"The Amateur Naturalist Film Series,” is a monthly micro-cinema at the Akin Free Library located in the Hudson Valley. The series takes it’s name from Olive Gunnison, who, during her lifetime amassed an enormous collection of specimens covering all phases of Natural History and opened a museum now housed in the basement of the Akin Free Library. The first program was held on November 3rd 2017 and featured films by the following four filmmakers.
The films spotlighted here explore a kind of citizen-scientist approach to both filmmaking and film subject. Whether traversing the state boundaries of Nebraska or creating a typology for how we memorialize and bury the dead, or play acting the high-stakes risks for a Salmon trying to gamble her way upstream but walled off from her home by a concrete dam, each film projects a lyrical curiosity about our relationship to landscape and the boundaries between here and there and the margins of each in between.
In Vulgar Fractions, the fourteenth century term used to describe a numerator and denominator separated by a horizontal line, Peter Bo Rappmund plots the Nebraska landscape by locating built and living markers across the edges of state lines. In Here After, Esy Casey and Sarah Friedland create a patchwork of burial practices across the United States that illuminate questions about how we care for the dead and what that says about our humanity and who we are as citizens and stewards of the land. And in The Gold Fish Casino, Sarolta Jane Vay brings to life a bio-diverse ensemble cast of riparian critters, living water features, and a bumbling Army Chorus of Engineers all directing a down-on-her luck anadromous salmon just trying to get home.
Here After is a feature length documentary that takes a deeper look at three unconventional American cemeteries, told through the wit and wisdom of their caretakers. In Miami, over a thousand cremated remains have been placed undersea by Jim Hutslar at The Neptune Memorial Reef. In upstate New York’s Greensprings Natural Burial Cemetery, Jen Johnson manages 130 acres that double as a wildlife preserve. In Texas, Dr. Lori Baker is exhuming a mass grave of undocumented immigrants, to identify and repatriate the remains. HERE AFTER interweaves their stories, creating a rare glimpse into the memorialization process that reveals the social and ecological implications of our final mark upon the earth. This project was graciously supported by a grant from The Princess Grace Foundation USA and a MacDowell Colony Residency.
The Gold Fish Casino is the queer tale of a plucky Salmon forced by a lack of water to gamble her eggs to get upstream. As a storm brews in the distance, the Water Tycoon shuffles in for a cataclysmic show down. Will the Salmon and her newfound allies rise up? Or will it all go down the drain?
Vulgar Fractions ostensibly begins as a physical exploration of seven unique state intersections along Nebraska, but eventually reveals itself as more concerned with attempting to uncover an underlying metaphysical construction that feeds ideas of both real and imaginary borders.
About the author
Nicole Antebi works in non-fiction animation, motion graphics, installation while simultaneously connecting and creating opportunities for other artists through larger curatorial and editorial projects such as Water, CA (a six year collaboration with Enid Ryce) and Winter Shack (a three year collaboration with Alex Branch). She curates “The Amateur Naturalist,” a monthly film series at the Akin Free Library and she is currently working on a film about the border landscapes of El Paso and Juárez made possible by a generous grant from the Jerome Foundation.