This program pays tribute to the life and career of Alexander Hammid, one of the unsung heroes of avant-garde and documentary filmmaking, who died in 2004 at age 96. Hammid's film career extended from the late 1920's to the 1960's, during which time he conceived, directed, photographed, and edited films ranging in subject from the birth of a litter of kittens to the looming Nazi crisis in Europe. Hammid's complete mastery of the visually expressive quality of cinema is evident in these films, which are also imbued with the filmmaker's own humanity, especially in the manner in which he portrays the individual dignity of his characters. This program focuses on avant-garde films and creative documentaries Hammid made during the first decade and a half of his filmmaking career, from 1930 to 1945. Aimless Walk-Alexander Hammid is filmmaker and historian Martina Kudlácek's tender, poetic documentary about this pioneer of experimental cinema. She profiles Hammid as an octogenarian, living in and walking around New York City. As Hammid reflects upon the personal films of his youth, Kudlacek visually weaves in her own thematic parallels to his gestures and recollections.
Alexander Hammid (né Alexandr Hackenschmied) was born in Linz, Austria in 1907. In 1930, he directed his first film, Bezúcelná Procházka (Aimless Walk). He subsequently collaborated with Herbert Kline on a series of films about political and social issues, including Crisis, a documentary about political tensions in Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II. During the war, Hammid settled in Hollywood. With Maya Deren, his first wife, he made Meshes of the Afternoon, one of the seminal works in American avant-garde film. In 1963, he joined forces with Francis Thompson, making IMAX and other widescreen films, including the Oscar®-winning documentary short To Be Alive!