the 1960's he made his mark as the great filmmaker of the American radical
left whose first films painted a portrait of a generation of militants
marked by their opposition to the war in Vietnam (In the country, The
Edge, and Ice). He was the founder and prime mover of the Newsreel movement.
He has travelled to Latin America, North Vietnam in the middle of the
war (People's war), then in Portugal after the April Revolution (Scenes
from the Class Struggle in Portugal, and Gestos e fragmentos), and in
post-independance Angola. Once the most directly political era was over
and was captured and represented by Kramer in all its ambiguities and
contradictions, he has never stopped reflecting in his films on the
"heart of darkness" of the West - that dominating madness that he had
shown in Le manteau as a "line that goes through time".
recognized as a filmmaker of the first magnitude in America by Jonas
Mekas and in Europe by "new cinema" circles, Kramer has circulated from
the beginning in a realm of discovery as far away from Hollywood as
it is from underground and experimental film. In his thirty years of
total independence, he has made film his instrument for discovery and
used it to reflect on personal and collective experience. His films
are at the same time secretly autobiographical and flagrantly open to
the world. By mixing document and fiction (a distinction that no longer
really makes any sense being there), he invented an artistic form that
gets more and more original, malleable, and free and is marked by a
polyphonic crossing of voices and characters (more than fifty in Milestones)
and by the immediate presence of the filmmaker as witness or conversation
"The man with the movie camera", the camera person for many of his film,
Kramer is, in turn, the first "character" of his works. This is the
reason why - in addition to the larger or even monumental films - the
"minor" films are important - the videos, the home movies, the video
letters, the works done on commission and each time reinvented, as well
as the most radical borderline experiences (Notre Nazi, Berlin 10/90,
and Ghosts of Electricity). Here we are dealing with a continual and
inextricable collusion between art and life, a way of "living through"
his own films to the hilt. We are dealing with the acknowledgement that
"one day or the other all these films that I'm making will make up a
single, long film, a "story" that is always developing". The practice
of using the camera as an extension of his own body and his own mind
reaches a strong conclusion in his extraordinary reflection on the mutation
of cinema and the world made in Ghosts of Electricity, his latest film.
The great fascination of his personality is also the product of a continuous
movement that ignores national boundaries and characterizes his life
and his cinema, both perennially in movement. Kramer is the most nomadic
American filmmaker, the filmmaker of the voyage and of the "starting
place". He was discovered in Europe and became, in turn, a "European"
director. He is more in transit than in exile in Paris. Even here in
Europe, he moved to seek the edges of the continent (Walk the Walk).
In his films he has expressed as much the physical energy of the "walker"
with the camera on his shoulders as he has expressed the lucid melancholy
of the man without a country who has to return to his own territory,
to his own "home" sooner or later. In fact, it is exactly Kramer who
can today be acknowledged as one of the American filmmakers par excellence
of the most recent decades - the one who more than any others has restored
his country's historical and geographical sense, the epic breath and
pulsation of the continent, the dissolving ties of the community and
the utopia of a new "citizenship". This happens in those two grandiose
crossings of America that are separated by fifteen years, Milestones
and Route One USA, the two strongholds of Kramer's works around which
so many other films are placed as they engage in a sort of uninterrupted
dialogue with America.
Robert Kramer was born in New York in 1940. He studied philosophy and
Western European History at Swarthmore College and Stanford University.
He has written two unpublished novels, numerous poems, plays and short
stories. In 1965, he organized the Newark Community Project (N-CUP)
in an African-American community.
He worked as a reporter in Latin America for various American publications.
He worked with Peter Gessner on a film on the guerrilla movement in
Venezuela. In 1966, he created Alpha 60 with Norman Fruchter, Robert
Machover, Peter Gessner, and Mike Robinson. It was a sort of free cooperative
of directors-producers who later were channelled into the Newsreel movement,
which Kramer helped found and organize. Kramer's Newreel experience
lasted from 1967 to 1971, during which about sixty short - and middle-length
films were produced - documentaries, films of struggle, and agitation
In the early 1980's, he moved to Europe, and he currently is living
and working in Paris.
IN THE COUNTRY, 1966
THE EDGE, 1967
PEOPLE's WAR, 1969
SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN PORTUGAL, 1979
UN GRAND JOUR EN FRANCE-NAISSANCE/ A GREAT DAY IN FRANCE, BIRTH ,1981
A TOUTE ALLURE / AS FAST AS YOU CAN 1982
LA PEUR / THE FEAR, 1983
SARKIS AT WOODROW WILSON-MUSEE D'ART MODERNE, 1984
NOTRE NAZI / OUR NAZI, 1984
UN PLAN D'ENFER / A PLAN OF HELL, 1986
DOC's KINGDOM, 1987
ROUTE ONE/USA, 1989
DEAR DOC, 1989
MAQUETTE (BROUILLON DE FILM) / SCALE MODEL , 1990
BERLIN 10/90, 1990-91
SOUS LE VENT / LEEWARD, 1991
SERIES OF VIDEOLETTERS : STEVE DWOSKIN , 1991
ECRIRE CONTRE L'OUBLI/WRITING AGAINST FORGETTING : POUR/FOR FIDEL INTRUSCA
FERNANDEZ, PEROU ,1991
POINT DE DEPART/ STARTING PLACE, 1993
LA ROUE /THE WHEEL: GREG LEMOND - ANDREW HAMPSTEN, 1993
WALK THE WALK, 1996
LE MANTEAU /THE MANTLE, 1996
GHOSTS OF ELECTRICITY, 1997.
Actor, screenwriter of:
GESTURES AND FRAGMENTS, 1980-82 by Alberto Seixas Santos
THE STATE OF THINGS, 1981 by Wim Wenders.