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Leo Goldsmith

LEO GOLDSMITH is a writer, curator, and teacher based between Brooklyn and Amsterdam. He is the former film editor of the Brooklyn Rail.

Guest Critic

FLUX TIME: Moving-Image Art and the Ends of Cinema

Filmmakers have long sought to rewire the grammar and symbolism of classical cinema, interrogated the material of the film strip, and entered and dismantled the mechanisms of the apparatus itself.

ART ON TAPE: Selections from MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight 2O11

For the last decade, the Museum of Modern Art has presented an annual sampling of international non-fiction films and media works that probe the interstices of cinema and contemporary art. Continuing in this mode, this year’s Documentary Fortnight presents a selection of entries from 14 different countries, with an emphasis on Latin America and China.

CINEMA AS AN EVENT: An Interview with Light Industry’s Ed Halter

In 2007 Ed Halter and Thomas Beard began presenting film and electronic art under the name Light Industry, first in a raw space in a dim corner of Industry City, Brooklyn, and later in a downtown storefront on Livingston Street.

ACTIVISTS & ALIENS: Films of Unrest at the 2011 Festival del Film Locarno

Surrounded by mountains and cozily situated in a picturesque northern cove at the Swiss end of Lake Maggiore, the small Italianate resort-town of Locarno would seem like the ideal haven from urban unrest, protests against various forms of injustice, and similar pressing social and political issues.

Archival Appropriation in Arab Experimental Film and Video at MoMA’s Mapping Subjectivity

Co-curated by ArteEast’s Rasha Salti and MoMA’s Jytte Jensen, the series comprises three parts to be screened over three years. This second installment places particular emphasis on archival documentary: work that engages with and appropriates the documents found in institutional or personal archives in order to disrupt received historical narratives and reimagine new ones.

Hybridity and Experimentation at the 2012 Festival del Film Locarno

The French filmmaker Chris Marker died only a couple of days before the start of the Festival del Film Locarno, Southern Switzerland’s annual sampling of international cinema, festival ephemera, and European premieres of Hollywood films (including Soderbergh’s Magic Mike), but his ghost seemed to loom large over the programmers’ selections.

In Conversation

PHIL SOLOMON with Leo Goldsmith

This fall has seen two New York premieres of recent works by experimental filmmaker Phil Solomon. “EMPIRE,” which screened at this year’s Views from the Avant-Garde, wittily recreates Andy Warhol’s film of the same name.


Hollis Frampton’s career as a filmmaker was somewhat brief: His earliest works were made in 1966, and he continued making films consistently until his untimely death from lung cancer in 1984, when he was only 48. Nonetheless, few figures loom as large in the history of American avant-garde cinema, proliferating ideas about and through the cinema that continue to reverberate among today’s practitioners.

First Look at Museum of the Moving Image

Only in its second year, the Museum of the Moving Image’s First Look has staked its claim in that undiscovered country of films that have traveled the international festival circuit, but haven’t yet found a venue in New York.

In Conversation

Pasolini's Body
Cathy Lee Crane with Leo Goldsmith & Rachael Rakes

In what would have been his 90th year, the Italian poet, filmmaker, linguist, polemicist, and journalist Pier Paolo Pasolini has been honored with a number of events in New York City.

Formal Logic
Materials and Methods at the 2013 Festival del film Locarno

In recent years, the Festival del film Locarno has distinguished itself among the more prominent international fests by packing its slate with daring work from under-sung filmmakers, spotlighting debut directors, and premiering some of the most strange and interesting work from established ones.

In Conversation

Structures of Feeling

Produced under the auspices of Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, Manakamana follows a set of assorted Nepalese pilgrims and sightseers—couples, kids, a metal band, a tribe of goats—on their journeys via cable car to and from the titular mountaintop temple.

Experimental and Nonfiction Cinema at the 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival

Experimental film seems to occupy an increasingly marginal place in contemporary cinema. Even as microcinemas and local scenes and collaboratives continue to proliferate, what should be cinema’s most vital form remains, for most, the sideshow attraction to commercial cinema’s decaying mainstage.

In Conversation

PEGGY AHWESH with Rachael Rakes & Leo Goldsmith

Peggy Ahwesh has been a film and videomaker since the 1970s, working across genres, styles, and approaches throughout. More recently, she has been making work during her stays in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, filming and teaching at Al-Quds Bard College.

In Conversation

MIGUEL GOMES with Leo Goldsmith

When Manohla Dargis, writing in the New York Times, disparaged Miguel Gomes’s Arabian Nights as “a six-hour-plus, three-part indulgence,” it was hard not to perceive a little irony.

In Conversation

ADAM & ZACK KHALIL with Leo Goldsmith

The title of Ojibway filmmakers Adam and Zack Khalil’s debut feature is INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./]—which is a pretty good up-front indicator that this is going to be something other than a straightforward educational documentary.

In Conversation

DONAL FOREMAN with Leo Goldsmith

The Image You Missed positions itself as a “film between”—between its maker, the filmmaker Donal Foreman, and his late, estranged father, Arthur MacCaig, who was himself a filmmaker.

DVD Culture

The Neurotic Gothic Deviated Sex-Colored World: Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood

Curiously, one of the most precise analyses of the films that Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich made together comes from a single page of an essay that reads more like a takedown.

In Conversation

JODIE MACK with Leo Goldsmith

Filmed in more than a dozen countries, Jodie Mack’s maximalist sixty-minute opus The Grand Bizarre (The Pleasure of the Textile) comprises tens of thousands of individually shot frames of psychedelic textiles, maps, alphabets, shipping containers, and electronics. As in her meticulously hand-animated short films, each frame becomes part of a vast and wildly frenetic whole, which, in this film, forms a global symphony of strange codes and hidden patterns. Set to a similarly manic ersatz global pop bricolage on the soundtrack, Mack’s film is both hyper-specific and breathlessly sweeping in scope. We video-conferenced after the film’s world premiere at the 2018 Locarno Film Festival to talk about weaving, kimchi tacos, “tramp stamps,” and alternate knowledge systems.

True to Form: International Documentary Festival Amsterdam 2018

Despite the rise of “creative nonfiction” across documentary production and exhibition over the last decade—at a glance, the “sensory turn” associated with Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, the recent vogue for hybrid films, growing interest in (largely non-narrative) VR docs, the proliferation of documentary forms in the gallery, and the prominence of a number of adventuresome film festivals such as FIDMarseille, Cinéma du Réel, Doclisboa, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real—the narrative, character-driven documentary remains the most salable, at least in the North American market.

Harun Farocki’s Images of War (at a Distance) at MoMA

The centerpiece of Harun Farocki’s Images of War (at a Distance), on view at the Museum of Modern Art through January 2, 2012, is a four-screen installation entitled “Serious Games I-IV” (2009-10) that documents the use of video game technology in the imaging and imagining of war.

Future Days: Berlinale 2020

One of the biggest festivals in Europe, and partner to massive parallel industry events like the European Film Market, the Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin is a behemoth, and over the past several years the consensus around its creative direction under Dieter Kosslick has turned decidedly sour. The job of a festival this size is, perhaps, less to reinvent cinema than to provide a tent capacious enough to accommodate all types of cinematic output.

Leos Carax’s Holy Motors

How, though, can we still talk of art, if the world itself is turning cinematic, becoming “just an act” directly controlled and immediately processed by a television that excludes any supplementary function?

Highlights from Doclisboa 2013

Those who still think of documentary films primarily as infotainment, vessels of variously banal or galling factoids that might once have lived on public television when such a thing existed, would do well to look to Doclisboa, a festival that seeks to challenge rather than reinforce cinematic non-fiction’s formal and thematic boundaries.

In Conversation

LOUIS HENDERSON with Leo Goldsmith

Working alternately with appropriated images, artifacts, interfaces, and observational visual ethnography, the films of Louis Henderson examine linkages between media technologies and modes of political resistance, the conjoined histories of capitalism and colonialism, and temporality and landscape.

Matías Piñeiro and the Art of Seduction

All four of the films Matías Piñeiro has made over the last six years—two feature-length works (2007’s El hombre robado [The Stolen Man] and 2009’s Todos mienten [They All Lie]), and two short features (2010’s Rosalinda and 2012’s Viola)—carve out a series of small spaces in which characters circulate and intersect with one another:

Selections from FID Marseille 2014

Much of this year's 25th anniversary edition of FID Marseille took place at the city's new MuCEM, the Museum for European and Mediterranean Cultures, situated right on the sea itself—such that filmgoers jumped from dark theater to theater, with bouts of blinding sunlight and beautiful breezes in between.

In Conversation

ADAM & ZACK KHALIL with Leo Goldsmith

The title of Ojibway filmmakers Adam and Zack Khalil’s début feature is INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./]—and if that’s not a hint that this is something other than a straightforward educational documentary, I don’t know what is.

NEWS FROM EVERYWHERE: Selections from MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight 2012

Every February, the Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight presents a program of new work that reveals non-fiction media’s often tenuous foothold between the film and art worlds.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2023

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