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Xcèntric. 13th season 2013-2014

Robert Gardner. Documentarist and visionary


Regarded as one of the great US documentary filmmakers and influential maestro of the Harvard documentary school, Robert Gardner is responsible for a large body of work that moves between ethnographic poetics and journeys prompted by a fascination with cultural and religious otherness in the contemporary Western world. He aims to capture not only the essence of these places, but also the sensible depth of his personal experience. The poet Seamus Heaney wrote of the “deep and literate gaze” that Robert Gardner transmits “with an intensity that passes from the documentary into the visionary”. Forest of Bliss is his masterwork, a mystical experience and a symphony of the Indian city of Benares, between one dawn and the next: “It is intended as an account of the inevitable grief and the frequent joys that represent everyday life in Benares, one of the world’s holiest cities. It is an attempt to give those who wish to see it an absolutely authentic if magnified view of the questions of life and death that are portrayed in the activities of three individuals who are seen in particular detail. Having seen it completed, I am sure that the animals, especially the dogs, have an importance that I barely registered while I was filming. The dogs and, of course, the river.” (Robert Gardner)

Mark Tobey, Robert Gardner, 1952, 19 min; Forest of Bliss, R. Gardner, 1986, 90 min. [Video screening]

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