Reviewed December 2020
Alice Eng, Electronic Resources Librarian
Wake Forest University, Z. Smith Reynolds Library
The Walker Art Center is a renowned art museum located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The present day Walker Art Center was founded in 1939 and focuses on visual, performance, and media arts. One of the Walker’s programs is the Moving Image program, which produced the Dialogue and Retrospective series. Between 1990 and 2020, this series presented screenings of filmmakers’ works followed by on-stage interviews. Walker Dialogues and Film Retrospectives: The First Thirty Years is a website that gathers ephemera of these events, including recordings of these conversations between program organizers and filmmakers, producers, actors, and other players.
The site is freely available online and users are not required to create an account. The main page contains ten links on the left hand side linking to information about the Walker Art Center, including a search box that searches the entire Walker Art Center website. The page also provides portraits that link to each artist’s information page. However, there are no facets for customizing the text displayed on the page or the layout. If users have any sensitivity to flashing or flickering motion, they are advised to be cautious when viewing Walker Dialogues and Film Retrospectives, as the top portion of the page displays a flashing array of pictures on a continuous loop that cannot be paused. The first ten seconds of the stream are the most jarring.
Scrolling down, the user will see an impressive grid featuring many Hollywood elite. Users can filter artists by categories such as “actor,” “animation,” “documentary,” and “writer.” These categories cannot be searched simultaneously; for example, users cannot select “director” AND “new wave”.
There are sixty five artists included, and each image links out to a page that acts as a “portrait” of that artist. Almost all portraits contain a biography, an interview, a digitized program from the interview event, and a list of the artist’s notable works, hyperlinked to IMDB. The digitized programs are visually interesting examples of ephemera of the sort not usually included in websites on film, although the magnification function is limited and the program images are not keyword searchable, and the program's information about the artist is mostly duplicated on the online portrait page. The biographies are not lengthy and summarize the artist’s background and contributions to the film industry. One of the most prominent features of each portrait is an interview with the artist. The Museum of the Moving Image, Inside the Actor's Studio, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, and the Directors Guild of America, to name a few, also conduct these types of interviews. Though Walker's concept is not unique, the timespan of the collection is. Except for the Museum of the Moving Image, none of the aforementioned include interviews older than those found in the Walker collection. Included in many of the portraits is an item that could be useful for accessibility purposes: a downloadable transcript of the artist’s interview..
One of the stated aims of the program was to “highlight the vast diversity of contemporary filmmakers, from experimental and documentary to international.” Though the portraits do portray some diversity, there are gaps. There is a noticeable lack of Native Americans, women of color, and Latinx artists. Notable artists such as Chris Eyre, Wes Studi, and Rita Moreno, who have made historical contributions to the film industry, are not included. In the future, Walker might consider including the aforementioned artists or other people of color who have produced contemporary works such as Sivan Alyra Rose, Taika Waititi, Ava DuVernay, and Alfonso Cuarón.
Walker Dialogues and Film Retrospective is for anyone interested in film history, including the casual film fan, but is not particularly well-suited to scholarly research. This is not an academic database and does not provide the features a researcher would need in order to conduct traditional scholarship: for example, there are no citations or bibliographies included. There are also no options to save searches or specific portraits for future reference. However, given the uniqueness of the interview content and the temporal scope of the material, Walker Dialogues and Film Retrospective is a useful complement to scholarly research and an intriguing look into the work and process of filmmakers for the general public.