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Shirley Clarke 100: A Retrospective

Celebrating maverick New York independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke’s 100th Anniversary, is this retrospective at the MCA

Antenna presents a retrospective featuring three of her most compelling feature documentaries, plus four short films:

  • Portrait of Jason + short
  • Ornette: Made in America (Ornette Coleman) + short
  • The Connection + short

Born in New York, and ensconced in Greenwich Village’s independent film scene, Clarke’s artistic endeavours began as an avant-garde dancer. It’s little wonder, then, that this luminary figure in American New Wave cinema chose a choreographic theme for her first short film, the award-winning Dance in the Sun (1953).

Her poetic rendering of the scene won instant acclaim, garnering comparisons to Maya Deren.

As her career progressed and her political consciousness grew, Clarke began focussing on social issues, but always carried through her kinetic sensibility and a desire to find distinctive forms of expression.

She was praised for her graphic and unglamorous depiction of drug use in The Connection; her revelatory portrayal of issues like racism, homophobia and male sex work in Portrait of Jason; and her ingenious weaving of archival footage, video art and architecture into a vibrant collage illustrating the genius of a free-jazz icon for Ornette: Made in America.

Alongside that final feature from Clarke’s career, Antenna screens the final short she made, 1982’s Tongues, which was her master stroke of collaboration: a fusion of video and theatre with actor Joseph Chaikin, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard and the ground-breaking director herself.

Blurring the line between fact and fiction, Clarke’s experimental and sometimes controversial works were both criticised and lauded, embroiling her in censorship battles while also winning her 1953’s Oscar for Best Documentary.

It could be argued Clarke’s works were designed to unsettle people, so it’s a testament to her visionary approach that many of the director’s films are held in high regard by audiences, critics and fellow filmmakers/artists alike.



Sunday 20 October 2019 from 12pm to 5pm
Wednesday 23 October 2019 from 7pm to 8.30pm
Saturday 26 October 2019 from 1pm to 3pm
Sunday 27 October 2019 from 12pm to 4pm


Concession: $18.50
Full: $21.00

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Hashtag: #AntennaFestival

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