The Connection

Director: Shirley Clarke
Screenwriters: Shirley Clarke

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Searing and unflinching, The Connection is about a group of junkies waiting for their heroin “connection” to arrive. Shot like a documentary, the film stars William Redfield as a filmmaker who chronicles the events of the evening. Loaded with wild jazz improvisations and street-jive monologues, The Connection created quite a stir for its gritty in-your-face style. Even the cameraman takes a fix, and when he does, the camerawork goes into chaos. Taken from a play by Jack Gelber, the film’s highly authentic acting is supplied by actors from the Living Theatre. Although The Connection was hailed as exhilaratingly spontaneous by many critics, New York state banned the film for a year because of its language, and it became a test case against censorship.

Shirley Clarke, who also directed The Cool World (1963), Portrait of Jason (1977), and Ornette: Made in America (1986), passed away recently. With the preservation of her work, we hope she will long be remembered. This screening of The Connection offers a rare opportunity to see a seminal independent work.

Shirley Clarke, Director
Shirley Clarke was born in 1925 in New York City and began her career as a modern dancer and choreographer with Martha Graham, among others. Her interest in movement led her to filmmaking, and her first films were highly choreographed and edited. She adapted a cinema vérité approach for The Connection. In 1962 Clarke cofounded the Film-Makers Cooperative with Jonas Mekas. After a frustrating experience in Hollywood, Clarke started to explore video, and in 1976 began teaching film and video at UCLA.

Screening Details

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