Underground Film Journal

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And Sometimes The Boats Are Low — Leighton Pierce

By Mike Everleth ⋅ January 7, 2018

And Sometimes the Boats Are Low by Leighton Pierce (1983)

As of this writing, there does not appear to be much written about this particular film by Pierce, even though there is quite a bit written about his work in general, particularly by film historian Scott MacDonald.

Two known screenings of the film have been at the 3rd Experimental Film Festival in 1986 run by the Experimental Film Coalition; and at a “Personal Cinema Program” event at the Millennium Film Workshop in New York City on November 30, 1987. The “Personal Cinema Program” included Pierce’s And Sometimes the Boats Are Low, plus his films Not Much Time (1982) and The Miracle of Change (1984).

(Note: In the mid to late ’80s, Pierce credited his work as “J. Leighton Pierce.” Since that time, he has dropped the “J.” and is written about just as “Leighton Pierce.”)

Although there isn’t much written specifically on And Sometimes the Boats Are Low, the film seems to fit into the typical descriptions of Leighton’s work. For example, in an essay that appears in the book American Film History: Selected Readings, 1960 to the Present, MacDonald writes that “Pierce has produced evocations of American domestic space that transform the ordinary into the remarkable.

Woman sitting in a chair looking out the window

Also, in an interview with MacDonald that appeared in the The Independent v22 issue 6, Leighton himself said:

I embrace Zen — I would say that. I’m not sure it’s correct to say that shooting the films is like a Zen practice, but it is almost like meditation.

Lastly, the book Curricular Conversations: Play Is the (Missing) Thing writes and includes a quote by the filmmaker that Pierce “works with interfaces in architectural space to ‘explore the collision and intermixing that occurs between multiple images and sound over time, across space, and within the associative mind of the viewer.'”

The end credits that appear on screen are below, each line representing one credit “card”:

And sometimes the boats are low
by J. Leighton Pierce ©1983
with Kathryn Hall
music: “Sova Noub V-(AO)” by Anthony Braxton
produced at Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts

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