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Falling Lessons: The Films of Amy Halpern 1

A perennial and dynamic presence in American avant-garde circles from New York to Los Angeles, Amy Halpern (1953–2022) remained dedicated to probing cinema’s special capacity to heighten perception and reveal ephemeral states of consciousness. Though her films may appear dream-like, they are designed, as she once put it, to render what it is like to be truly lucid and awake, experiencing reality in its fullness. Informed by a profound awareness of the world around her, Halpern’s rich, associative films invite us to savour the everyday in their devoted study of gesture, light, ritual, movement, and the mesmerising intensity of the gaze. Ranging from avant-garde portraiture to rapturous surveys of animal and substances engaged in constant cycles of change, Halpern’s empathetic, non-anthropocentric cinema also exudes a fierce commitment to anti-racism and a keen distrust of authority, instead invoking solidarity and individual and collective transformation. This dual programme presents a series of short films made over the course of more than three decades, almost all of which are on 16mm, as well as her only feature-length film, the monumental Falling Lessons, which is being presented here for the first time in the UK.

“Falling Lessons: The Films of Amy Halpern” is curated by Sophia Satchell-Baeza and presented in association with Sisters of the Extreme. 

Access to the View

Amy Halpern / 2000 / USA / 2’ / 16mm / sound

With Yogi John Franzoni.


Cheshire Cat

Amy Halpern / 2012 / USA / 5’ / 16mm / sound

With Caroline Olsen-Van Stone and Adnan Ibrahim. “A consultation, an off-screen execution.” (A.H.)


Ginko Yellow

Amy Halpern / 2022 / USA / 5’ / 16mm / silent

With Indigo Cohan. “Yellow, the colour.” (A.H.)



Amy Halpern / 2022 / USA / 6’ / 16mm / sound

With Henry Franklin on bass. “Abstract music notation and something very obvious.” (A.H.)
Abstract but obvious musical notation featuring palm trees, precise species of Filifera washingtonia — the only native American palm — the fan palm, friend and provider for North American indigenous people.


Jane Looking

Amy Halpern / 2020 / USA / 2’ / 16mm / silent

Portrait of Jane Wodening (Brakhage). “A person who was the subject of the camera for many years looks back at us with an interrogating stare.” (A.H.)



Amy Halpern / 2019 / USA / 3’ / 16mm / silent

With Caroline McCrystal Marcantoni.


My Dear Evaporant

Amy Halpern / 2022 / USA / 5’ / 16mm / silent

“Message for a friend. What can I say about a private letter?” (A.H.)



Amy Halpern / 2022 / USA / 3’ / 16mm / sound

A private toast, inspired by a random encounter with this Wikipedia entry, while looking up “Chabrol, Claude” for a full listing of his films: “Faire chabrot or faire chabròl is an ancient Occitanian custom whereby at the end of a soup or broth, one adds red wine to the bowl to dilute the remnants and brings it to the lips to drink in big gulps.”


Three Minute Hells

Amy Halpern / 2012 / USA / 14’ / 16mm / English spoken

With Arwa Ibrahim. “A progress from detention to release in 7 movements.” (A.H.)


Unowned Luxuries #3

Amy Halpern / 2020 / USA / 2’ / 16mm /silent

With Marpa Franzoni. “The Unowned Luxuries films are about possession through the eyes. Based on the childhood perception (attributed to me as a five-year-old by my father) that ‘to see is to touch with the eyes,’ these films propose a less toxic mode of ownership. Actual ownership is over-rated, as a desire and as a goal.” (A.H.)



Amy Halpern / 2012 / USA / 7’ / 16mm / silent

“A love letter.” (A.H.)


Cigarette Burn

Amy Halpern / 1978 / USA / 7’ / 16mm / English spoken

With Nancy Halpern and Yves Marton. “Sitting home smoking cigarettes during the occupation. Very nasty and sophomoric. And beautiful.” (A.H.)


Emit a Beam, See a Light

Amy Halpern / 2022 / USA / 3’ / 16mm / English spoken

“Statement and demonstration.” (A.H.)


Vezalay Curtains

Amy Halpern / 2019 / USA / 4’ / Digital / sound

“The wind has its own way of praying.” (Randolph Pitts)


With an introduction by Sophia Satchell-Baeza.  

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