ROBERT KRAMER

BIO/FILMOGRAPHY

In the 1960's he made his mark as the great filmmaker of the American radical left whose first films painted a portrait of a generation of militants marked by their opposition to the war in Vietnam (In the country, The Edge, and Ice). He was the founder and prime mover of the Newsreel movement. He has travelled to Latin America, North Vietnam in the middle of the war (People's war), then in Portugal after the April Revolution (Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal, and Gestos e fragmentos), and in post-independance Angola. Once the most directly political era was over and was captured and represented by Kramer in all its ambiguities and contradictions, he has never stopped reflecting in his films on the "heart of darkness" of the West - that dominating madness that he had shown in Le manteau as a "line that goes through time".

Soon recognized as a filmmaker of the first magnitude in America by Jonas Mekas and in Europe by "new cinema" circles, Kramer has circulated from the beginning in a realm of discovery as far away from Hollywood as it is from underground and experimental film. In his thirty years of total independence, he has made film his instrument for discovery and used it to reflect on personal and collective experience. His films are at the same time secretly autobiographical and flagrantly open to the world. By mixing document and fiction (a distinction that no longer really makes any sense being there), he invented an artistic form that gets more and more original, malleable, and free and is marked by a polyphonic crossing of voices and characters (more than fifty in Milestones) and by the immediate presence of the filmmaker as witness or conversation partner.

"The man with the movie camera", the camera person for many of his film, Kramer is, in turn, the first "character" of his works. This is the reason why - in addition to the larger or even monumental films - the "minor" films are important - the videos, the home movies, the video letters, the works done on commission and each time reinvented, as well as the most radical borderline experiences (Notre Nazi, Berlin 10/90, and Ghosts of Electricity). Here we are dealing with a continual and inextricable collusion between art and life, a way of "living through" his own films to the hilt. We are dealing with the acknowledgement that "one day or the other all these films that I'm making will make up a single, long film, a "story" that is always developing". The practice of using the camera as an extension of his own body and his own mind reaches a strong conclusion in his extraordinary reflection on the mutation of cinema and the world made in Ghosts of Electricity, his latest film.

The great fascination of his personality is also the product of a continuous movement that ignores national boundaries and characterizes his life and his cinema, both perennially in movement. Kramer is the most nomadic American filmmaker, the filmmaker of the voyage and of the "starting place". He was discovered in Europe and became, in turn, a "European" director. He is more in transit than in exile in Paris. Even here in Europe, he moved to seek the edges of the continent (Walk the Walk).

In his films he has expressed as much the physical energy of the "walker" with the camera on his shoulders as he has expressed the lucid melancholy of the man without a country who has to return to his own territory, to his own "home" sooner or later. In fact, it is exactly Kramer who can today be acknowledged as one of the American filmmakers par excellence of the most recent decades - the one who more than any others has restored his country's historical and geographical sense, the epic breath and pulsation of the continent, the dissolving ties of the community and the utopia of a new "citizenship". This happens in those two grandiose crossings of America that are separated by fifteen years, Milestones and Route One USA, the two strongholds of Kramer's works around which so many other films are placed as they engage in a sort of uninterrupted dialogue with America.

Robert Kramer was born in New York in 1940. He studied philosophy and Western European History at Swarthmore College and Stanford University.

He has written two unpublished novels, numerous poems, plays and short stories. In 1965, he organized the Newark Community Project (N-CUP) in an African-American community.

He worked as a reporter in Latin America for various American publications. He worked with Peter Gessner on a film on the guerrilla movement in Venezuela. In 1966, he created Alpha 60 with Norman Fruchter, Robert Machover, Peter Gessner, and Mike Robinson. It was a sort of free cooperative of directors-producers who later were channelled into the Newsreel movement, which Kramer helped found and organize. Kramer's Newreel experience lasted from 1967 to 1971, during which about sixty short - and middle-length films were produced - documentaries, films of struggle, and agitation films.

In the early 1980's, he moved to Europe, and he currently is living and working in Paris.

Director of:

FALN, 1965
IN THE COUNTRY, 1966
THE EDGE, 1967
ICE, 1969
PEOPLE's WAR, 1969
MILESTONES, 1975
SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN PORTUGAL, 1979
GUNS, 1980
UN GRAND JOUR EN FRANCE-NAISSANCE/ A GREAT DAY IN FRANCE, BIRTH ,1981
A TOUTE ALLURE / AS FAST AS YOU CAN 1982
LA PEUR / THE FEAR, 1983
SARKIS AT WOODROW WILSON-MUSEE D'ART MODERNE, 1984
NOTRE NAZI / OUR NAZI, 1984
DIESEL, 1985
UN PLAN D'ENFER / A PLAN OF HELL, 1986
X-COUNTRY, 1987
DOC's KINGDOM, 1987
ROUTE ONE/USA, 1989
DEAR DOC, 1989
MAQUETTE (BROUILLON DE FILM) / SCALE MODEL , 1990
BERLIN 10/90, 1990-91
SOUS LE VENT / LEEWARD, 1991
SERIES OF VIDEOLETTERS : STEVE DWOSKIN , 1991
ECRIRE CONTRE L'OUBLI/WRITING AGAINST FORGETTING : POUR/FOR FIDEL INTRUSCA FERNANDEZ, PEROU ,1991
POINT DE DEPART/ STARTING PLACE, 1993
LA ROUE /THE WHEEL: GREG LEMOND - ANDREW HAMPSTEN, 1993
WALK THE WALK, 1996
LE MANTEAU /THE MANTLE, 1996
GHOSTS OF ELECTRICITY, 1997.

Actor, screenwriter of:
GESTURES AND FRAGMENTS, 1980-82 by Alberto Seixas Santos
THE STATE OF THINGS, 1981 by Wim Wenders.

and two pieces written for the Pioneer Theater (NYC) Screenings (3-8MAR00)
biography and filmography

 

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