In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Generations: A Late Twentieth Century Festschrift
  • Patricia R. Zimmermann (bio) and Ruth Bradley* (bio)


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Figure 1.

From left to right: Erik Barnouw, Kimberly Hemphill, Patricia Zimmermann, Jason Longo, Brian Beatrice. July, 1995, Ithaca, New York. Photograph © Bruce Harding.

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Figure 2.

An example of page of script edited by Erik Barnouw. Page from Handbook of Radio Production. Courtesy Erik Barnouw.

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Figure 3.

From left to right: Erik Barnouw, Patricia Zimmermann, Kimberly Hemphill, Jason Longo, Brian Beatrice. July, 1995, Ithaca, New York. Photograph © Bruce Harding.

“Go with your first intuition—if you ruminate too long, you will equivocate and commit an editing error you will regret,” Erik Barnouw resolutely instructed. “Your first instinct is usually the best one.”

It was a hot, sticky July day in 1995. Hundreds of photographs by Bruce Harding, visual documentation of nearly three decades of the Robert Flaherty Seminar, sprawled across a large wood table. We were awestruck. We needed to choose seventy pictures.

Three generations of film historians—Erik, ourselves, and several graduate and undergraduate assistants from Ohio University and Ithaca College—were gathered in a log home in the lush upstate New York woods for three days of intensive, nonstop editing work on the inaugural Wide Angle Institutional Histories Project, “The Flaherty: Four Decades in the Cause of Independent Cinema.” 1 Our goal was to create a vibrant historical record and scholarly analysis of an organization that had stoked the independent documentary community for nearly half a century. We could not squander precious time equivocating. Childcare would end, dinner must be served, travel plans attended to, and jobs resumed. [End Page 1]

Erik’s comment reverberated as a Zen koan about editing, about knowledge, about confidence to shoulder formidable tasks, about keeping procrastination on and despair at bay. At a time when academic life has assumed an entrepreneurial, individualist, overly-professionalized veneer, Erik’s words also reminded us of the sheer joy of collective, shared intellectual discovery. Erik edits because he loves it.

At eighty-seven, he was still writing books, still editing, still giving speeches, still eagerly watching new work by emerging artists. His passion was unflagging. Red editor’s pencil in hand like a conductor’s baton, he patiently coached us and expansively treated our student assistants as collaborators. Each new finding uncovered in the piles of papers, documents, essays, and images strewn across every flat surface in the living room utterly elated him.

We were awestruck by the rush of documentary and experimental film history pouring out of the photos—casual images of Chris Marker, Emile de Antonio, Joris Ivens, Julia Reichert, William Greaves, Madeline Anderson, Frances Flaherty, Satyjit Ray, Jean Rouch, Sol Worth, and scores of others lounging on docks and grassy knolls, faces arched in diligent concentration. The histories flowing from the photos and essays overwhelmed, humbled, and intimated us. Forty years of International Film Seminars’ contentious, circuitous, contradictory, and gnarly history weighed on us, demanding some orderly disorder, some coherent incoherence.

Erik, the first president of International Film Seminars (the home of the Robert Flaherty Seminar), helped us to focus, endlessly regaling us with moving tales about filmmakers, writers, and scholars spanning eight decades. In precise, moving detail, he described not only the impact of their work on independent film worldwide, but the emotional, personal stories behind these courageous, amazing women and men of media. These were heroic folks who did what they did despite forbidding barriers against making anything that mattered in a media environment growing increasingly more hostile to inquiry, debate, and controversy. We were fired up and inspired.

Erik’s face lit up with the generosity of spirit and intellect which is only part of [End Page 2] his legacy as he unspooled these hidden histories, passing them down to us like a shared gift. Our homework, we later discovered, was the imperative to pass down these micro-stories to others, to revive oral traditions increasingly obscured as the academy embraces more corporatist, efficient models. This internationally acclaimed scholar and writer was subversively teaching us; the model he presented us taught by example and...

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