“10 in America” — 10 cities, 10 films, one America
By Hannah E. Jones
French artist Valerie Massadian wants to see Atlanta — really see it — in all its glory and hardship, its beauty and filth. She’ll be taking her camera to our streets, walking through the city to peel back its layers and document what’s underneath.
Massadian, an award-winning franco-armenian photographer and filmmaker, is visiting Atlanta for the first time in preparation of making a short film for “10 in America.”
Villa Albertine, a new French art institution, hosted Massadian on Sept. 22 to introduce her to some of Atlanta’s art enthusiasts and screen three of her short films. The event was held at Atlanta’s new Franco-German Cultural Center at Peachtree Center, the only one in North America.
Massadian is one of 10 French artists participating in “10 in America,” an artist-in-residency program with Villa Albertine that embeds French filmmakers each in a different American city to create a short film. These will be compiled into a documentary that reveals a portrait of the modern United States.
The Villa was created to link French and American culture through artist-in-residency opportunities and cultural programming for residents and those in creative industries. In its first year, the Villa will host 80 artists throughout 10 major U.S. cities.
For this project, each filmmaker was assigned a city they’ve never visited, getting a fresh perspective on life in America’s urban centers — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. The documentary will reflect one truth of life, reality is relative, and after putting each different perspective together, the larger picture will emerge.
“It cannot be the final and absolute vision of the USA; it’s going to be fragmented,” said David Ruffel, director of Villa Albertine in Atlanta. “It’s going to be 10 very personal films on 10 different cities, coming together like [puzzle pieces].”
Massadian is in Atlanta for one month, studying the city and its people to gather inspiration for her upcoming project. In January, she will return to film. The Villa is organizing the artists and facilitating the creative process, while Les Films Hatari and UFO International Productions will produce and screen the film.
Massadian’s previous works are both enchanting and haunting, offering an intimate look at her subjects while showing their humanity and difficult, strong emotions. “Mamushka” follows Massadian’s mother as she copes with the death of her husband, showing her in a cemetery, a bathtub and looking at old photos.
“I don’t have an audience in mind, I have honesty in mind,” Massadian said. “If [artists] are honest, it’s like they’re talking to you. It’s like a love letter or a revenge letter or both at the same time.”
As for her upcoming short film, she intends to give an honest look at Atlanta. Click here to learn more about Massadian and “10 in America.”