1981-1990Anne Charlotte RobertsonDocumentaryExperimentalUSA

Anne Charlotte Robertson – Five Year Diary [Incomplete] (1982)


Includes reels : 01, 02, 03, 09, 22, 23, 26, 31, 40, 47, 80, 81, 83

Anne Charlotte Robertson, born in 1949, was a Massachusetts-based filmmaker who used her Super-8 camera and acute self-awareness to forge a radically intimate mode of first-person cinema. Although she was celebrated as an artist in her lifetime, only today is Robertson finally being acknowledged as an influential pioneer of the first-person diary cinema that has long flourished in the Boston-Cambridge area, perhaps best known in the work of Ed Pincus and Ross McElwee. Gripped by mental illness, Robertson discovered a vital form of self-therapy in the diaristic filmmaking practice invented and refined across her magnum opus, Five Year Diary (1981­–1997), whose eighty-one individual chapters, or “reels,” meld bold formal experimentation, self-depreciatory humor, and raw emotion into a charged yet lyrical chronicle of an often painfully difficult life. Cathartic and devastating, rough-edged and poignantly delicate, disarmingly funny and meditative, Robertson’s Five Year Diary offers a remarkably frank and revealing self-portrait of an artist and woman struggling to understand the overwhelming desires and dark shadows that defined her world.Despite its extreme length and intensity, the work remains wonderfully accessible and engaging, buoyed by the strength and beauty of Robertson’s imagery. Especially striking in Five Year Diary is its innovative and performative voice-over narration, with Robertson frequently recording a live second narration during public screenings to produce an intense, almost musical, multiplicity of voice that embodies the unceasing inner dialogue and exhibitionism that are important constants of Robertson’s cinema.

Robertson’s diary project offers an intimate and exhaustively narrated chronicle of her daily life in Framingham, Massachusetts, with her battles with mental illness as the dominant leitmotif. Robertson unflinchingly documents nervous breakdowns and hospitalisations, her obsessive crush on Doctor Who actor Tom Baker, her battles with weight, the side-effects of prescription medication and the death of her three-year-old niece, Emily.
Two consecutive reels date from 1982, a third from 1994. Although the content is often uncomfortably confrontational, there are also many moments of sheer poetry in the way the trained filmmaker handles her Super-8 camera. In the end, the diary has proven a redemptive form of self-therapy which for Robertson ultimately tells ‘the story of a mind’s survival.’ Restored by the Harvard Film Archive, presentation in collaboration with LUX London.

»Role 22 of my Super 8 work Five Year Diary describes the period from August 23 to September 1, 1982. It documents a compulsively paranoid, manic-depressive breakdown after a brief love affair.«

Reel 1 The Beginning – Thanksgiving, Nov. 3 – Dec. 13, 1981
Reel 2 Definitions of Fat and Thin, Dec. 13 – 22, 1981
Reel 9 April Fool / Happy Birthday 33, 1982
Reel 22 A Short Affair (and) Going Crazy, Aug. 23 – Sept. 1, 1982 – 27 min.
Reel 23 A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, Sept. 1 – Dec. 13, 1982 – 26 min.
Reel 26: First Semester Grad School, February 28–May 20, 1983 – 27 min
Reel 47: I Thought the Film Would End, October 21–November 2, 1986 – 27 min
Reel 31 Niagara Falls, Aug. 19 – 28, 1983 – 25 min.
Reel 80 Emily Died, 1994 – 27 min.
Reel 81 Mourning Emily, 1995 – 25 min.




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