Walker Art Center

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About the Program

Walker Dialogue and Retrospective Series

The Walker Art Center’s Dialogue and Retrospective Series brings together some of the most innovative and influential filmmakers of our time with leading critics, writers, and historians. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of this important program, we look back to the beginning. The series, which launched with support from the MacArthur Foundation from 1990–1993, was later funded by the Regis Foundation from 1994–2012 and continued with support from Myron and Anita Kunin. It provides an intimate space for directors and actors to discuss their creative process, influences, and body of work. Punctuated with film clips, anecdotes, and personal insights, these conversations take place in the state-of-the-art 340-seat Walker Cinema. In addition to the dialogue, a retrospective of the filmmaker’s work is shown, which sometimes includes screenings of rare and archival prints along with newer digital projections. Since the inaugural dialogue between Clint Eastwood and Richard Schickel in 1990, the series has hosted many guests, including international directors, American masters, independent visionaries, artists, auteurs, and leading screen actors in discussion with writers and critics who help shape the way we think about contemporary film.

Brief History

The Walker Dialogue and Retrospective Series initially emerged from the efforts of Film/Video curator Bruce Jenkins in the late 1980s to collaborate with the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Before the generous funding of the MacArthur and Regis Foundations made regular events possible, Jenkins sought to create space for critical exploration of the medium and highlight the vast diversity of contemporary, experimental, and classical filmmakers. Working with DGA, he curated a series of four dialogues with directors Stanley Donen, Sam Fuller, Miloš Forman, and Martha Coolidge to share their work with Walker audiences. As a devoted film scholar, Jenkins commissioned written pieces to accompany these events, which were also distributed in printed programs to inspire critical conversation within the cinema space and beyond. The tradition of the dialogue series has now continued for 25 years.

The Dialogue and Retrospective Series emerged from Jenkins’s early mission and programming and continues today under the leadership and vision of current senior curator Sheryl Mousley. These events are often integrated into the department’s regional premieres and community engagement programs, bringing local audiences together in the Walker Cinema and throughout the community to experience innovative filmmaking and inspire love of the medium. Béla Tarr´s 2007 visit included a master class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and projects at the University of Minnesota. In November 2013, Walker audiences also experienced the Midwest premiere of British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave and an insightful dialogue between McQueen and Stuart Comer, MoMA’s chief curator of media and performance art. Through an archive of these recorded events on the Walker Channel have now replaced earlier pamphlets, the Dialogue and Retrospective Series continues the long tradition of community engagement, innovation, and critical discussion that is essential to the mission of the Moving Image Department and the Walker Art Center.

Gus Van Sant in dialogue with Scott Macaulay, 2003