Robert Gardner (1925-2014) was the Director of the Film Study Center at Harvard University from 1957 to 1997. He is known for his work in the field of non-fiction film.
He is an internationally renowned filmmaker and author whose works have entered the permanent canon of non-fiction filmmaking. Some of his most prominent films include Dead Birds (1964), a lyric account of the Dugum Dani, a Stone Age society at one time living an isolated existence in the Highlands of the former Netherlands New Guinea (Gardner was the leader of the Peabody Museum-sponsored expedition to study the Dani in 1961-62); Rivers of Sand (1974), a social commentary on the Hamar people of southwestern Ethiopia; and Forest of Bliss (1985), a cinematic essay on the ancient city of Benares, India, which explores the ceremonies, rituals, and industries associated with death and regeneration.
Gardner’s films have received numerous awards, including the Robert J. Flaherty Award for best nonfiction film (twice); the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Florence Film Festival (three times); and First Prizes at the Trento, USA Dallas, Melbourne, Nuoro, EarthWatch, Athens, and San Francisco film festivals. His films have been invited to Festivals throughout the world including Jerusalem, Bergen, London, Munich, Toronto, Montreal, Margaret Mead, Marseilles, Locarno, Chicago and Cinema du Réel.
Robert Gardner is the author of A Human Document (1965); and Gardens of War (1968). His book, Making Forest of Bliss (2002), is the outcome of a close watching of the film with his collaborator, Ákos Östör. In 2006 Gardner published his book entitled The Impulse to Preserve: Reflections of a Filmmaker and his latest book, Making Dead Birds: Chronicle of a Film, was published November, 2007. He is also the subject of three books, Rituale von Leben und Tod: Robert Gardner und seine Filme (1989); Gardner, by Harry Tomicek (1991); and Natural Rhythms: The Indigenous World of Robert Gardner, by Thomas Cooper (1995).
In the 1970s Gardner produced and hosted Screening Room, a series of more than one hundred 90-minute programs on independent and experimental filmmaking. The series, considered an invaluable historical record of modern cinema, has been transferred to digital format, for archival preservation by the Paley Center for Media (previously known as the Museum of Television & Radio, and the Museum of Broadcasting) in New York City.
Robert Gardner received Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Harvard University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Article: “Robert Gardner Dies at 88; Filmed Cultural Practices”, New York Times, June 27th, 2014