NEW YORK, NY.-
The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, named after the pioneer documentarian filmmaker, is a long-established lecture and screening symposium that focuses on the art of nonfiction film. In conjunction with the annual seminar, The Museum of Modern Art
presents a more extensive focus of one of the filmmakers whose work is screened and discussed at the seminar. This year, MoMA has selected noted filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako (Mauritanian, b.1961), and will present a seven-film, mid-career retrospective from June 26 through July 2, in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. Sissako, in a rare appearance, will attend the opening two nights of the series and will participate in discussions on his award-winning and best-known features, Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono) (2002) and Bamako (2006), on June 26 and 27. Flaherty at MoMA: The Films of Abderrahmane Sissako is organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, with Irina Leimbacher, independent curator, and Mary Kerr, Executive Director, The Robert Flaherty Film Seminars.
This years showcase honors Sissakos unique style of using personal essay, autobiography, allegory, and drama to explore identity, displacement, and the cultural and economic effects of colonialism in contemporary Africa. Raised in his fathers homeland of Mali, and reunited with his mother in Nouakchott, Mauritania, when he was 21, Sissako was influenced to become a filmmaker by his early childhood hardships and experiences, including his separation from his half brother and Malian childhood friends. In an attempt to reconnect with his culture and the past, he decided to enroll in Moscows Institute for Cinema in 1983 where he studied film until 1989.
Over the course of his career, Sissako has received great international acclaim for creating poetic films that draw from life and issues regarding contemporary Africa. Titles include Sissakos first film Le Jeu (1990), a short that was poorly received by a school jury when it was presented as a graduation assignment in Russia, but eventually won acclaim in the early 1990s after he moved to Paris; October (1992), which tells the story of two Russian lovers struggling to end their affair during one last night in Moscow and is the recipient of more than 18 awards, including the UN Certain Regard award at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival; the short film Sabriya (1997), about two brothers in southern Tunisia; the recent and highly regarded Bamako (2006), about economic hardships and modernization; and Rostov-Luanda (1997), Sissakos only documentary, told in the form of an autobiographical road trip in Angola.
Rounding out the series are Sissakos first feature length drama, Life on Earth (La vie sur terre) (1998), which explores the last day of the twentieth century, and Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono) (2002), an autobiographical film based on his homeland Nouadhibou. Both Life on Earth and Waiting for Happiness will screen with prints newly acquired by MoMA.
Flaherty at MoMA: The Films of Abderrahmane Sissako takes place on the occasion of the fifty-fifth Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Witnesses, Monuments, Ruins, which will run June 20 through 26, 2009, at Colgate University, Hamilton, New York.