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France, Belgium, 1977

Production : Paradise films, Unité Trois, INA

Programmed by Jason Burnham

French, English



Chantal Akerman’s unforgettable time capsule of New York City in the 1970s is also a gorgeous meditation on urban alienation and personal and familial disconnection

A word from Tënk

New York. Landing ground, land of exile, jungle of a thousand possibilities where the lives, dreams and destinies of millions of passers-by rub shoulders.
Chantal Akerman brings us what might be some of the most beautiful images of this excessively photographed city with News From Home, a poignant story of the quest for freedom that brought her across the Atlantic. In this foreign city, so starkly different from her stifling family home, Akerman lets her camera roam freely and contemplates—over the course of time—every last inch of the city, laying bare both its most obvious and most hidden charms. The film is simultaneously straightforward and elusive, much as Akerman is for her mother, who writes frantically to her from Belgium hoping for answers that will soothe the sting of her departure.
This correspondence by mail, almost entirely unidirectional, with the mother’s letters read by Akerman in a spare near-chant, punctuates the film and bears stark witness to the pain caused by absence. In these missives amounting largely to laments, requests from her mother, a woman whose love is voracious and overpowering, land hard against the concrete streets and cacophony of this monstrous city that swathes everything in cold indifference. Sometimes the words are blotted out, swallowed up by the ambient noise of the busy avenues, until it completely falls away during the unforgettable closing sequence. Aboard the Staten Island Ferry, the camera quietly leaves the island of Manhattan as it is engulfed in thick fog. All we can hear is the sound of the waves and the cries of seagulls, until the film runs out and the screen goes black, in perfect silence. Could this be her promise to return?

Jason Burnham
Tënk’s programming assistant

Item 1 of 4
Item 1 of 4

Item 1 of 4