Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 7pm
D. A. Pennebaker's Elizabeth and Mary

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Presented with MoMA's Documentary Fortnight

Elizabeth and Mary
D. A. Pennebaker, 16mm, 1965, 60 mins

One of the first films completed by D. A. Pennebaker after he formed his own independent production company in 1963, Elizabeth and Mary is a deeply moving but rarely seen work of direct cinema, focusing on a day in the life of two identical twin girls, one of whom is blind and mentally handicapped. Pennebaker’s camera follows them as they get up in the morning, attend to their respective classes, and go to bed at night. Despite the fact that the film was commissioned as a medical study, Elizabeth and Mary eschews the typical conventions of its subject matter, refusing to generalize the twins’ lives or attempt to isolate problems; rather, the film simply follows how the children’s day unfolds, in long unbroken scenes and fluid camerawork, using cross-cutting between their very different educational milieus as almost the only form of commentary. Made a year before Pennebaker would bring new documentary form to a mass audience with Don’t Look Back, Elizabeth and Mary remains one of the finest, if unheralded, instances of observational filmmaking.

“This film was made expressly for medical purposes and yet it is one of my favorite theatrical films. The purpose was to spend a day with a pair of twins, one of whom was partially sighted and the other totally blind and brain-damaged. The difference between the children was predictably interesting, but not at all in the way I expected. The film was an incredible lesson in looking and expecting. It never fails to astound me… I edited with the expert psychiatric help of Dr. Arthur Gilman, who was at that time connected with the Jewish Guild for the Blind. He and they produced the film. The original version was eight hours long, a truly pure film, but unwatchable. No narration, hardly any editing and no preaching.” – D. A. Pennebaker

Followed by a conversation with Pennebaker.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 6:30.