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Her Socialist Smile

Opens on September 27

Director: John Gianvito Run Time: 93 min. Format: Digital Projection Release Year: 2020

Starring: Carolyn Forché

New England Legacy: John Gianvito

John Gianvito has made Boston his home for decades, working as a filmmaker, teacher, critic, and curator across many of the area’s storied film and arts institutions. With Her Socialist Smile, Gianvito vividly traces the public life of Helen Keller, whose life was also embroiled with the greater Boston area, as a socialist, radical, ally of solidarity movements, and disability rights activist aware of her own media representation, and their reverberant connections to the present day. Centering visual representation of the text of Keller’s speeches (very few of them were recorded aurally) and reflections from the actors hired to record voiceovers of her talks, this rousing re-telling of Keller’s import stages her ideas within both the natural world and historical lineage of leftist organizing. (AS)

The September 27 screening is presented as a double feature engagement with the first theatrical screening of a recent restoration of Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, followed by an in-depth conversation between John Gianvito and DocYard Curator Abby Sun on both films individually and Gianvito’s broader cinema of resistance.

“While watching Her Socialist Smile, however, we confront the exact opposite conclusion: that Keller’s difference in abilities in fact strengthened her practical reason, enabling her to see more clearly with, as she phrased it, “the eyes of the mind.” It is a genuinely thought-provoking notion, suggesting that the work of building a better future starts with the imagination, the kind of vision available even to the blind.” – Lawrence Garcia, The A.V. Club

World Premiere at the 2020 New York Film Festival. Official Selection of 2020 Indie Memphis, 2020 Viennale, 2021 Hot Docs, and 2021 Cinéma du Réel.

About the Filmmaker

John Gianvito is a director, teacher, and curator, based in Boston. His films have screened widely and have included the Toronto International Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Mar Del Plata , London Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, Cinematheque Francaise, the Tate Modern, and Pacific Film Archives. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at the VIENNALE Film Festival, the I Mille Occhi Festival, Cinéma du Réel, and Seoul Independent Documentary Festival. Gianvito is the editor of the book Andrei Tarkovsky: Interviews (University of Mississippi Press) and served for five years in the 1990s as the film curator of the Harvard Film Archive. He is currently a Professor in the Visual and Media Arts Department at Emerson College.


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