|THANK YOU AND GOODNIGHT|
|Cast: ||Mae Joffe, Helen Oxenberg, James Biberi|
|Crew: ||Jan Oxenberg|
Much more than a mere documentary about the filmmaker’s experience of the aging and death of her grandmother, Thank You and Good Night premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991, and won immediate acclaim for its combination of narrative and documentary elements and for its imaginative use of cardboard cutout characters. Amy Taubin, writing for the Village Voice, described the reaction of festival-goers: “Thank You and Goodnight choked up the self-consciously hip professional audience. Total strangers hung around the lobby long after the screening, sharing intensely personal anecdotes about death and dying.” Filmed over 12 years, Thank You and Good Night is an innovative blend of cinema verite, drama and comic surrealism featuring cutout figures of the film maker and her grandmother along with childlike manifestations of metaphysical transformations.
As a cheeky freshman bored with her classes, Jan Oxenberg started the Barnard Columbia Experimental College, which boasted Kate Millett as its first faculty member and existed as a residential program for many years. Oxenberg then transferred to California Institute of the Arts to join the feminist art program led by Judy Chicago. “I had absolutely no artistic talent,” Oxenberg says, “so I started making films.” During a summer school class at UCLA, she made her first 16mm film, Home Movie, about coming out as a lesbian. She followed those films with A Comedy in Six Unnatural Acts and I’m Not One of Them. This trilogy of films about the lesbian experience led to festival and speaking engagements around the world. With co-founder Evan Paxton, she created a pioneering educational experience, the Lesbian Herstory Exploration.
After her success with Thank You and Good Night, Oxenberg was invited to develop her follow-up feature, Girlfriend Confidential, at the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. There she met TV writer-producer Jason Katims (My So-Called Life, etc.) who asked her to write for ABC’s Relativity, the series he created with Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, launching her highly successful TV career. She has been a writer-producer on multiple television dramas including Chicago Hope, Cold Case, Once and Again, Parenthood, Nothing Sacred, In Plain Sight, and Pretty Little Liars where Oxenberg developed storylines for one of the most visible lesbian characters on TV, the teenage Emily, who discovers and pursues her sexual orientation throughout the series.
Jan Oxenberg is also the recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships for her film work, and is profiled in the books The Celluloid Closet and The Prime Time Closet.