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#TIFF19 Review: Henry Glassie: Field Work (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 4, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Directed by Pat Collins, Henry Glassie: Field Work is a documentary portrait of the renowned scholar and American folklorist Henry Glassie, who has spent over fifty years travelling around the world to study the work that other artists create, from religious statues to clay pots.

For much of the 105 minute running time, the film consists of extended, observational footage of several artists doing their work. We watch a sculptor in Brazil craft a meticulous statue of an angel from clay, and another who reconstructs sacred statues of religious figures that would be otherwise erased from history. In the Southern United States, we watch as potters sculpt clay jugs, their shapes materializing on the kiln. The film shows them completing these pieces from scratch for long stretches at a time, with minimal dialogue and no music, just background noises.

Some will find this approach almost meditative to watch, while others will probably find that it tests their attention spans. The rest of the film offers a somewhat more conventional documentary portrait of Glassie, showing him at home in Bloomington, Indiana, where he reflects upon his life and work, and his time spent meeting with storytellers back in his home country of Ireland during The Troubles. The film is quite slow moving, but it’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Colm Hogan, offering a fine portrait of a selection of different artists at work.

Henry Glassie in Henry Glassie: Field Work

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 7th – 1:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Monday, September 9th – 7:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Saturday, September 14th – 9:15 AM at Scotiabank Theatre

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