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Alan Berliner, director of Letter to the Editor. Image courtesy of Experiments in Time, Light & Motion, Inc. , photo by Connor Smith
Alan Berliner, director of Letter to the Editor. Image courtesy of Experiments in Time, Light & Motion, Inc. , photo by Connor Smith

Letter to the Editor, the latest film from acclaimed documentarian and Emmy winner Alan Berliner (Wide Awake, First Cousin Once Removed) will have its New York Premiere at DOC NYC 2019. The documentary film which also featured at the Toronto International Film Festival and IDFA, will debut on HBO on December 4.

Composed almost entirely of newspaper photographs, Letter to the Editor is New York native Alan Berliner’s personal journey through 40 years of pictorial history culled from daily printed editions of his beloved home town paper. Part musings of a self-described news junkie, part heartfelt elegy for the death of the printed newspaper in the digital age, the film is filled with observations, stories, opinions, humor, and idiosyncratic reflections on the news—good, bad and fake, past, present, and future.

Letter to the Editor is directed, written, edited, and produced by Alan Berliner.

At once an elegy for the death of the printed newspaper in the digital age and an exploration of its place amidst the urgency of this current political moment — where a free press is portrayed as the enemy of the people and fake news makes it impossible to distinguish true from false – Letter to the Editor contains the layered and nuanced personal musings of a news junkie and the culmination of his decades-long love affair with the printed newspaper.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR directed by Alan Berliner
LETTER TO THE EDITOR. Alan Berliner, director of Letter to the Editor. Image courtesy of Experiments in Time, Light & Motion, Inc., photo by Connor Smith

In 1980, when he was 23 years old, filmmaker Alan Berliner began collecting photographs from the printed edition of the New York Times, amassing thousands of images over the decades in a vast personal archive. Forty years later, at a time when the newspaper is in an existential battle to survive, Berliner employs his unique collage-like approach — on display in previous documentary-essays like HBO’s “Wide Awake” and “First Cousin Once Removed” — to an excavation of the newspaper and what it means to him personally and politically.

With both solemn seriousness and a visual whimsy, the film explores the declining role (and impending disappearance) of the newspaper in the face of transformative advances in media and digital technology – a baby boomer’s lament on the end of an era, on coping with change, on time passing, on growing old, and on staying informed and engaged during these challenging and uncertain times.

Director Alan Berliner’s uncanny ability to combine experimental cinema, artistic purpose, and popular appeal in compelling film essays has made him one of America’s most acclaimed independent filmmakers. The New York Times has described Berliner’s work as “powerful, compelling and bittersweet… full of juicy conflict and contradiction, innovative in their cinematic technique, unpredictable in their structures… Alan Berliner illustrates the power of fine art to transform life.”

Berliner’s experimental documentary films, HBO’s First Cousin Once Removed (2012) and Wide Awake (2006), as well as The Sweetest Sound (2001), Nobody’s Business (1996), Intimate Stranger (1991), and The Family Album (1986), have been broadcast all over the world, and received awards, prizes, and retrospectives at many major international film festivals.  The San Francisco International Film Festival called Berliner, “America’s foremost cinematic essayist.”  The Florida Film Festival called him “the modern master of personal documentary filmmaking.”  Over the years, Berliner’s films have become part of the core curriculum for documentary filmmaking and film history classes at universities worldwide and are in the permanent collections of many film societies, festivals, libraries, colleges and museums. All of his films are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

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