Friday, March 30, 2012

Independent film world rediscovers '77 alumna and her films

The independent film world has rediscovered Sara Driver ’77.

Driver, the namesake of an annual film festival at Randolph College, became a popular independent director and producer in the 1980s and 1990s. This week, the Anthology Film Archives in New York has been screening all of Driver’s films with a couple of guest appearances by Driver herself. A DVD compilation of her work is forthcoming, too.

“I have been restored in my lifetime!” Driver said in a recent Wall Street Journal interview. “I’m a total optimist about everything.”

After graduating from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Driver began creating films in New Jersey and New York. One of her first breakthroughs was You Are Not I, a short film based on a Paul Bowles short story about a woman escaping from an asylum. The film built a cult following and was screened in international film festivals in the early 1980s until misfortune struck: The film prints and negatives were destroyed in a New Jersey storage facility.

A happy discovery came in 2009. Driver received a phone call from a librarian who had acquired some of Paul Bowles’ personal belongings. Among the belongings was a copy of You Are Not I that Driver had sent to Bowles. The film was digitally preserved, and it was featured in the Masterworks section of the 2011 New York Film Festival and the Edinburg Film Festival.

Driver's other works include popular independent films such as When Pigs Fly, a ghost story, and Sleepwalk, which one critic praised as possibly “the most visually ravishing American independent film of its year (1986).”

The Film Anthology Archives, a film museum focused on avant garde and independent works, opened “Sleepwalking: The Films of Sara Driver” on March 23, and will continue showing her films through April 1. Visit the Anthology Film Archives website for more information. Also, a box set of Driver's works can be ordered online filmswelike.com.

Driver’s mother, Martha (Lou) Miller Driver ’50, funded the Driver Film Festival at Randolph College in honor of Sara. This month, the festival brought Tracey Deer and Robin Honan to campus to discuss their films and examine the role that women play in the film industry.