Silverdocs 2007 - "The Gates" (Companion notes from June 10th's Maysles Films Program at BAM)
Following up on my notes from June 10th's Maysles Film Program at BAM with Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens), I would like to include the below notes from a Silverdocs Q and A with Antonio Ferrera, co-director of The Gates, as a companion piece. I was so moved by the presentation at BAM last week that I just had to see "The Gates" at Silverdocs. I missed it when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. But before I present my notes, here's my review:
The Gates is an incredibly engaging, dramatic work of documentary filmmaking with footage spanning more than 25 years of artists Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's struggle and ultimate victory to display their work of art entitled "The Gates" in New York City's Central Park from filmmakers Antonio Ferrera and Albert Maysles. A most dramatic and clever edit occurs at the beginning of the film when we see Christo and Jeanne-Claude as they were in 2005 and all of a sudden, they're back in 1979 as they prepare to talk with the then Parks Department Commissioner Gordon Davis, who turns their exhibition down. The duo take their presentation to various communities throughout New York City from Harlem to NYU, each time getting dissent from skeptical residents where a major argument was that they were going to destroy a piece of natural art by putting their own art over it. Christo's and Jeanne-Claude's response was that Central Park is man-made. Finally, in 2005, mayor Michael Bloomberg approved their exhibition, and in February of that year, "The Gates" went up for two weeks. I happened to see "The Gates" in person, and I personally didn't know what to make of them at the time. Whether or not one agrees that they were a beautiful work of art, one can't help but to admire how they brought an entire city together. Perhaps that is what the art really is, and that is exactly what is captured in the documentary The Gates. The last half-hour of the film shows the two weeks in 2005 when people came to Central Park. The filmmakers capture their natural reactions, excitement and confusion so beautifully.
Photo courtesy of Silverdocs.
The Gates - Q and A with co-director Antonio Ferrera
SILVERDOCS AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival 2007
June 16, 2007
Q: Can you talk about the editing decisions? How much footage was there?
A: 400 hours of the actual event [the two weeks in 2005], about 200 hours from the preceding year, and 30 to 40 hours from 1979. We had access to a lot of great sensibilities. Captured the journey for the audience. Spent two years editing the film from 2005-2007, myself and Matthew Prinzing. I lived in the park for 16-17 hours a day. The story is all about the light.
Q: Did you find the original people who were against "The Gates" in 1979?
A: We hung out with Gordon Davis, who originally turned it down, but turned out to be one of its greatest advocates.
Q: Did Christo and Jeanne-Claude make any money from "The Gates"?
A: The drawings go toward the final work of art.
Q: Did Christo and Jeanne-Claude adjust the opening of "The Gates" because of the snow?
A: What ever happened, happened. It was incredible. It was just mother nature and our discipline to capture it.
Q: Will Christo and Jeanne-Claude do any art exhibitions in the Washington, D.C., area?
A: As soon as you tell them an idea, they don't do it.
Q: What are your thoughts on David and Albert starting the shooting and you finishing it?
A: It's a long story. It was a whole archaeological job.
Q: What was your decision not to showcase Christo and Jeanne-Claude once "The Gates" were fertile.
A: At a certain point, the expression has to take the foreground. I was scared I wouldn't be able to pull it off. We don't interview subjects. An example is the scene with the Trinidadian kids sitting on a rock in Central Park just talking about "The Gates." You can't interview shit like that. You just listen. I remember 9/11 when everyone looked up in horror. At "The Gates," everyone looked up in delight.
Q: What was the decision behind not showing in the film the taking down of "The Gates" in Central Park ?
A: We wanted to capture that feeling when you left the park.