(Almost) True Stories: The Videos of Penny Lane
Friday July 20th 2012, 8:00pm – 10:00pm
SAW Courtyard, 67 Nicholas Street


Community partner: Available Light Screening Collective


Penny Lane’s videos are a hybrid of narrative, documentary and animation, brought together with an experimental approach that questions the truth of empirical evidence and its ability to give us access to the essential humanity of an individual. Lane’s work is humourous, lyrical and touching, but it also asks us to consider whether found objects, documents, texts, photographs, sound recordings and archival films can reliably tell the truth, and if they can convey genuine, emotional human experience. Exploring the conventions of genre, the idea of the narrator, and the limits of media and technology, Lane speculates on the degree to which we can ever truly know another person, and ponders the difficulty of achieving an intimate or sincere connection with another human being. In her video The Voyagers, Lane seems to find the answer to these questions by comparing her own life to the story of Carl Sagan and Annie Druyan, who found each other despite the odds being as large as the cosmos. The discovery of historical parallels is another major trend in Lane’s videos. From the introduction of European Starlings to America in 1890 to Nixon’s re-election in 1972, Lane finds similarities to the present day that examine the role of class, race and gender in shaping a nation. The idealized view of the nuclear family, the well-planned city and civil society are exposed as constructions of those in power, and Lane’s work often examines the structures of censure and repression that maintain these fragile images.


How to Write an Autobiography (2010, 4 min.)
This video will teach you how to write your own autobiography, with examples from the narrator's own life to guide you.


We Are the Littletons: A True Story (2004, 10 min.)
We Are the Littletons presents a tangled web of found objects, intercepted correspondences, reenactments and total fabrications centered around Eve Littleton, an artist with “movie star good looks” who was mysteriously banished from her postcard-perfect American family. A true story with forged signatures, We Are the Littletons is about what lies outside the margins of the American Dream, the people and memories that get removed from the family photos and erased from the records. It is also about their persistent struggle to come home, welcome or not.


Men Seeking Women (2007, 4.5 min.)
A random survey of personal ads one night on Craigslist opens up performative possibilities for a corporate tool.


The Voyagers (2010, 16.5 min.)
In the summer of 1977, NASA sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on an epic journey into interstellar space. Together and alone, they will travel until the end of the universe. Each spacecraft carries a golden record album, a massive compilation of images and sounds embodying the best of Planet Earth. According to Carl Sagan, “[t]he spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” While working on the golden record, Sagan met and fell madly in love with his future wife Annie Druyan. The record became their love letter to humankind and to each other. In the summer of 2010, I began my own hopeful voyage into the unknown. This film is a love letter to my fellow traveler.


The Commoners (with Jessica Bardsley, 2009, 12.5 min.)

In 1890, a wealthy eccentric named Eugene Schieffelin collected every bird ever mentioned by Shakespeare and released them into Central Park. The only one to survive in the New World was the European Starling, now among the commonest – and most despised – birds in America. The Commoners is an essay film about European Starlings, poetry, the rhetorical relationship between nationalism and environmentalism, and the paths people forge through history as they attempt to improve the natural world.


The Silent Majority (with Brian Frye, 2011, 4 min.)

In 1969, President Richard Nixon appealed to “the great silent majority” of Americans for their support. He said, “[a]s President of the United States, I would be untrue to my oath of office if I allowed the policy of this nation to be dictated by the minority who hold [one] point of view and who try to impose it on the nation by mounting demonstrations in the street . . . If a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason and the will of the majority, this nation has no future as a free society.” Three years later, his supporters re-elected him in one of the great landslides in American history. Who were these Americans, and where did they come from? On the 1972 campaign trail, Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Dwight Chapin, and Larry Higby documented on Super 8mm film the crowds that gathered to greet the President. Their home movies capture the forgotten faces of Nixon's silent majority.

Our Nixon (with Brian Frye, excerpt from feature-length documentary in progress)
Everybody knows that during the Watergate investigation, the FBI confiscated more than 3700 hours of Nixon's secret tape recordings. But the FBI also confiscated 204 reels of Super 8mm film. The confiscated films were home movies made by Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Chief Domestic Advisor John Ehrlichman and Special Assistant to the President Dwight Chapin. Our Nixon is a feature length documentary presenting those home movies for the first time, using them to create an intimate and complex portrait of the Nixon presidency from its idealistic beginning to its tragic end.


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