Su Friedrich. Ties that Bind

With a clearly feminist and humanist conscience, a huge dollop of honesty, sensitivity and a sharp sense of humour, from the late 70s to the present day, the American film-maker Su Friedrich has made over twenty films. They spring from her personal experiences, her emotions, dreams, fears and desires to explore forms of self-knowledge and knowledge of the world, working from a series of intimate processes (love, sexuality, sickness), family-related (the relationship with her father, her mother’s life story), and social aspects (gentrification, lesbian activism). Each work represents an additional puzzle piece in a sort of essayistic self-portrait which confirms the motto ‘personal is political’.

Su Friedrich was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1954. She studied at the University of Chicago (1971-72) and at Oberlin College (1972-1975), where she graduated in Art and History of Art. In 1976, after a six-month trip through the north and west of Africa, she moved to New York to work as a photographer. The following year, she attended a super 8 film course at the Millennium Film Workshop, an alternative facility within the experimental film world, where she found her true vocation. From super 8 for her first short films, she moved on to 16mm and from 2004 she was making films in digital video.

She wrote, filmed, edited and added the sound (with occasional exceptions) enjoying great formal freedom, paying particular attention to the juxtaposition of texts, sounds and images with varied origins, her films have the virtue of being accessible and enjoyable for a wide range of audiences, film lovers and the general public, even people who are not connoisseurs of experimental, feminist or queer cinema. 

Concerning her relationship with the first of these labels, the film-maker wrote: “To the extent that I have never liked (and have tried to avoid) the term ‘experimental cinema’, nowadays I think the same about the term ‘experimental documentary’. (...) It would be much better if we called our work documentaries and let the traditionalists writhe in their seats (or graves) to see something so ‘experimental’ be described as simply a documentary. Why should they get to say how the world is documented? Why are their works ‘documentaries’ and ours are ‘experimental documentaries’? (...) A lesson I learnt as a young lesbian years ago was that, if I talked about myself as another person, they would treat me as such, whereas if I talked about myself as another human being, they would treat me this way. I think that we should see ourselves as documentalists when we document the real world. The fact that we are teams of just one person, we infiltrate ourselves in our stories, we compose in an unconventional way, and we edit for multiple readings instead of for a linear narrative does not mean that we are not making documentaries. Let’s let other people worry about whether this makes them feel uncomfortable: we should not put ourselves outside the history of documentary cinema because we are largely part of it.” 

In parallel to her work as an independent film-maker, Su Friedrich worked for many years laying out books and magazines using analogue tools. She later began to give classes in various film schools such as The New School and NYU. She has been a professor of film and video at the University of Princeton since 1998. She also embarked on projects such as setting up a website on the Afro-American film-maker William Greaves, or Edited By, an online database compiling information on female film editors.

This retrospective of films by Su Friedrich, the first in Spain, will then travel on to Barcelona (Filmoteca de Catalunya), Madrid (Cineteca), A Coruña (Filmoteca de Galicia - CGAI) and Valencia (IVAC - La Filmoteca).

Programme and texts by Gloria Vilches

Programme 1

Gently Down the Stream
Su Friedrich, 1981, 13 min.

Hide and Seek
Su Friedrich, 1996, 65 min.

Programme 1

Programme 2

Sink or Swim
Su Friedrich, 1990, 48 min.

Rules of the Road
Su Friedrich, 1993, 31 min.

Programme 2

Programme 3

The Ties That Bind
Su Friedrich, 1985, 55 min.

I Cannot Tell You How I Feel
Su Friedrich, 2016, 42 min.

Programme 3

Programme 4

The Odds of Recovery
Su Friedrich, 2002, 65 min.

Su Friedrich, 2022, 57 min.

Programme 4
Promoted by
Gobierno de Navarra
Organized by
With the aid of
Con la financiación del Gobierno de España. Instituto de la Cinematografía y las Artes Audiovisuales Acción Cultural Española Plan de Recuperación, Transformación y Resiliencia Financiado por la Unión Europea. NexGenerationEU

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