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Evasive opportunities


Thoughts on art and my parents
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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I guess that every work of art, or almost every- every important work of art, I'd say, is autobiographical. That is, whoever is making the film, there's something of his or her own personality that shapes the film if only for the fact that one tends to choose a subject matter, stuff that, even though you may not be aware of it at the time, later on you say oh, oh, yeah, now that I've seen the film, having just finished it, I'm becoming aware that yeah, that person is very much like my father, for example. Certainly that's true in the case of the film "Salesman", but we'll get back to that and other films that I've engaged myself in making over these many years- 50 years now. I'm the son of immigrants. My mother came from Eastern Europe when she was two and my father seven. What was her name? What's that? Their full names. What were their names? My mother's name was Ethel Epstein and she would have preferred that it would be Emma Goldman; that is, Emma, instead of Ethel, but it didn't work out that way. My father was a postal clerk who really should have been a musician. He certainly could play the cornet. And I have his cornet in my possession. My mother was a schoolteacher but she wasn't allowed to practice in Boston where I was brought up because in those days a woman who was married was not allowed to teach in public school, the theory being that somehow that would take away the job from a man who was supposed to be the sole breadwinner. That changed for her when we moved to Brookline just outside of Boston and one of the reasons we moved was that she might find work in Brookline which was an independent town- something like a suburb to Boston. But upon arrival she found out that they had never hired a Jewish teacher so they weren't about to, to hire her. And- but she somehow got an appointment with the superintendent of schools and she managed to become at least a permanent substitute which meant that she didn't get paid for vacations and so forth, and at a lower rate of pay, but at least she had a full year's employment.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Sara Maysles Rebekah Maysles Tamara Tracz

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Salesman, Boston, Brookline, Ethel Epstein

Duration: 2 minutes, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008