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The Birth Film

The Birth Film

Misconception, by Marjorie Keller

Los Angeles Filmforum presents

The Birth Film

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028

For more event information:, or 323-377-7238         

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members.  Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, Los Angeles Filmforum is thrilled to present a special selection of historical experimental films engaging with the subject of birth, from filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Marjorie Keller, and Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid. 

Cinematic records of childbirth date far back in the history of cinema, though for decades it was treated, unsurprisingly, as a subject of nearly abstract, purely medical interest.  The implicit taboo of filming childbirth for personal, artistic, symbolic, or otherwise creative purposes was a fierce one, making Stan and Jane Brakhage’s decision to film the birth of their first daughter Myrrena in November of 1958 a remarkable one.

Since this groundbreaking film – the iconic Window Water Baby Moving (1959) – numerous other artists have considered the cinematic portrayal of birth, including Brakhage himself four more times.  As material for cinema, the subject matter has certainly become dramatically less taboo, but its depiction remains a singularly and disarmingly powerful experience, especially in the hands of a sensitive filmmaker. 

This program features a modest selection of extraordinary birth films by some equally extraordinary artists.  Showing in a restored print from New York Public Library, Marjorie Keller’s psychologically rich and complex experimental documentary Misconception (1977) is an acclaimed multi-part work in which “the birth is the crisis of the film and its center”, in Keller’s words.  Brakhage’s ecstatic and kinetic Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961), depicting the birth of the Brakhages’ third child, is a lesser-known and very different birth film that foregrounds the filmmaker’s own subjective witness.  Gunvor Nelson’s little-seen Kirsa Nicholina (1969) largely eschews superficial lyricism in favor of a very direct, documentary approach that nevertheless finds startling power and emotion in its subject.  Rounding out the program is a truly remarkable 1944 film from Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid on feline birth, demonstrating an uncannily human tenderness in both its subject and treatment.  This film, The Private Life of a Cat, normally shown in a shorter silent version, will be featured in an extremely rare presentation of the film’s original longer cut (courtesy of Anthology Film Archives), with its original release soundtrack featuring narration by Deren herself.

Program approximately 90 minutes.

Program curated by Mark Toscano.  Special thanks to: John Klacsmann (Anthology Film Archives), Elena Rossi-Snook (The New York Public Library), Antonella Bonfanti & Seth Mitter (Canyon Cinema), and P. Adams Sitney.

Thigh Line Lyre Triangular

Stan Brakhage, 1961, 16mm, color, silent, 6min

Kirsa Nicholina

Gunvor Nelson, 1969, 16mm, color, sound, 16min

PrivateLive 1

The Private Life of a Cat (original sound version)

The Private Life of a Cat (original sound version)

Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid, 1944, HD (originally 16mm), b/w, sound, 28min

Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives, New York

marjoriekeller misconception



Marjorie Keller, 1977, 16mm, color, sound, 42min

Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.  Misconception has been preserved with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.