‘Queen of Hearts:’ Female Filmmaking and Art Collide

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COURTESY OF DOC NYC

Photorealist Audrey Flack, the subject of a female-led documentary, said of her own career: “I am not a feminist artist; I am a feminist who is an artist.”

By ANA PAULA CAMACHO PÉREZ, Contributing Writer

Every year, New York holds the country’s largest film festival dedicated to documentaries, DOC NYC. This year, Director Deborah Shaffer and Co-Director Rachel Reichman brought “Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack,” an inspiring documentary film about the life and work of Audrey Flack. 

Flack is known for her work as a photorealist in the 1970s and paintings such as “Marilyn,” “World War II (Vanitas)” and “Macarena of Miracles.” In the documentary, the audience can see “Audrey’s incredible perceptions about art, her intimate personal passionate relationship to form, to Pollock’s work, to what it means to be an artist, to art history,” according to Reichman.

Shaffer, winner of the Academy Award for Short Documentary, has been in the industry for almost 50 years. Before taking up the project, she didn’t know much about Flack. For her, the making of the film was a “journey of discovery,” she said. “I was so captivated by her presence and her personality and her storytelling and her life story.” 

Two years after the project started, Reichman joined the production. Her journey as an editor began in college. “Editing just was very easy for me, it almost seemed like I couldn’t understand what the big deal was,” she said.

Even though narrative film was her passion, she entered the world of documentaries because people in that industry didn’t question her credentials as a film editor. When Reichman first heard about this project, she had her doubts because it would be independent. However, when she heard it would be about Flack, she was fully on board. “I had been passionate about (Flack) when I was a kid; she was one of my heroes when I was about 15,” Reichman said.

Flack, besides being a prolific artist, faced being the first female photorealist in her time. In order to succeed, she had to be tough. As she said in the film, “I am not a feminist artist; I am a feminist who is an artist.”

For Shaffer and Reichman, the experience was different. Initially, because they were not considered prestigious, documentaries were open to women. In film editing, women have also been significantly more numerous. However, Reichman said, “Often one doesn’t know because no one makes a big deal about the editors.” 

Shaffer and Reichman’s work was complementary. Reichman brought knowledge and passion for Flack’s work, and Shaffer asked lots of questions. Together, they created a powerful film about what it takes to be an artist. “To make it as an artist or to make it as a filmmaker, you have to have the deep inner passion and commitment for it that Audrey has, and that I have, and that Rachel has,” Shaffer said.

“Watch this film,” Reichman advised students who want to pursue careers in art and filmmaking. “The film is about believing in yourself, it’s about recognizing what it is to need to do something.”

After applying for 80 grants for this film, Shaffer received a mere six. “You’ve got to understand why you’re doing it,” she said. “If you’re doing it because you have no choice, because it’s an essential part of your being, you don’t take no for an answer.”

Shaffer also commented that they had a lot of help from students to make this film. There are always filmmakers who need help with their projects, and students should keep an eye out for every opportunity they can take. “The best learning is out in the field,” Shaffer said.

Those interested in “Queen of Hearts” can visit their website and their Facebook page. The movie will be shown next at the Hamptons Documentary Festival on Dec. 5, and it will be on streaming platforms as soon as they announce it.