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Atlanta Series Presents Enigmatic Figure In Film History

Jane Brakhage was the subject of many of Stan Brakhage's films, including his 1959 film, ''Window Water Baby Moving.''
Jane Brakhage was the subject of many of Stan Brakhage's films, including his 1959 film, ''Window Water Baby Moving.''
Credit Courtesy of the Estate of Stan Brakhage and Fred Camper

In the digital age, it’s easy to document your life constantly.

But before iPhones and digital cameras, Jane Wodening, formerly Brakhage, experienced a very intense version of documentation. Her husband of 30 years, Stan Brakhage, was an influential experimental filmmaker from the 1950s through to his death in 2003, and many of his revered films feature Wodening, their five children and her animals.

One of his notable films, “Window Water Moving Baby,” features Wodening giving birth to their first child. Another features Brakhage and Wodening having a fight. His mastery at documenting his own life and his family’s, however, is highly discussed and debated in the film world.

“And the ongoing debate is … [is his family] represented in a way that gives them individuality or not,” explained Andy Ditzler. Ditzler is the curator of Film Love, a 13-year-old film series that delves into unseen, underappreciated or difficult-to-find films.

Wodening, however, has lived quite the life of her own. She lived alone for 10 years in a mountain cabin and began writing when she was in her 40s. In the past few years, she has published her books and stories prolifically. Approaching 80 years old, she said she had to publish them all or throw them in the trash.

“So I thought I’d get them all out at once, and then in my 80s, I can kick back and be more pleased with myself.”

Wodening was not just a subject of the films, but in many respects, she was also a contributor and creative partner. For example, many of Brakhage’s films focus on animals, but those animals were Wodening’s.

“Her rapport with animals, which forms part of the subject of her writing, is legendary,” said Ditzler. “Poets have discussed it.”

Wodening will be at the center of the next Film Love screening. Ditzler will present three films featuring Wodening, two by Brakhage and one by filmmaker Barbara Hammer.

She will also talk about her books and also her time working with Brakhage. “That wasn’t me so much that he was photographing,” said Wodening. “It was his dream of a woman. I was the woman rather than being myself.”

That event will be held at Atlanta Contemporary on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.