The Woodmans

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The Woodmans (2010)

Directed by Scott Willis

This documentary is a look at the life and work of Francesca Woodman, shown through the people who knew her. Director Scott Willis was given unrestricted access to her family, her work, and even her personal diaries throughout production of the movie. The film would even go on to win Best New York Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Francesca Woodman was a rising star in the world of photography during the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s. She was raised in the home of her artist parents, George and Betty Woodman, who had both encouraged her art. As she honed her skills in photography, her personal life became a mix of successes and failures. Her work was a passionate and unembarrassed study of the female body that reached into a surrealistic style. Despite her death at a young age, she was able to compile a body of work that is still admired today.

Director Scott Willis took on this enigmatic woman and captured her in a fascinating documentary. Through her own words and the interviews with her family, Willis was able to expose this young woman as more than a photographer. He was also able to capture the essence of her parents, who in many ways share her singular focus on their art. The film also features interviews with some of the few close friends Francesca had during her lifetime. Their observations and experiences with her reveal a woman with a complex and driven process to her art and her life.

Any failings in the film come from her parents. The interviews often feel like two people who are disconnected with the reality of their words. This may be a tough subject for any parents who have lost a child, but they never seemed to address the person their daughter was, or who she might have become. I had hoped for more insight from them into her work. Despite this weakness, the film is still really a good watch.

This was a really detailed and powerful documentary. The production includes home movies of the young artist, as well as the work she produced throughout her short career. If you’re a fan of photography, this is one artist you should know. She was bold and clear in her ideas. The film brings a lot of insight into her life and her works. I give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: Unrated

Running Time: 82 minutes

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