Molly Bernstein was the director, producer and editor of “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay,” about the great magician, actor and “scholar of the unusual.” She has written and directed documentary profiles of other leading figures in the arts, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Estelle Parsons and John Sayles for Sundance Channel and AMC and has worked as an editor on a number of documentaries. She has recently made numerous short films about contemporary artists and about art collectors in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Los Angeles and San Francisco. (Press materials)
“An Art That Nature Makes: The Work of Rosamond Purcell” will premiere at the 2015 DOC NYC Film Festival on November 14.
W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.
MB: Finding unexpected beauty in the overlooked, discarded and decayed, photographer Rosamond Purcell has developed a body of work that has garnered international acclaim, fruitful collaborations with writers such as Stephen Jay Gould and admirers like Errol Morris. “An Art That Nature Makes” details Purcell’s fascination with the natural world — from a mastodon tooth to a hydrocephalic skull — offering insight into her unique way of recontextualizing objects both ordinary and strange into sometimes disturbing but always breathtaking visual studies.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
MB: The depth and power of Rosamond’s images, her lack of recognition by a wider public and subject matter that is an unusual, interdisciplinary combination of art, science and philosophy.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
MB: As with many — if not most — profiles, finding the right balance between the life and the work.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
MB: The ability of art to simultaneously stir our emotions and make us see the world from a different angle.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
MB: I don’t think I can improve on the old, time-tested verities: Have an abiding passion for your subject matter, be diligent in your work habits and get lucky.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
MB: “Making Rounds” is my current favorite, the just-released documentary by Muffie Meyer, who co-directed “Grey Gardens” with the Maysles brothers and has produced and directed many great documentaries on a broad variety of subjects.
This latest, like her work in general, skillfully combines intellectual rigor, a light, sometimes humorous touch and a deep sense of humanity and curiosity. I learned a great deal working as an editor on the PBS series “Liberty!” that she made with Ellen Hovde, and she has been a wonderful mentor and friend ever since.