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World Premiere

Director: Elliot Bassman

United States, 2010, 20min
Format: Digital (screening) - HDV (shooting)
Festival Year: 2012
Category: Short Documentary
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Winner: Best Documentary Short

Crew:  Producers: Elliot Bassman - Screenwriters: Elliot Bassman - Cinematographer: Ryan Tully - Editor: Ryan Tully

In a journey of emotional lows and highs, the film begins with my mother, Sylvia's life as a nineteen year old refugee from Poland. Sponsored by an aunt already in the United States, she was allowed to leave her Polish town, arrive in England, and take the "freedom" ship to New York City where her new life began. The film describes the loss of her whole family killed by the Nazis, her marriage to the son of religious Orthodox parents, and the birth of her three children, of whom I am the youngest. Ahead of her time, she started to work , full time, as a seamstress. Politically liberal, her views often ostracized her from the conservative Brooklyn community we lived in. As the film develops, my own presence and perspective of growing up with her and the emotional turmoil of her loss takes the story to the end of her life; a young widow suffering from a debilitating cancer, which at the time, was never mentioned because it carried a stigma no different than that held by Aids, in its early days. My life, intertwined with hers, included traumatic childhood moments such as the assault on me for being a Christ killer and the constant barrage of gay bashing. I also make reference to my sister's death from cancer, and my own rare cancer, fifteen years ago. The images of waterways at Astoria Park and those indoors, reflect major movements and passages. They also symbolize my extreme reliance on water due to the radiation from my cancer treatment. Within this framework of pain, I also recall the wonderful bright times we had up in the Catskills during the 1950's and sixties. My father's death preceded my mother's death, when I was sixteen years old. Though he and I were alienated to an extent at that time, I did experience the endearing qualities of family love, albeit a wounded kind of loving. The supportive spirit of friends and the remarkable discovery of the arts as my living passion, were able to ease the great losses and pain I witnessed and experienced. The story invokes strong themes of illness, death and dying, coming out of the closet, antisemitism, and the arts in the culture of the 1950's through the seventies. In the end, the story surveys my life with my mother, ensconced in a time where there existed many hidden words, and hidden feelings, and, in doing so, earns the film the title, "The Word Never Mentioned."

Elliot Bassman: I received my Master of Fine Arts Degree from Columbia University , in painting and drawing, and my Bachelor of Arts Degree from City College of New York, also in drawing and painting. At Columbia I studied with the eminent print maker, Robert Blackburn. At City College I studied with several of the major painters involved in the WPA projects, such as Charles Alston and Joseph Solman. My professional career was tremendously accelerated by an art tutor, the WPA artist, Harry Shoulberg, as well as by my attendance at the Skowhegan school, in central Maine, where I studied with Brice Marden . I also attended, full time, for four years, the New York Studio School in Greenwich Village, New York City. There I had the great fortune to work along with Leland Bell, Grace Hartigan, Jack Tworkov. My mentor, Philip Guston provided me with enormous support and encouragement. After attending Columbia, I considered myself a professional painter, as my institutional learning came to an end. In the next decades, I worked as a painter and always had a studio. I worked part time as a substitute teacher for the Board of Education, and also, at times, part time as an art dealer; where I learned how to market works of art and where I learned the art of installations which earned me a fine reputation as an installer. I installed exhibitions for the photographer, Linda McCartney and the well known pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. As a dealer, I was very lucky to see the works of many brilliant artists in private collections, not open to the public. My art work was bold, gestural, involved mostly with the application of thick heavy oil paint, capturing still life, landscape and city scenes, from on site painting, as well as from my imagination. In 1996 I gave up the part time jobs, and became a full time artist, as my life was changed, at that time, by the radical treatment I received for a very rare cancer. I continue to paint in Jackson Heights, Queens, in the Greystone complex. I exhibited frequently over these several decades. From Alaska to Germany. Often, I exhibited in alternative venues such as Bergdorf Goodman's fifth Avenue windows, to painting a fiberglass cow, in the notorious cow parade in New York City in 2000. I have had press in the New York Times, The Jewish Forward, the Jewsih Week, The Times ledger, Lincoln Center Playbill , Newsday, and all the Queens newspapers such as the Tribune and the Courier. My works are in public collections, including the Library of Congress, a wall of art at Elmhurst Hospital, dedicated to my partner, Clifford Roye, who died in 2003. I have large works in the City College of New York Robert Cohen Library as well as at the Bank Street College in upper Manhattan. I have experimented in many mediums and continue to do so. Spending a decade painting large murals in bold acrylics, recapturing the classical world by way of contemporary visions. I wrote a short story in 2004 that was published in a gay anthology. The story, "Sylvia" was the basis and inspiration, to create the film, "The Word Never Mentioned." I believe the story and the film, which projects a score of my own art works, along with the narration, marinated in me for decades- and by 2009, I grabbed fate, and finally created this film.
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