Saying goodbye to Atlanta’s movie legend — Linda Dubler

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

The movie scene in Atlanta is a little darker these days. Last week, Linda Dubler died. She’s been the Film/Video/Media Curator at the High Museum since the program’s inception in 1985.

The cause of her death: something both painful and unpronounceable, called myelofibrosis, a form of bone marrow cancer. Ironically…sadly…her father died of the same disease.

In many ways, Linda was film in Atlanta. She had a hand in the creation and direction of Women in Film and IMAGE Film & Video Center where the Atlanta Film Festival originated decades ago. I can’t begin to count the number of times I quoted her when I needed a credentialed film expert.

She also wrote some of the best movie reviews I’ve ever read, for Art Papers and for Southline (long defunct, long missed). She moved to the High — no dummies they — in 1985.

Linda came to Atlanta after attending Bard and NYU. Her father was a jeweler here and, while the city didn’t turn out to be “one huge Lenox Square,” as she feared, it wasn’t exactly a film mecca.

She was working as a secretary at the Emory Clinic when she won a Critic’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. They gave her $10,000, the equivalent today of about $100,000.

“It literally changed my life,” she told me once. “I even wrote the NEA telling them that.”

Her move to the High was applauded by everyone. No film snob she (though she had the background and writing skills to be just that), she made programming choices that were challenging, informed, provocative and yet always considerate of her local audience.

Here’s a bit of what the High’s Michael Shapiro told his Board upon hearing of her death:

“I am saddened to inform you that Linda Dubler, the High’s Curator of Media Arts, passed away this morning after a long illness. This is a huge loss to the High and Atlanta’s film community. Linda worked tirelessly for 26 years to bring our audiences the best films from around the world, many of which would never have been shown in Atlanta otherwise. She will truly be missed, and we extend our sincere condolences to her family.”

I have an “official” quote from Michael, too, (it’s not much different) and I’ll probably use it at a later date. What I love about this one is that it is so heartfelt. He’s not “being quoted;” he’s telling people who are important to him exactly how he feels.

The High plans a memorial service at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Auditorium on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 5 p.m. And I’m pleased to say, the High already is thinking about another, more permanent way to honor her. Perhaps a building placque or a film festival or a scholarship in her name. Currently, there is a superb tribute to her written by Steve Murray on the High’s Facebook site.

And while going to the movies seems a bit darker without her, Linda also left a legacy of light —through all she shared with us, introduced to us, created for us. When she first moved to the High, I wrote a lengthy article about her.

It begins with, “The last thing Linda Dubler said to me before getting on the elevator (as I continued to gush about her) was, ‘I don’t want to sound like a saint.’”

Fair enough. But she was.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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