I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things.
-William S. Coperthwaite
The U.S. premiere of filmmaker and anthropologist Anna Grimshaw’s Mr. Coperthwaite: a Life in the Maine Woods (2012) screens this Friday at 8pm at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, presented by Film Love, Andy Ditzler’s film series.
In 1960, Bill Coperthwaite purchased 300 acres of land in the wilderness that is Machiasport, ME during the popular back-to-the-land movement— which gained momentum and notoriety by leaders Helen and Scott Nearing who referred to it as “the good life.” While the movement was not for everyone—Coperthwaite’s grit and motivation feel kindred to other male isolationist-naturalists, Richard Proenneke and Eustace Conway, whose names are synonymous with determination and innovation.
Without revealing too much, the film is a prime example of observational cinema, as Grimshaw followed and filmed Bill Coperthwaite over the course of one year at his Machiasport, Maine property. There is a distinct awareness to Grimshaw as camera-operator, however we are mostly left with a self-conscious feeling that we become privy to Coperthwaite’s quotidian routine, whether that involves cutting wood, pulling weeds, carving bowls or simply eating an orange. And Coperthwaite is a spry force to behold—at 80 years young, his independently motivated personality (at times to his detriment) drives the film.
But Coperthwaite is not all rugged practicality and routine—there is an intimate moment when, eating lunch, Coperthwaite rests (a rarity) to read poetry [Bill has a PhD in Education from Harvard and lectures worldwide]. Suddenly more overtly apparent, we witness up close his weathered hands and poor eyesight, allowing the film’s slow pacing to mirror his own physiological aging. Grimshaw captures Coperthwaite’s curiosity to life and its natural processes in a film document that truly serves as a personal time capsule.
Film Love will present each part of Mr. Coperthwaite in the season which it depicts. Part one, Spring in Dickinson’s Reach, is the U.S. premiere of the work, and Anna Grimshaw will introduce the film and discuss her work with the audience.
Filmmaker Anna Grimshaw is Associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, Emory University. She is author of Servants of the Buddha and The Ethnographer’s Eye: Ways of Seeing in Modern Anthropology.
Film Love and Atlanta Contemporary Art Center present:
Anna Grimshaw’s Mr. Coperthwaite: a life in the Maine woods
Part One: Spring in Dickinson’s Reach
Friday, March 29, 2013
8:00 pm at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
$8 general | $5 student/senior | Free with ACAC membership