This week, the Toronto International Film Festival is running a program called Brave New World: The Films of Barbara Hammer. This three-night survey offers a fascinating retrospective of Hammer’s forty-five year career as a lesbian activist and experimental filmmaker.
Hammer’s 2003 film Resisting Paradise, which deals with the concept of art as a tool of political resistance, was especially fascinating to me. Hammer, who was doing a painting residency in Cassis, France, when war broke out in Kosovo, found herself questioning the validity of art in the face of political conflict and unrest. She began exploring the history of the French Resistance in Cassis, and used that as a chance to reflect on how Cassis’ artistic community, both those who were threatened by the Nazi occupation of France and those who were able to remain relatively neutral, reacted to the atrocities of the Second World War.
I was fortunate enough to be able to get in touch with Barbara and ask her a few questions about Resisting Paradise. Her responses are just as eye-opening and fascinating as the film itself.
Q: So there this fascinating parallel happening in Resisting Paradise, namely that you were making a film exploring how and why art was created in Cassis during the second world war, while you yourself were, of course, creating art during the war in Kosovo. How did your experience of making this film influence your view on the creation of art during times of war?