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by Lela Scott MacNeil
June 18th, 2010

See Last Address tonight at Rooftop Films. Tickets on sale here.

What do you leave behind once you’re gone? In his film Last Address, filmmaker Ira Sachs asks this question about several New York City artists who have died of AIDS over the past three decades. The film screens as a part of this Friday’s Rooftop Films program “New York Non-Fiction.”

In Last Address, Sachs shows us the final residential addresses of these late artists, asking the audience to find meaning not in their person or their work, but their homes. In the end, the intense imagery of the streets of New York becomes its own powerful tribute.

Ira spoke with Rooftop Films about mourning the death of both the artists in the film and the New York City that was theirs.

Rooftop Films: Give a brief description of your film for those who haven’t seen it.

Ira Sachs: Last Address is an elegiac film made up of exterior images of the last residential addresses of a group of New York City artists who died of AIDS.

RF: How did you decide to represent the artists featured in your film in this way? How did you decide which artists to portray in the film?

IS: I made Last Address because now that I’m in my 40s, I realize even more how I’ve had no mentors, so few models even, for how to live a creative life as a gay man, and how I’m winging it, on my own. So many of the men I might have learned from, read about in the papers, seen in the streets, met in a bar, in a theater, died from AIDS in the years before I might have known them. I first lived in New York in the summer of 1984 – punk was still big, and the Pyramid Club, and the Ridiculous Theater, and the East Village scene, but I was a kid. It seemed like it would last forever, but then it was all gone….Haring, Mapplethorpe, Ludlam, and people I knew more closely, like the painter Hugh Steers, the director Norman Rene, my boyfriend Jim Lyons. In just under 25 years, they were all gone. I feel like I’m finding my own way. I wish they were here.

RF: What does your film have to say about mortality?

IS: Collecting the information on where the artists were living at the time of their deaths was the first realization that this would be not only a film, but a community project. The conversations and emails that took place among the more than 100 people we spoke to in our research was in itself a collective remembrance of these artists, their work, and their lives.

RF: Your film is part of Rooftop Films “New York Non-Fiction” show. Do you think a similar film could be made in any other city? What is uniquely New York about it?

IS: Last Address is inherently about New York, although its execution and conception are not exclusive to it. This film couldn’t be made anywhere else for very literal reasons, but this sort of film, sadly, could be made just about everywhere.

RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, what else are you up to?

IS: Yes, and I’m also an associate professor at New York University and Columbia University.

RF: Describe your next project.

IS: A feature called The Goodbye People, adapted from a novel by the British a script I’ve co-written with Oren Moverman. It’s set in Los Angeles at the end of the 1960s, a story, in the end, about intimacy and how easy it is for any of us to fall off the face of the earth, whether through drugs, or sex, or cults, or movies. Following a Manson-like crime in the opening scene, the movie goes back to investigate a large cast of characters dangerously involved, including a British screenwriter struggling to make ends meet, a beautiful ex-model living in the Hollywood Hills, and a young stranger, dodging the Vietnam War, who comes between them.

RF: What excites you about having your film screened at Rooftop?

IS: Seeing this movie in New York gives it a different effect somehow because you’re breathing its same air. On the rooftops, overlooking the city, I imagine the two will effectively merge – you’ll be able to see the film beyond the screen even as you’re watching it.

See “Last Address” tonight at Rooftop Films: “New York Non-Fiction” on the Open Road Rooftop, 350 Grand St. at Essex on the Lower East Side.

Tickets and more information available here.

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About Rooftop Films

Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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