Abigail Child


Abigail Child (USA) is a filmmaker, poet, and writer who has been active in experimental writing and media since 1970. She was born in Newark, New Jersey and graduated with a degree in history and literature from Harvard University in 1968. Child has completed more than 60 films since the 1970s. Her work often involves intimate collaborations with poets Monica de la Torre (To and No Fro, 2005), Gary Sullivan (Mirror World, 2006), and Adeena Karasick (Salomé, 2014), as well as with notable downtown composers including John Zorn (The Future Is Behind You, 2004), Ikue Mori (B/side,1996 and 8 Million, 1993), Zeena Parkins (Unbound, 2013 and Mayhem, 1987), Christian Marclay (Mayhem, 1987 and Surface Noise, 2000) and Andrea Parkins (Vis A Vis, 2014 and Acts and Intermissions, 2017). Child's work has been exhibited at venues including The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Biennial, Centre George Pompidou, International Film Festival Rotterdam, New York Film Festival, Museo Reina Sofia, Pacific Film Archives, and six previous editions of Media City Film Festival, including a retrospective in 2004. She is the recipient of a Rome Prize, and Radcliffe, Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships, and has been awarded National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and Jerome Foundation grants. Child has written six books and numerous poetry chapbooks. In THIS IS CALLED MOVING: A Critical Poetics of Film (2005) Child draws on her long career as a practicing poet as well as a filmmaker to explore how these two language systems inform and cross-fertilize her work. Her book of poetry MOUTH TO MOUTH (2016) was awarded a Lambda Prize (2017). She lives and works in New York City. 


ONLINE SCREENING DATES: May 20 – June 10, 2021

FILMS IN THIS PROGRAM: Mutiny, 11 min, 1983

Mutiny, 11 min, 1983

Mutiny employs a panoply of expression, gesture, and repeated movement. Its central images are of women: at home, on the street, at the workplace, at school, talking, singing, jumping on trampolines, playing the violin. The syntax of the film reflects the possibilities and limitations of speech, while “politically, physically, and realistically” flirting with the language of opposition.

Peter Bo Rappmund: I’ve read that Mutiny contains outtakes from documentaries you had shot previously for television, coupled with newer material that includes local artists in their local environments: Sally Silvers, Shelley Hirsch, and Polly Bradford. I’m interested to learn more about how you worked between those sources.

Abigail Child: Mutiny was always intended to have synchronous sound — that is, sound recorded at the same time as the image. The film cuts up vocal speech, conforming to mainstream sync-sound production, in which the focus is overwhelmingly on dialogue-driven faces. But instead of dialogue, Mutiny weaves and intercuts strings of vocabulary, pushing the vocal into the foreground, forging an aural poetry out of words and phrases. The film was originally planned as a montage of out-takes from a documentary I directed seven years previously, for the PBS television series, Women Alive! That film concerned teenage girls in Minneapolis before their senior year in high school. Ultimately, the high school material felt limiting. My need to get out of its sense of suburban alienation proved an imperative. I scavenged my early documentaries, including Game (1972) — about a prostitute and pimp in downtown Manhattan — and Savage Streets (1974) — a portrait of South Bronx Street gangs. Game was not commissioned. Savage Streets was made for an NBC show called New York Illustrated. It was ultimately excerpted on the Today show — but less than seven-minutes worth, so they wouldn’t have to pay me! That is a whole other story.

Read the full interview at BOMB here.  Visit the Abigail Child Collection at Harvard Film Archive here. 

Stills and artwork courtesy Canyon Cinema and ©Abigail Child. Screening co-presented with Canyon Cinema.