Cynthia Madansky is an award-winning filmmaker and painter. Her films integrate hybrid forms of cinematic traditions, including autobiography, experimental methodologies, cinema verité, scripted narrative, and ethnographic observation as well as dance and performance. The work engages with cultural and political themes, such as identity, nationalism, the transgression of borders, displacement, nuclear arms and war, foregrounding the human experience, and personal testimony. Using 16 mm, super 8 and video, her films portray the consequences of politics on the daily lives of individuals, interrogating the concept of personal responsibility and national accountability.
Over a period of thirty years she has produced works that have been presented as single channel films and multi-screen installations and projections. Her films have screened at international museums, art spaces, and festivals, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Walker Art Museum, Istanbul Modern, the MAXXI, The Rotterdam Film Festival, The Berlin Film Festival, The Iran International Documentary Festival, The Jerusalem International Film Festival, The Margaret Mead Film Festival, Cinema du Réel, Oberhausen, Transmediale, Viennale, San Francisco International Film Festival, Homeworks Beirut, and many international Human Rights film festivals.
Her recent work includes: ḤARĀM, (16mm, 47 min., 2017), an essay film that interrogates the current political landscape at the Haram Al-Sharif/Noble Sanctuary, located in the Old City of Jerusalem; Grace + Gravity an experimental dance film based on the texts of Simone Weil; E42 (33 min, 16 mm, 2015) a visceral exploration of the EUR neighborhood in Rome, a modernist landscape that was originally designated by Mussolini as the the site of the World Fair of 1942 as a celebration of the 20 year anniversary of Fascism; Anna Pina Teresa (7 min, 16 mm, 2015) filmed in Mussolini’s former fencing studio, examines the contemporary and historical dynamics between an urban fascist space and movements of resistance; Viva Água (9 min, 16 mm, 2015) a meditation on the philosophical work written by the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector; 1+8, (120 min, HD, 2012) made in collaboration with Angelika Brudniak, a film and eight screen installation filmed in border towns of Turkey with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Nakhchivan/Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, showcasing through intimate portraits and cinematographic tropes the political and cultural dynamics of life on those frontiers; She is currently working on ESFIR, a film about Esfir Shub and her unrealised script entitled "Women," about the status of women after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Cynthia Madansky has been awarded numerous grants, fellowships, and residencies, including The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship Award, (2017); CEC Arts Link Back Apartment Residency; The Wurlitzer Foundation (2017); The American Academy in Rome (2014-2015); Art Omi (2014); Art Matters (2011, 1990, 1989); NYSCA (2011, 2009, 2006, 1999, 1998); North Dakota Historical Society (2006); Santa Fe Art Institute (2006); Ucross (2000); NYFA (1997); Jerome Foundation (2004, 1997); and the Paul Robeson Fund (1994).
Recent and Upcoming Courses
- The Portrait Film: Portraits in Moving Image
This studio course will explore the diverse genre of the portrait film as seen in video art, documentary, narrative and other experimental and avant-garde genres of filmmaking, assessing the unique and intersecting methodologies of editing, sound design, cinematography, typography and lighting used to support the portrait concept. We will discuss strategies, modes and influences on the concept of representation and portraiture, examining the role and process of the filmmaker in creating an articulate portrayal of the protagonist. The course will integrate interdisciplinary readings about the portrait form, referencing texts from areas including fine arts, literature, political science and anthropology analyzing their influence on the different types of portrait films. Students will work on the following five short portrait videos: 1. Self Portrait; 2. Portrait of a Person; 3. Portrait of a Landscape; 4. Portrait of a Concept; and 5. Portrait of a Process.
- Radical Collectives: Newsreel Films of the 60s and 70s
Radical Collectives is a theory and production course that looks at the documentary films produced in the late 1960s and 1970s in the USA by the California Newsreel, the Third World Newsreel and the Newsreel collective. These films were a direct response to the political landscape in the USA, addressing and challenging the hegemonic cinematic and mainstream news discourse on local, national and international issues. The prolific body of work produced by these collectives addressed issues of race, class, sexism, portraying amongst many other topics the student movements on campuses, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the Women's Rights movement and the Latino and Black Liberation movement. The collectives were a utopian call to democratize cinema, to abolish film authorship and to produce work that is committed to issues that concern their communities and that would assist in reaching the goals of a more just society. In this course, students will direct one short video that addresses an urgent contemporary issue in the USA.