Amy Halpern, a Retrospective

  • Invocation
  • Elixir
  • #27
  • Filament (the Hands)
  • Fire Belly
  • By Halves
  • Slow Fireworks
  • Unowned Luxuries #3
  • Verge: (For my Sisters)
  • Hula
  • Injury on a Theme
  • 3-Minute Hells
  • Chabrot



Curated by David Lebrun

Amy Halpern (1953–2022) was one of Los Angeles’s leading experimental/independent filmmakers. Committed to encouraging a wider awareness of absolute film, Halpern co-founded the New York Collective for Living Cinema and the Los Angeles Independent Film Oasis. She taught at several universities, including the University of Southern California. Halpern was a member of the classic West Coast light show Single Wing Turquoise Bird, performing on liquids and transparencies.



Amy Halpern
London, UK | 2020 | 7 | ProRes HD Los Angeles, CA | 1982 | 2 | 16mm

A temporary sculpture; an invitation and benediction.


Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2012 | 7 | 16mm

A love letter.


Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2019 | 3 | 16mm

With Caroline McCrystle Marcantoni.

Filament (the Hands)

Amy Halpern
Philadelphia, PA / New York, NY | 1975 | 6 | 16mm

Mikis Theodorakis, Greek composer, then recently freed from prison, filmed during a concert at Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Shot from backstage. “Theodorakis... always performed in a black shirt, so that his hands were enunciated. I had seen his hands become animate of themselves and take flight and become these rhythmic inspiring objects. So that’s what I was gunning for. It’s a progression of stocks, Plus-X to Tri-X to 4-X, so that the most halated shots occur at the end. The ‘flashes of lightning’ are static electricity. And I'm always delighted that the flashes rhyme with his gestures. This is energy for liberation. This is energy for carrying the fire forward.”

Fire Belly

Amy Halpern
USA | 2022 | 2 | 16mm

Alchemists thought that salamanders could be reborn from fire—like the Phoenix, or the Christ. But salamanders do not survive fire, nor extreme dryness. And they do not resurrect after burning. Consequently they are at present in great danger on the planet.

By Halves

Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2012 | 7 | 16mm

By Halves was “discovered” in “pic fill—discarded 35mm release print material split in half and perforated as 16mm for use as sound track spacer in the double-system editing process. An appropriate appropriation, a gift, a magic act. The movement of the performer is slowed because one sees first the top and then the bottom of each frame in quick succession. Surprises result.

FLICKER WARNING: If you are susceptible to seizures, or are just uncomfortable with flashing lights, please view with caution.

Slow Fireworks

Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2019 | 2 | 16mm

Papyrus, light, wind.


Unowned Luxuries #3

Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2020 | 2 | 16mm

The Unowned Luxuries films are about possession through the eyes. Based on the childhood perception (attributed to me as a five-year-old by my father) that “to see is to touch with the eyes,” these films propose a less toxic mode of ownership. Actual ownership is overrated, as a desire and as a goal.


Verge: (for my sisters)

Amy Halpern
Los Angeles & Joshua Tree, CA | 2022 | 6 | 16mm

A horizon like a blade. Consistent across landscapes in California—ocean to desert and back to ocean.

Vezelay Curtain

Amy Halpern
Vezelay, France & Los Angeles, CA | 2016 | 5 | digital

“The wind has its own way of praying.” –Randolph Pitts


Amy Halpern
Los Angeles | 2022 | 6 | 16mm

Abstract music notation and something very obvious.

Injury on a Theme

Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2012 | 7 | 16mm

A short sweet film concerning torture.

3-Minute Hells

Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2012 | 14 | 16mm

A progress from detention to release in seven movements.



Amy Halpern
Los Angeles, CA | 2022 | 7 | 16mm

A private toast. Inspired by a random encounter with this Wikipedia entry, while looking up “Chabrol, Claude” for a full listing of his films: “Fair chabrot or faire chabròl is an ancient Occitanian custom whereby at the end of a soup or broth, one adds red wine to the bowl to dilute the remnants and brings it to the lips to drink in big gulps.”


David Lebrun is a filmmaker who combines animation, documentary and experimental film to explore art, science, myth and history. His features, including Proteus and Breaking the Maya Code, have screened from Sundance to Tehran and received major international awards. He taught at CalArts, and has curated and created numerous art exhibitions including his current Transfigurations: Reanimating the Past.