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Public Imaginations: A Survey of Documentary Form

December 12, 2019 – December 30, 2019

The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, and the MoMA Stores in New York City have closed temporarily. 

Comprised entirely of films in MoMA’s collection, this series illustrates the documentary’s singular ability to both organize and interpret reality. This diverse selection illustrates the Museum’s ongoing commitment to acquiring cutting-edge nonfiction works, while also posing larger questions about the boundaries of the form itself—malleable and generous, representing the full range of filmic techniques in portraying subjective and “objective” experiences with a capacity unique among art forms. From Jean Vigo’s 1930 avant-garde city snapshot À propos de Nice to the immersive digital marvel Leviathan (2012), and ranging from cultural criticism to autobiography, this series roughly charts how advancements in technology and socio-cultural movements have cemented the documentary form’s role as an enduring tool for crafting views of our world.

In addition to being held in MoMA’s film collection, most of these films have previously screened at the Museum in myriad landmark series over the last 80-plus years, including the inaugural New York Film Festival in 1963, Cineprobe, New Directors/New Films, and any number of career-spanning retrospectives.

Organized by Olivia Predite, Senior Program Assistant, Department of Film




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À propos de Nice. 1930. France. Directed by Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman. Courtesy Janus Films

Aspen. 1991. USA. Directed by Frederick Wiseman. Courtesy Zipporah Films

Color Adjustment. 1991. USA. Directed by Marlon Riggs. Courtesy of California Newsreel

Leviathan. 2012. USA/France/Great Britain. Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel. Courtesy Cinema Guild

Nana, Mom, and Me. 1974. USA. Directed by Amalie R. Rothschild. Courtesy of the artist

Point of Order. 1964. USA. Directed by Emile de Antonio. Courtesy Continental/Photofest

Primary. 1960. United States. Directed by Robert Drew. Courtesy Janus Films

Santiago. 2006. Brazil. Directed by João Moreira Salles. Courtesy of Videofilmes

Sisters in Law. 2005. UK/Cameroon. Directed by Kim Longinotto, Florence Ayisi. Courtesy Women Make Movies

Surname Viet, Given Name Nam. 1989. USA. Directed by Trinh T. Minh-ha. Courtesy Women Make Movies

The Thin Blue Line. 1998. USA. Directed by Errol Morris. Courtesy Miramax / Photofest