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Filming the Christo projects

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Filming Christo projects: Valley Curtain and Running Fence
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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On a much larger scale we've made half hour, one hour films, of various Christo projects. The first one, in 1972 I believe, was a film called "Valley Curtain." Christo does big environmental projects; I guess that's what you might call them. What he does is he makes drawings of the- of the project before they actually take place and his drawings he sells. He gets enough for the sale of the drawings that he, that he can put millions of dollars into these big environmental projects. The first one that we filmed was called "The Valley Curtain." It was sort of like the bottom of a bikini, stretching fabric 300 feet high across the valley space between two mountains. And one of the high points of the film is that the workers, as the project was coming to an end, they finally understand what it's all about. And their understanding is so sophisticated and so complete that they become, in a very real sense, appreciators of art where, where really they knew nothing about that sort of thing before they began working on the project. And another project took place several years later. A project called "The Running Fence." A fence 24 miles long and 18 feet high, out of white fabric, going across hills and vales in California, starting in the sea and going back into the- east into the, into the country- to the countryside. Of course, the irony, which is so much a basic part of the whole project, is that, that a fence, beautifully made like that out of fabric, like other fences, it would seem to divide people and keep them apart from one another. But this, as a work of art, brought millions of people to see it and to talk about it and to think and discuss about art itself. And so it became a device of art to bring people together in a very artful fashion. There were some 17 get-togethers of various government agencies, try- deciding on whether to allow the project to take place that we filmed. And so the Christos couldn't get started on doing it until all these hearings took place. And as more than one person has commented on seeing the film, the film is a most perfect example of what democracy is all about. It's interesting that starting out with a very simple concept and believing it to the extent that these two people- Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude- to the extent that they put their- all their savings and all their time into these projects, with their total belief which contradicts many a skeptic, y'know, that it's the right thing to do. I've often thought that if there were 50 or 100 such people doing their own thing in areas of art and politics, in medicine, in education and so forth, the world would be just enormously much better off for it. So it's quite some accomplishment to have made these films which broadcast the good work of these people.

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: Rebekah Maysles Sara Maysles Tamara Tracz

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.

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.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Valley Curtain, The Running Fence, California, Christo, Jeanne-Claude

Duration: 5 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008