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Lives on Film

OPB | Feb. 11, 2009 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:48 p.m.

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Isaiah Zagar from In a Dream None

The Portland International Film Festival turns 32 this year, and while much of the attention has been focused on the locally produced Coraline, a few other films caught our eyes.

They’re both documentaries featuring artists whose lives have been defined by the creation and accumulation of images. They both raise questions about memory, family, and the power of place. And they both examine the art of autobiography. But their starting points are separated by an ocean and more than 60 years.

The Beaches of Agnès is the latest work by Agnès Varda, who has been called the grandmother of the New Wave. “If you open people, you’ll find landscapes,” she says at the beginning of her new film-as-essay. “If you open me, you’ll find beaches.” Now in her 80th year, Varda is still proving  true NYT critic Vicent Canby’s line that “she lives in a present that is ever enriched by the accumulating past.” We’ll talk to her about her accumulated past and her rich present.

In a Dream, by the young filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar, is an intimate portrait of a family in crisis. Pieced together from interviews, home movies, live action, and animation, it tells the story of Zagar’s father Isaiah, a tireless and troubled mosaic tile artist, on the verge of a breakdown. More broadly, it’s a meditation on a life — and in many respects a family — held together by relentless artistic creation.

What are you interested in hearing from Agnès Varda or Jeremiah Zagar? If you’ve seen any of Varda’s previous films  — The Gleaners and I, for example — what have they meant to you? If you, too, make art out of your accumulated life, what have you learned about either?

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