Documentary Film Screening & Filmmakers Talk
‘THE FOREIGNER’S HOME”-“TONI MORRISON AT THE LOUVRE”
w/ filmmakers Rian Brown & Geoff Pingree
Location: Jamail Greene Lecture Hall 3rd floor
Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
2950 Broadway, New York, NY 10027
Free & Open to the Public
The Foreigner’s Home explores Toni Morrison’s artistic and intellectual vision through “The Foreigner’s Home,” her 2006 exhibition at the Louvre. Through exclusive footage of Morrison in dialogue with artists, along with extensive archival footage, music, and animation, the film presents a series of candid and incisive exchanges about race, identity, “foreignness,” and art’s redemptive power.
The Foreigner’s Home is a feature-length documentary film that explores the vision and work of Toni Morrison through “The Foreigner’s Home,” the 2006 exhibition she guest-curated at the Louvre. Morrison invited renowned artists whose work also deals with the experience of cultural and social displacement to join her in a public conversation that she had been pursuing for years through her own research and writing and in her teaching at Princeton University. The film expands that conversation, combining exclusive and unreleased footage of the Nobel Laureate in dialogue with artists—first, in Paris in 2006 and then, in 2015, at her home in New York state—with extensive archival film footage, music, and still images to present a series of candid and incisive exchanges about race, identity, “foreignness,” and art’s redemptive power.
To address the increasingly urgent questions of “foreignness” evident in the forced migration of unprecedented numbers of political refugees in the Americas, in Europe, and in the Middle East, and to highlight art’s crucial role in comprehending the human problems that surround such questions, the film includes extensive archival still and motion pictures of American and international topics and events basic to Morrison’s vision—from slavery to the blues, from Hurricane Katrina to the current migration crisis in the Middle East and Europe.
At the Louvre ten years ago, Morrison posed a series of candid and timely questions (Who is the foreigner? Where is home? Who decides?) about the ongoing divisions—national, cultural, religious, ethnic—that feed so much contemporary conflict in the U.S. and around the world. “It may be that the most defining characteristic of our times,” she noted, “is that…walls and weapons feature as prominently now as they once did, in Medieval times…” In response to the despair of the growing number of displaced and unwanted people, Morrison pointed to the artist as a figure with unique powers and responsibilities in the ongoing human struggle to break down barriers and find liberation, identity, and community: “Art invites us to take the journey…from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. Artists make language, images, sounds to bear witness, to shape beauty and to comprehend.”
Neither biography nor traditional documentary film, The Foreigner’s Home is instead a provocative and timely meditation on some of humanity’s oldest and most deeply rooted schisms and hatreds. Whether delivering a formal speech or talking informally with radio hosts or filmmakers; whether enumerating the ways, throughout history, in which people have included and excluded, lionized and blamed, protected and destroyed each other; whether identifying the shame about slavery and racial inequality that still festers in the American psyche; Morrison returns frequently and passionately in her work to the fragile and often repressed experience of the outsider in human society, for she believes that understanding the experience of the foreigner is crucial to imagining and building a more just and peaceful world.
Geoff Pingree is an Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, a photographer, a writer, and Professor of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. He earned both master’s and doctoral degrees in English and American Literature and Film Studies at the University of Chicago and, before coming to Oberlin, worked in public television in Washington, DC, where he also directed Catholic University’s Program in Media Studies and George Washington University’s Institute for Documentary Filmmaking. His film work has been broadcast on venues including PBS and Discovery. His photography received National Geographic’s 2008 World in Focus Grand Prize and has been published widely in magazines and newspapers including National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune. He co-edited New Media, 1740-1914 (MIT), a collection of scholarly essays, has authored scholarly articles on documentary and Spanish cinema, has written about media, culture, and politics for the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Wired, the Nation, the Economist, the American Prospect, Ms. Magazine, Cineaste, and National Geographic Traveler, among others, and has worked as a correspondent in Spain for both TIME and for the Christian Science Monitor. With colleague Rian Brown he created BLUE DESERT ~ Towards Antarctica, a multi-channel video installation shot during a three-week expedition to Antarctica, and he has just completed The Return of Elder Pingree, a feature-length autobiographical documentary he shot in Guatemala that is a memoir of his experience as a Mormon missionary in that country and of what followed when he left the faith. He also directs StoryLens (storylens.org), a non-profit organization that produces short independent documentary films about pressing social issues in order to promote education, encourage public dialogue, and facilitate political change. With grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms Initiative, he and Brown recently finished and released The Foreigner’s Home, a feature-length documentary on the intellectual and artistic vision of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison that premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and has screened across the U.S. and in Europe at venues including the Miami Film Festival, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the British Film Institute, and the Uffizi Gallery. With Brown, he founded and directs the Apollo Outreach Initiative, a media education and community outreach program housed in Oberlin’s historic Apollo Theatre.