In Precious Images, his 1986 Academy Award®-winning short, director Chuck Workman assembled a breathtaking eight-minute collage of singular images from classic Hollywood movies. In Visionaries, Workman brings alive, in counterpoint to the commercial film industry, the vibrant history of the American avant-garde cinema.
In engaging interviews with renowned underground filmmakers and critics including Ken Jacobs, Robert Downey, Su Friedrich, P. Adams Sitney, and Amy Taubin, Workman reveals how this artistic movement highlights subjective vision, sensory experience, and dreams over plot and storyline. The director skillfully intersperses these intimate conversations with a stylistically diverse array of extracts from experimental films of all stripes. Dating from the 1920s to the present, avant-garde films by such pioneering artists as Man Ray, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Sadie Benning vividly illustrate for the general audience a qualitatively different kind of moviegoing experience distinct from that promulgated by the commercial cinema. Workman's documentary pays special tribute to filmmaker, curator, and critic Jonas Mekas and Anthology Film Archives, the organization that he founded. It is the premier American institution dedicated to the preservation and promotion of avant-garde film culture, assuring a long-term home for this alternative cinema right alongside the Hollywood classics.