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The Woodmans
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The Woodmans

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Running Time
82 minutes

The Woodmans

Francesca Woodman’s haunting B&W images, many of them nude self-portraits, now reside in the pantheon of great photography from the late 20th century. The daughter of artists Betty and Charles Woodman (she a ceramicist and he a painter/photographer), Francesca was a precocious RISD graduate, who came to New York with the intention of setting the art world on fire. But in 1981, as a despondent 22-year-old, she committed suicide. The Woodmans beautifully interweaves the young artist’s work (including experimental videos and diary passages) with interviews with the parents who have nurtured her professional reputation these past 30 years, while continuing to make art of their own in the face of tragedy. The film grapples with disturbing issues, among them: parent-child competition and the toxic level of ambition that fuels the New York art scene. Says Betty Woodman succinctly: “She’s the famous artist and we’re the famous artist’s family.” (Karen Cooper, Film Forum).

Filmmaker Notes:

I confess to being much more comfortable working in the world of armed conflict than the world of emotional conflict. For most of my career I have produced and directed investigative films, “big stories” about global issues and institutions. By that measure, The Woodmans is a “small story” butit has an enormous impact on the people who see it. To me it is a story about a family, the bond of art that unites it and the tragedy it suffers and comes to terms with — because of that bond. It is a film that taught me to be patient, to appreciate the beauty of the world it inhabits and above all to listen carefully — so the story could reveal itself.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2011
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