A candid portrait of a filmmaker-photographer who believed that film could change the world. It explores the dilemma of anyone with a social conscience who must face the harsh realities of earning a living while retaining their integrity.

CONVERSATIONS is a unique film, for it presents not only the work of a master filmmaker, but also of a distinguished photographer. The relationship between photography and cinematography has seldom been recognized. This film shows that the media are both interdependent and mutually dependent. Van Dyke began photographing in the 1930's with Edward Weston. He was a co-founder with Ansel Adams of the highly influential Group f/64, and continues that tradition of precise visualization to the present, both in his films and his photographs.

BEAUMONT NEWHALL, Director Emeritus, George Eastman House, Author "The History of Photography"
Synopsis: 

In 1935 photographer Willard Van Dyke moved to New York with the belief that films "could change the world" and began a new career as a filmmaker. His name soon became synonymous with social documentary in the U.S. His images of cottonfields, steelmills and industrial towns, and his portraits of unemployed factory workers and their families, provide an invaluable chronicle of those years and have become timeless examples of cinematic art. A candid portrait of a distinguished and outspoken man, this film includes conversations with colleagues Ralph Steiner, Joris Ivens and Donald Richie; footage of Edward Weston, his close friend and mentor; and many excerpts. It explores the dilemma of anyone with a social conscience who must face the harsh realities of earning a living while retaining their integrity. And it reveals a man in his seventies still determined to do good creative work.

Reviews

The film is a most excellent job! Great 'pace.' The excerpts from earlier films are strangely impressive in their frank combination of propaganda, reality and humanity. I thought the entire film was compelling; Willard was Willard and no doubt about it!

ANSEL ADAMS, photographer

...serves as a good introduction to this true gentleman scholar-artist. The film is engaging throughout and proves worthy viewing. ...Enjoys the sparkling contributions of Ralph Steiner, Donald Richie, and particularly Joris Ivens, and Van Dyke himself is a sympathetic subject who effortlessly carries the burden of the camera's hour-long scrutiny.

Todd McCarthy, VARIETY

...simultaneously a history of the documentary movement in the United States, a portrait of a dynamic human being, and a sensitive treatment of the process of aging. What we have here is a film of universal quality and usefulness.

ONTARIO FILM ASSOCIATION Newsletter

Public libraries will want to schedule this unique and admiring production for patrons interested in film and photography, while colleges will find it appropriate for their students of those disciplines.

THE BOOKLIST, American Library Association

Engrossing... Could serve as inspiration for young independent filmmakers who aim to make social statements on film, and to other socially conscious artists who must battle continually with the internal struggle of whether to "sell out" to the establishment or try to sustain their idealism. Fine for filmmaking or photography classes, and especially good for cinema history courses dealing with the early documentary period.

EDUCATIONAL FILM LIBRARY ASSOCIATION EVALUATIONS

Bless the documentary form.  Urbane and fascinating...

Sheila Benson, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

An honest, engrossing, and extremely useful film for those of us who teach documentary history. Not only do we learn more about Van Dyke, we also gain insight into the dilemmas that face all filmmakers with strong ethical, artistic or social commitments.

Howard Suber, Professor, U.C.L.A. MOTION PICTURE & TELEVISION

This is more than a portrait of Willard Van Dyke. It is a document about a man and an artist, about his answers to the problems of his times, about communication and independence.

JAY LEYDA, author

Van Dyke is not a conventional subject and his tough, clearminded appraisal of both the achievements and limitations of his work is exemplary.

AMY TAUBIN, Soho News

Amalie R. Rothschild's eloquent, honest and entertaining portrait of Van Dyke includes excerpts from his films, interviews with many colleagues including Joris Ivens, Ralph Steiner and Donald Richie, and has a nice understanding of what one intense social conscience faced over a 50-year period.

KEN WLASCHIN, London National Film Theatre

A worthy addition to the growing body of works on film about those who helped write the history of the medium.

ERNEST D. ROSE, Dean, School of the Arts, California State University, Pomona

An eloquent documentary and fascinating profile.  ...Van Dyke's conversations with the ebullient Dutch documentary maker Joris Ivens, still going strong at 80; and with Ralph Steiner and Donald Richie, are a vivid reminder of a vital era of American photography and film history.

JUDY STONE, San Francisco Chronicle