Hal Hartley  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Hal Hartley (b. November 3 1959, Lindenhurst, New York) is an American film director, writer, and pioneer of the independent film movement, who was educated at the State University of New York at Purchase.

Early on, Hartley was interested in painting and attended the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. While studying there, taking courses in filmmaking made him realize that this was what he wanted to do. He moved back to New York in 1980 and was accepted to the filmmaking program at SUNY Purchase where he met a core group of technicians and actors who would go on to work with him on his feature films years later.

Hartley graduated and moved to New York City in 1984. He shot his feature film debut The Unbelievable Truth, in 1988 and remained extremely active in the years that followed; producing feature films like Trust, Simple Men, Amateur, and Flirt. Unlike most feature film directors, Hartley also continued making short films, many of which have been collected in a DVD anthology.

His films were often noted for dialogue that was simultaneously philosophical and humorous. In the early nineties, he often composed and performed the music for his films under the pseudonym Ned Rifle.

In 1996, Hartley married the Japanese dancer and actress, Miho Nikaido, who had been one of the principal performers in his film Flirt. Later that year, he was made Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic along with novelist Paul West and journalist and publisher George Plimpton.

In 1998, Hartley won the best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Henry Fool just shortly after completing the short feature, The Book of Life, for French TV. Hartley stayed on in Europe and staged his play, Soon, at the Salzburg Festival in Austria and then later that year in Antwerp. It was also staged in the US in November 2001.

Though gently provocative and self-effacing, there had been evidence of a radicalized social engagement in Hartley’s earliest features. But it was only in 1998, with the simultaneous appearance of Henry Fool, The Book of Life, and the play Soon (which dealt with the confrontation at Waco Texas between the religious community known as the Branch Davidians and the US federal government) that his underlying political stance became apparent as a sustained critique of the media industry. This has remained consistent. No Such Thing in 2001 and The Girl From Monday in 2004 put the analysis of how we manipulate informationTemplate:Mdash both the news and advertisingTemplate:Mdash front and center. This has not endeared Hartley to the critics and has caused a sharp line to be drawn between fans of his earlier films and those made after 1996.

From 2001 through 2004 Hartley was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University while simultaneously editing No Such Thing, shooting The Girl From Monday, and writing his most recent feature, Fay Grim. He was awarded a fellowship by The American Academy in Berlin in late 2004 where he did research related to a proposed large-scale project concerning the life of French educator and social activist, Simone Weil.

In late 2005, he moved permanently to Berlin and began preparing Fay Grim, which was shot in February 2006 in Berlin, Paris, and Istanbul.


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