Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 7:30pm
Su Friedrich's Sink or Swim + Michelle Citron's Daughter Rite

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Sink or Swim, Su Friedrich, 1990, 16mm, 48 mins
Daughter Rite, Michelle Citron, 1978, digital projection, 55 mins

A pivotal work of feminist cinema, Michelle Citron’s Daughter Rite speculates on the political and personal complexities of mother-daughter relationships through an investigation of her family’s 8mm home movies. In the film, Citron analyzes these inherited images of a seemingly happy mid-century American upbringing—birthday parties, vacation trips, holiday gatherings—using optical printing and an often emotionally disjunctive voiceover to draw out the parent material’s hidden contradictions. “I watched my family’s home movies over and over, trying to understand why they didn’t show what I remembered; why I felt a lie,” Citron later wrote of the project’s genesis. “This is why I made Daughter Rite...to unpack the pictures, exposing the meaning I knew lay just beneath the surface appearance.” While the films were shot by Citron’s father, his presence remains indirect; the main focus is ultimately Citron’s mother, “a woman,” the filmmaker explains in the voiceover, “I am very much like and not like at all.” Citron’s critical take rejects any straightforward reading of amateur filmmaking as somehow more immediate in its lack of technical prowess, and this skepticism of the image’s claim to veracity is amplified via an additional, improvised scenario, shot as if documentary, in which two sisters return to their family home while their unseen mother is hospitalized: a different kind of family drama, intercut into her own.

"Autobiographical fiction presents a paradox,” Citron once remarked. “It allows for more authenticity by giving voice to that which we both consciously and unconsciously know. Yet at the same time, it works by deception, which ironically, by opening up a space of safety, may ultimately lead to honesty and truth." In Sink or Swim, Su Friedrich likewise unravels the tangled correspondences between individual memory and the parent-child dynamic. Here, Friedrich explores her often contentious relationship with her father—a linguist who himself studied kinship structures—through a series of 26 brief vignettes, told in the third person by a young female narrator. Each episode is titled after a letter of the alphabet, and the picture is organized as a reverse abecedarium, running from “Zygote” to “Athena.” The images which accompany these stories, serving as both poignant illustration and a source of contrapuntal friction, are also drawn from home movies as well as Friedrich’s own stunningly shot 16mm sequences of observational street photography, appropriated footage, and staged self-portraiture. As in Daughter Rite, fragments of the filmmaker’s past function not merely as sociological evidence, but as elusive objects of her own restless contemplation, never settling into a single, simple, or easy resolution.

Followed by a conversation with Friedrich.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.