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(The 24th Annual Slamdance Film Festival ran January 19-25 in Park City, UT. Hammer to Nail has you covered and guarantees more coverage than any other site. Watch us work it!)

A lyrical, poetic ode to its subject, 74-year-old artist Ingrid Gipson, Ingrid transcends mere portraiture and involves the viewer in an act of cinematic intimacy that is as metaphysically profound as it is visually beautiful. The documentary-feature debut of director Morrisa Maltz, the movie – not quite an hour in length – fuses observational, fly-on-the-wall techniques with interview-style filmmaking to both observe Ingrid from an objective distance and allow her to control the narrative. It’s a fascinating balancing act, made all the more so by Ingrid’s unique appeal.

A German immigrant who came to the United States just shy of 20, in 1960, Ingrid married and divorced twice, producing one son from each union, all the while building a career as a Dallas-based fashion designer. Tired of high-society life, she eventually gave it up and relocated to an isolated country home in Oklahoma, near the Ouachita National Forest, which is where we find her at the movie’s start, gathering large rocks for just one of the many projects in progress on which she obsessively works. It’s quite a site, her domicile: covered with sculptures and structures of her own making, and surrounded by her vast menagerie of animals (some for companionship, most for food). She is literally a force of (and within) nature.

She is also lonely, as she freely admits, though her dog and goats provide some comfort. Estranged from her children – for reasons she never fully explains, though they are painful to her – Ingrid lives a life of quiet contemplation and relentless activity. As we get to know her better, she shares some details from her past, as well as her thoughts on the present and what it means to choose a path unlike other people’s. As she says, “Not following a formula, that is the loneliest job, but to me, as a human being, it is the most satisfying.” I am sure that’s true, but having someone other than a goat to talk to, every once in a while, would also be nice. Ingrid is who she is, however, and Maltz allows her space to wax both eloquent and elegiac.

The film, itself, is a striking work of art. First-time cinematographer Andrew Hajek produces images of uncommon compositional splendor, aided by Will Graham’s masterful drone shots. The music, by Alexis & Sam, provides the perfect accompaniment, gently evocative without intruding on our own meditations of what we see and hear on screen. This is a case of director and subject forming a perfect match, the one’s contributions enhancing the other’s. How lucky we are that they found each other.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

  • Brandon Foster

    Loved this film and the depiction of Ingrid. We are kindred spirits.

    May 24, 2019
  • Horst

    Wonderful film telling of an all too unique life these days. One gets the feeling of having been transported to a much earlier time in our recent history. For the film makers: My fear for you is that you will be forced to deal with the fact of having created a tour de force right out of the gate. Can you top it? Good luck finding another Ingrid. Perhaps a 180 degree turn is in order for a future project.

    March 12, 2020
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