Art on Screen Databasetm Full Record

© 1985-1997 Program for Art on Film, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Original Title:
Series Title:
Edition Version:
Data: 15 min. col. 16mm; video
Year: 1988
Country of Prod'n: United States
Language: English
Producing Agency: Metropolitan Arts for the Program for Art on Film, a joint venture of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Trust
Sources: Museum of Modern Art Circ. Film Library; Greenwich Film Associates; Films Incorporated Video
Int'l Sources:
Director: Bob Rosen; Andrea Simon
Producer: Bob Rosen; Andrea Simon
Executive Producer:
Editor: Bob Rosen
Music Composer: Meredith Monk
Art Consultant: Richard Brilliant
Addl Credits: Ancient Texts Selected by: Andrea Simon; Ancient Texts Selected by: Richard Brilliant; Prod. Asst.: Marjorie Duffield; Music Performed by: Meredith Monk; Music Performed by: Nurit Tilles
Cast: Voices: Richard Brilliant; Roger Babb; Lanny Harrison; John Leighton; Bretta Lundell; Beatrice Roth; Valeria Vasilevski; Pablo Vela; David Warrilow
Synopsis: Presents over fifty mummy portraits painted in the Fayum region of Egypt between A.D. 100 and 300 during Roman rule. Executed in encaustic during the subject's lifetime, the portrait was placed over the person's head after mummification. Explores the psychological intensity of these portraits, all highly individualistic but with similar rendering of the eyes--an open, abstract gaze that separates these subjects from their earthly context. Multiple sound tracks include excerpts from late Hellenistic texts, religious texts, and personal documents from Fayum dwellers, as well as art-historical interpretation by Richard Brilliant, commentary by a "tour guide," and music by Meredith Monk. Interweaves these elements to provide a multifaceted experience that explores the historical and aesthetic issues behind the portraits. A film by directors Bob Rosen and Andrea Simon and art historian Richard Brilliant.
Genre Film: Documentary; Visual Essay
Aud./Grade Level: General
Suggested Uses: General Information
Subject Headings: Egyptology -- Mummies -- Africa -- Egypt -- 2C 3C
Painting -- Egyptian; Fayum; Portraits -- Africa -- Egypt -- 2C 3C

Assoc Concepts: Funerary art
Artist's Name:
Artist on Camera: No
Awards: CINE Golden Eagle, 1989; American Film & Video Festival Blue Ribbon, 1989; San Francisco Intl. Film Festival Honorable Mention, 1989; Intl. Film & TV Festival of New York Gold Medal, 1989
Evaluation: Extremely strong and well-conceived, with unity and concentration. Innovative for its reduction of visual elements (to an iconic concentration on the portraits themselves against a black background) while adding a multiplicity of narrative viewpoints on the soundtrack. The richness of the text is balanced by the simplicity of the pictures; beautiful photography, excellent color --with few tricks-- lend vivid details. The layering of information with ancient texts is both emotive and expressive--evocative of the era, hypnotic, even quite moving: an interesting, intense film. The sheer volume of examples of the portraits, ranging from naive to sophisticated, yields a cumulative impact and prompts consideration about how artists display individual variations within a conventional format. For a few evaluators, the contrapuntal montage of voices is sometimes a bit confusing or overly theatrical. Some wished for additional images to place the art in context. Nevertheless, treats the material with respect and affection as to motivate us to go beyond the film for more answers. Technical quality very good. Content and programming potential both very good to superior.

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