This past October, the film community lost Chantal Akerman, an uncompromising and innovative artist whose prodigious body of work explored experimental, documentary, personal-essay, and narrative techniques, often all at once. Her seminal piece Je Tu Il Elle (1974) and her masterwork, the staggering Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), came in quick succession. Both subverted traditional narrative form through extended pacing and repetitive action, until subverting their own subversions with unexpected dramatic turns.
The radical filmmaker who burst on the scene in the 1970s is still very much to be found in this, Akerman’s ruminating final film—still probing the personal to try to get at the universal, still utterly unconcerned with anyone else’s idea of how a film should look or unfold. A series of conversations between the filmmaker and her mother, a Holocaust survivor, are presented, some conducted in person and some conducted via computer; topics range from small talk about food and daily habits to heavier fare like marriage, politics, and Auschwitz.
In centering on the mother-daughter relationship, Akerman fans will find a worthy companion piece to 1976’s News From Home, in which Akerman read letters from her mother over street scenes of the New York she came to know as a young filmmaker. In revisiting their often intense relationship, decades later and at the end of her mother’s life, No Home Movie already carried with it the heavy weight of time and loss—and with Akerman’s own passing at the age of 65, it takes on added dimensions of emotional resonance. It’s with both sadness and admiration that we program Akerman’s final, deeply personal film, within our 2016 festival. (Eric Allen Hatch)