In 1967 Agnès Varda came to stay in California for a couple of years along with her husband and fellow director Jacques Demy, as he was beckoned by Hollywood upon the smashing international success of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. While he was busy working on the studio-produced Model Shop, Varda – in her first of two trysts here (she’d return 12 years later under very different circumstances) – immediately immersed herself outside the studio system. The two shorts that she made during her stay – which she capped with a feature, viz. Lions Love – couldn’t be more diametrically apart despite both being documentaries capturing the absorbing zeitgeist of the place and period. The compelling 2nd short, Black Panthers, was flat-out political filmmaking that covered – via the BPP and Huey Newton’s incarceration – the stirring ongoing protest movement combating systemic racism, oppression and trampling of civil rights. The zany, jaunty and free-form 1st short, Uncle Yanco, on the other hand, touched upon California’s counterculture of free love, non-conformism and irreverence, using – as a springboard – a relative she met for the first time. The docu’s protagonist was the director’s uncle Jean Varda, a seventy-something happy-go-lucky, kindred, eccentric and bohemian painter who lived on a boat and was lovingly called Uncle Yanco by young hippies for his Greek origin. Though it felt relatively slight compared to some of her others outputs on account of its lighthearted whimsy, it was nevertheless filled with disarming, joyous and freewheeling exuberance that made it not just enjoyable, but also one of her most distinctive works. Suffice it to say, Varda was visibly fond of this quirky short and one that she would keep reminiscing on in all her cinematic memoirs.
Director: Agnes Varda
Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Short Film