In Search of a Backstory by

Charles Wassum, Jr.

One of the things non-narrative films often do that traditional narrative films don’t is pose questions without simple answers. Things get a little tougher in our case since Avery Willard, the filmmaker we are researching, is one who received precious little attention during his lifetime and is virtually unknown today. Charles Wassum Jr. (excerpted above), one of the earliest films by Willard still in existence, offers a first-hand illustration of the challenges posed by this project.

A nine-minute experimental portrait of a young man from Willard’s hometown of Marion, Virginia, the film demonstrates Willard’s keen eye at a young age and brings to mind elements of the later structural film movement of the 1970s, especially the repetition of shot composition and motion. There is a hypnotic and compelling rhythm to the cuts and mirrored frames. With little visual context, Willard is able to create a sense of intrigue around his subject, which makes for a deceptively simple and elegantly textured work. More…