life before ending it all. As the circular sound repeats itself, Schwartz’s film also remains unended–he seems to know that these motifs are not resolved, they are not behind, but below consciousness, and he will not sign off with his name and year, as he does with the rest of his work. – Monica Saviron
New Year Sun
2010 | 16mm | 13 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
…in which Schwartz approaches light traveling through water in all its forms. His macro lens strives to get closer to the essence, to the transparency of things, and yet, the tenebrous and doomed cry of a church’s bell, and the ascending, unstoppable pitch that accompany the images end up close to the sound of a derailed train–and the unfocused, unclear vision that comes with it. – Monica Saviron
A Set of Miniatures: A Certain Worry; (an aging process); A Kind of Quiet
2014 | 16mm | 9 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
a kind of quiet situated amid the in between of ascending and descending. it seems hard to land and when this happens something else might disappear. an aging process located in the peonies blooming and in the early summer river and in the light that falls across playful bodies. a certain worry enveloped in the covering of the ground, illuminated around a face, light on something ferocious, touch upon something gentle. – JS
For Them Ending
2005 | 16mm | 3 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
“swallowed up in the sky, the sound sustained by echo, always fading.
the nature of a season, moving forward with growth or death or growth.
or I was wondering how to make New England fall colors linger so if you couldn’t visit soon the yellow oranges and reds would still be waiting for you” – JS
A Leaf is the Sea is a Theater
2017 | 16mm | 17 minutes | COLOR | SOUND
‘Facts are perceptions of surfaces.’
– Susan Howe
‘You cannot describe a house on fire until the actual event takes place. Perhaps there will be no fire. Either you’ll have to deny the description as a fiction, or burn the house in accordance with the script.’
– Dziga Vertov
You cannot put a fire out;
A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
Upon the slowest night.
– Emily Dickinson
HEADROOM is sponsored by the Department of Cinematic Arts, the Public Digital Arts Cluster, and Little Village Magazine.
Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Cinematic Arts at 335-0330 or firstname.lastname@example.org