December 17, 2009

I solved my dream.

"People would much rather expose their lives than keep a secret, especially if they are in the company of those they trust."

-- Distinguished documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, last night, after a screening of Grey Gardens

When further pressed to explain how he gained the trust of his extraordinary subjects, Albert (he insists on being called Albert) replied, "My brother and I learned from early on, from our mother, that there is good in everybody."

He observed that "the mass media destroys our humanity. ...We don't have enough examples of people living good lives." And then he described a current project on which he is working: his goal is to take 6 cross county trains, to just get on with a camera and start walking the aisles, knowing that every person on that train has a story. That each person started with a story, and a story awaits them upon departing the train.

Albert described one trip he has already taken, traveling west across America. He met a 26-year old woman, who lost touch with her mother when she was three. Two days prior, her phone rang and a woman said, "I am your mother. And I am waiting to meet you in Philadelphia." The young woman immediately got on the train.

Albert filmed her getting off in Philadelphia, where the platforms are below ground. There was no one on the platform, and they started up the stairs to the station. At the top of the stairs, a woman threw open her arms, and ran down and thoroughly embraced the young woman. The two of them cried and hugged. And then the mother pulled back, and still holding onto her daughter, turned to Albert and exclaimed, "Isn't she beautiful?!"

He quoted Leo Tolstoy, who reportedly said upon first seeing a film “
We will no longer need to invent stories."

My husband, Tom, achieved a lifelong goal when he got to work with Albert on
The Gates. He worked with him again, filming the stage production of Grey Gardens.

Albert is an amazingly gifted, optimistic, generous, intelligent and kind man. 83 years of age, and he obviously continues to enrich cinema, and the lives of those around him. With his children, earlier this year he opened a cinema in Harlem and an educational institute for teaching young people from the neighborhood how to make movies.

He is also currently filming children, and noted that just the day before, he filmed a young boy announcing, "
I solved my dream."

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