In the Beginning was the Image: Conversations with Peter Whitehead

U.S. Premiere

U.K. | 199 MINUTES | English |



Over the course of his career, Paul Cronin has created both literary and filmed portraits of distinctly talented, fiercely independent filmmakers, among them Haskell Wexler, Werner Herzog and Alexander Mackendrick. In his latest film, the returning Tribeca Film Festival director creates a striking portrait of yet another singular artist from the corpus of film history: British filmmaker Peter Whitehead, whose long-unseen films have recently surfaced in several retrospectives all over the world, most recently at Anthology Film Archives earlier this year. In the 1960's, Whitehead made The Fall, a chronicle of contemporary social and political unrest in America, as well as documentaries on numerous music and cultural figures, including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Alan Ginsberg. Suddenly abandoning filmmaking in the late '70s, Whitehead moved to Saudi Arabia, where he raised falcons on a remote mountaintop. He returned to England at the outset of the 1991 Gulf War and quietly continued his creative endeavors, writing novels and sculpting pottery. In the Beginning Was the Image opens with the now-mature artist, shaping clay, and deftly interlaces archival material-drawn from Whitehead's prolific collection of still photographs, 16mm film prints, television interviews, home movies, novels and journals-with compelling on-camera interviews of Whitehead the raconteur. Cronin creates a multi-layered, seamless portrait of his subject, moving freely between youth and middle age, quotidian existence and creative pursuits, and pleasures of the flesh and spiritual quests. In the Beginning Was the Image serves not only as a compelling film biography, but also as Cronin's commentary on the process of constructing an individual's identity. Copresented with Anthology Film Archives.


Directed by Paul Cronin

PAUL CRONIN was born in London in 1972. His documentary “Look Out Haskell, It's Real!”: The Making of Medium Cool (2001), about Haskell Wexler's 1969 feature Medium Cool, was broadcast on the BBC, PBS, and the Sundance Channel. His other films include Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16 (2003) and Sooner or Later (2007). He is the editor of several volumes, including interview books with Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, and Roman Polanski. He also edited On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director, the collected writings of British director Alexander Mackendrick, and produced Mackendrick on Film (2004), an eight-hour educational documentary based on the book. Currently he is working on books about David Mamet and Abbas Kiarostami, and a book about production sound recording.