As someone who loves watching movies of all kinds, I’m always on the lookout for films about photography and the art world in a broader sense. Because of the niche market for movies about art, they’re often screened for a limited time – perhaps at a film festival or in conjunction with an artist talk or exhibition. Recently there seems to be an upswing of such movies, so I thought it would be interesting to do a roundup of films that have had a large impact on me in terms of thinking about the art world and what it means to be an artist. A few of these are still being shown around in theatres but most can be found at a good rental store.
Bill Cunningham New York
This is a great film to get you motivated and inspired about making images. Much of it deals with Cunningham’s obsession and dedication to the idea of fashion in the real world. As well as the principles which guide him as both a documentarian and a human being. More info.
I’m Still Here
Although I had mixed feelings as I was watching this faux-documentary by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck, I was shocked by the impact I felt in the end. The film does a great job at exposing the trials that come with success, the constant uphill struggle of doing creative work, and being true to oneself instead of falling into what is expected of you. More info.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
This is the first film from the street artist Banksy and it asks more questions than it answers. What is art? How is its value derived? What does it take to be an artist? Like all of Banksy’s work, the movie weaves in and out of seemingly random topics using shock and comedy, until it hits you in a way that you couldn’t have predicted. More info.
This is a much older film than the rest, centred on world renowned photo journalist James Nachtwey. Using a unique perspective this film looks at the internal conflict of covering war and terror. What is a journalist responsibility? How can one move from ordinary life to the horrors of war and back again? More info.
Somewhere to Disappear
This film follows photographer Alec Soth as he works on a new personal project. Less about Soth, Somewhere to Disappear is more a part of the project itself. At the same time, it explores the strange act of taking and looking for photographs. There is a quality to this film that can’t be described, but which will undoubtedly lead to polarize viewers. More info.
Please share your favourite films about art and photography in the comments!