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Filming Christo projects: New York City


Filming Christo projects: Central Park
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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Some time ago I, I met up on the bus- I'm always meeting strangers on buses, and friends as well- but this time it was a friend by the name of Morris Engel who was a famous early documentary filmmaker. And he pulled out of his pocket a photograph; a photograph that he took from his apartment on the 6th floor around 70th Street on the West Side overlooking Central Park. He took the photograph with a panoramic camera and- so that he could see not only the whole park but the park all the way from the South End at 59th Street to 110th Street, I think it is, where it meets- it meets up with Harlem, right? And you see the park and 5th Avenue and everything beyond. It's a, it's a beautiful, full scope image of the park. But not, not just that either. There was one thing in the photograph that made it so extraordinary- a piece of nature that graced that beautiful park and all beyond it- a rainbow that went from Harlem all the way to 59th Street, standing above it all and making it all the more beautiful. Well, you could ask yourself, I suppose, how could an artist, using the means of a human being, rather than of nature itself, grace the park in so beautiful fashion. Well, the Christo's have managed to do that with their gates project by setting up 7,500 gateways over the walkways of Central Park with simple frames, that are some 16 or 18 feet high, 10 or 12 feet wide according to the width of the walkway. That's 7,500 of them with that, with a piece of fabric fastened to the top and let loose, some eight feet of it responding to the wind. I'm so excited that I'll be making a film of that, as I have been filming it now for 25 years during which time the Christos have struggled with the City to get permission. Finally this year I was there when Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor, gave the okay and so it's going to happen; it's going to happen in February and- February 12th. And in one day, almost in one moment, the fabric will descend from each top of each gateway and the project will begin and last for 16 days during which time Antonio Ferreira and I will be filming it all. And we're hoping that in January we will have- each of us and several other cameramen as well- a new high definition small camera that's being made by Sony and hopefully that camera will be ready for us the night before the- the month before, in January. One way or another we will capture the full beauty of it. But it's not just the fabric; it's not just the gateway; it's not just everything that Christo can put into this as an artist. It's also- it's also the human reaction to it. So we are now spending time filming people in the park. We will be spending a great deal of time filming people in February when the leaves aren't there, when you can get a full view of the- of the gates. We will be filming people of all kinds, with all kinds of stories that will erupt in response to what these people are finding as a new environment for them in this beautiful thing called Central Park.

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: Central Park, Harlem, New York, Morris Engel, Michael Bloomberg, Antonio Ferreira

Duration: 5 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008