Welcome to This House

2015, 78:54 min, color, sound, HD video

Welcome to This House is a feature documentary film on the homes and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), about life in the shadows, and the anxiety of art making without full self-disclosure. Hammer filmed in Bishop’s ‘best loved homes’ in the US, Canada, and Brazil believing that buildings and landscapes bear cultural memories. Interviews with poets, friends, and scholars provide “missing documents” of numerous female lovers. Bishop’s intimate poetry is beautifully performed by Kathleen Chalfant and with the creative music composition by Joan La Barbara brings Bishop into our lives with new facts and unexpected details.

"As an artist I believe that the architectural structures in which I live and work influence the art I make. I went in search of Bishop’s homes to explore the buildings and the poetry and paintings she made in them. This quest took me to her childhood home in Nova Scotia, to Camp Chequesset on Cape Cod, to Vassar College where she went to school, and to her homes in Key West, Brazil, Cambridge and Boston.

"Bishop was in the closet to the outside world, but she seemed to have as many lovers as she had homes. I globe trotted on her trail and found more and more female lovers emerging from interviews with friends, colleagues, critics and poets. Bishop was a lusty woman and I respect that, but writing openly of these experiences wasn’t possible due to her need for privacy propelled by the homophobia of the times. In addition, and maybe partly responsible for her reticence, was the childhood trauma she experienced of her mother’s breakdown and confinement in an institution. The understanding of this significant loss following the death of her father when she was an infant, and her conflicted need both to stay still and to move brought me to a closer reading of published and unpublished poems where I found intimate disclosures in her poetry." — Barbara Hammer

Producer/Director/Editor: Barbara Hammer. Music Composed by: Joan La Barbara. Sound Design: Barbara Hammer. Director of Photography: Barbara Hammer, Erin Harper, Stephanie Testa. Voice of Elizabeth Bishop: Kathleen Chalfant. Second Camera: Maya Ciarrocchi, Alex H. Auriema. Sound Effects: David Lawrence Goldman. Actors: Linda Dittmar, Barbara Hammer, Erin Miller. Production Assistants: Joe Berg, Lane Brettschneider, Laura Cooper, Carolyn Lieba Francois-Lazard, JiYe Kim, Kika von Klück, Juliana Pamplona, Lisa Wiesdorf. Post Production & Sound Mix:One Glass Video.