Matt Porterfield's Take What You Can Carry is one of a trio of shorts that opened the 2nd Art of the Real series, taking place April 10-26 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The film is a delicate portrait of a young American woman in Berlin attempting to reconcile her need for a stable sense of identity with her itinerant lifestyle.
Porterfield's previous work includes the 2010 drama Putty Hill, which nevertheless, received recognition for its nonfiction elements at the doc-centered Cinema Eye Honors, where it won the Heterodox Award. In 2007, he won a Jury Award at the Atlanta Film Festival for Hamilton, and in 2013, he directed and co-wrote I Used to Be Darker.
Take What You Can Carry
Matt Porterfield, USA/Germany, 30m
Description: Matt Porterfield’s first work shot and set outside Baltimore is a delicate portrait of a young woman named Lilly (Hannah Gross, the star of his previous feature, I Used to Be Darker) living in Berlin, attempting to reconcile her need for a stable sense of self-identity with the fulfillment she derives from her itinerant lifestyle. Porterfield channels his gift for composition and subtle psychologizing into a distinctive take on French writer Georges Perec’s essay “Species of Spaces”—in particular, Perec’s assertion that, because places inevitably change, “space becomes a question, ceases to be self-evident… I have to conquer it.”
Responses from Matthew Porterfield:
On his primarily personal motivation in making Take What You Can Carry:
I’m not sure what the subject of my film is. Berlin? Maybe it’s transience? Identity? Or performance? Maybe it’s how we interact with space? Maybe it’s the people who appear in the film, who are all people I love. I wanted to work with some friends and learn more about their city through the process of making a film with them. I think my motivation was primarily personal.
On getting to know Berlin:
The biggest challenge, the question we discussed all the time, was how to depict this city. Berlin is a city that everyone has an idea about, with so much history and influence, but it is always changing and elusive. The question of representation was always on our minds. Along with me, the “we” is Zsuzsanna Kiràly and Jenny Lou Ziegel, who produced and DP’d, respectively.
What is necessary or important to include in the frame to get an impression of place? What meaning does a particular space have? I had to rely on the people around me, who live in Berlin and know it better than I do, to understand the significance of the spaces we framed or considered framing. Like a tourist, I was trying to catch fragments—form an impression. It was challenging for me to direct a film in a place where I felt less than confident in this impression.
On the filmmakers whose works “play like good fiction”:
I love Allan King, Frederick Wiseman, the Maysles, the documentaries of Werner Herzog and Agnès Varda, and films like Streetwise, Seventeen, Style Wars, and Paris Is Burning. The documentaries that have influenced me the most play like good fiction, and vice versa.
On what's coming up next:
My new screenplay, Sollers Point, is about a self-hating but outwardly compassionate drug dealer named Keith, who is living with his father, attempting to get his life back on track after two years in prison. It’s a film about class, race, family, love, recidivism, manhood, the individual, and what it means to be part of a community. And it’s a film about the negative effects of capitalism.