ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA - directed by Shirley Clarke (1985)
The final film by Shirley Clarke. Clarke is easily one of the most important and pioneering figures in independent film history. A dancer by training, she began making ground breaking short films in the 1950’s and then features in the 1960’s, at a time when there were few if any women directing.
She actually began shooting footage for “Ornette” in the 1965 for public television but they disliked what she showed them and fired her. Despite having directed a trio of immensely important and ground breaking independent films–“The Connection” (1961), “The Cool World” (1963), and “Portrait of Jason” (1967)–Clarke had difficulty finding financing for her films and turned to teaching for most of the 70’s and early 80’s.
In 1983, Ornette Coleman was being honored in his native Forth Worth, Texas, and Clarke was brought on to complete her film, using both old and new material.
The final product is amazing. It combines documentary footage, dramatizations of Coleman’s childhood, video art, and musical performances into a collage that captures Coleman’s own musical style.
Richard Brody of The New Yorker describes it as “an open-ended work that points its vectors far into musical consciousness.”