Content and Curriculum

Women Documentarians

Melissa Anderson on Shirley Clarke

Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice and a regular contributor to Artforum and Bookforum. A member of the New York Film Critics Circle, she has also written for Film Comment and Sight & Sound, and was a member of the selection committee of the New York Film Festival from 2009 to 2012.

For In the Director’s Chair’s forthcoming volume on women documentarians, Anderson focuses on the life and work of Shirley Clarke, a dancer-turned-filmmaker whose “Portrait of Jason” (1967), captures the exuberant performance of the late Aaron Payne as a hustler named Jason Holliday, stands as a landmark in U.S. documentary cinema. As Manohla Dargis noted in the New York Times,

“Dancer, bride, runaway wife, radical filmmaker and pioneer — Shirley Clarke is one of the great undertold stories of American independent cinema.”

Lisa Kennedy on Jehane Noujaim

Lisa Kennedy is the theater and film critic for The Denver Post and blogs on Stage, Screen and In Between. A former editor at the Village Voice, she is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and has spoken on NPR’s All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation.

For In the Director’s Chair’s forthcoming volume on women documentarians, Kennedy writes about the award-winning films of Jehane Noujaim, including “Control Room” (2004), about the television network Al Jazeera, and “The Square” (2014), which examines the recent revolutions in Egypt, where the filmmaker was born.

Stuart Klawans on Laura Poitras

Stuart Klawans has been the film critic for The Nation since 1988. He is the author of the books “Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order” (a finalist for the 1999 National Book Critics Circle Awards) and “Left in the Dark: Film Reviews and Essays, 1988-2001.” His reviews won a 2007 National Magazine Award.

For In the Director’s Chair’s forthcoming volume on women documentarians, Klawans turns his gaze to the work of Laura Poitras, whose films, including her riveting portrait of whistleblower Edward Snowden, “Citizenfour” (2014), have distinguished her as one of the foremost political filmmakers in the world.

Rob Nelson on Barbara Kopple

Rob Nelson is the executive director and editor in chief at In the Director’s Chair. A member of the National Society of Film Critics since 1998, he has written for Variety, Film Comment, The Village Voice, and Mother Jones. An article of his appears in the Smithsonian Institution’s Shohei Imamura booklet, “A Man Vanishes.”

For In the Director’s Chair’s forthcoming volume on women documentarians, Nelson looks at the work of Barbara Kopple, whose long and illustrious career has spanned from her Oscar-winning “Harlan County, USA” (1976), about striking coal miners in Kentucky, to portraits of Woody Allen, Mike Tyson, and the Dixie Chicks.

Nick Pinkerton on Penelope Spheeris
Nick Pinkerton has written about films for Sight & Sound, ArtForum, the Village Voice, Moving Image Source and Reverseshot.com, among other publications. A film programmer and member of the New York Film Critics Circle, he contributes a weekly column, “Bombast,” to the SundanceNOW blog.

For In the Director’s Chair’s forthcoming volume on women documentarians, Pinkerton hails the films of Penelope Spheeris, whose “The Decline of Western Civilization” (1981) and its two sequels stand among the most indelible screen portraits of late-20th century American youth culture and rock ‘n’ roll.

Amy Taubin on Agnes Varda
Amy Taubin is a contributing editor at Film Comment and Sight & Sound and a frequent contributor to Artforum. She is the recipient of an Art Historian/Teacher award (2004) from the School of Visual Arts, where she teaches, and is the author of the British Film Institute’s “Classic Films” volume on “Taxi Driver.”

For In the Director’s Chair’s forthcoming volume on women documentarians, Taubin focuses on the life and work of Agnes Varda, whose pioneering French New Wave film “Cleo From 5 to 7” (1962) paved the way for a series of equally innovative documentaries, including, in recent years, “The Gleaners & I” (2000), “Cinevardaphoto” (2004), and “The Beaches of Agnes” (2008).