As Long as There’s Breath
Filmmaker Stephanie Spray in person for Q&A!
Stephanie Spray’s third video work documenting the lives of a Nepali family named the Gayeks, As Long as There’s Breath focuses on their daily rituals and conversations in the wake of their son’s departure. Using the long take as a means of rendering the emotional substance beneath the surface of everyday routines, Spray connects the psychological effects of a loved one’s absence to the most mundane yet essential acts of work, and the resulting portrait lays bare the family’s inner lives, while maintaining their role as collaborators in the film.
Stephanie Spray | USA | 2010 | Digital Projection | 14m
A playful piece depicting, in a continuous shot, the bickering and bantering of a newlywed couple in Nepal.
Focus on the Sensory Ethnography Lab
In a mere eight years, the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University has gone from an unusually ambitious academic program to one of the most vital incubators of nonfiction and experimental cinema in the United States. Lucien Castaing-Taylor established the SEL in 2006 on the premise that documentary and art are not mutually exclusive and that the intensive fieldwork of anthropology could nourish both. In practice this means rejecting the laziest devices in the contemporary documentarian’s tool kit: reductive story arcs, infantilizing voiceovers and talking heads, manipulative music cues. It also reconnects documentary to the work of such pioneers as Robert Flaherty and Jean Rouch, and indeed to the medium’s eternal promise as an instrument for both capturing reality and heightening the senses. The films in this selection, including work produced at the SEL and work that inspired SEL makers, attest to the aspirations of sensory ethnography: to experience the world, and to transmit some of the magnitude and multiplicity of that experience. Presented in collaboration with the 2014 Whitney Biennial.