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Anne Charlotte Robertson Collection

Bequeathed to the Harvard Film Archive in 2012 by the filmmaker, the Anne Charlotte Robertson Collection contains approximately thirty-five finished short films, a few video works and the diary film project, Five Year Diary, as well as photographs, audio tapes, diaries and letters. The Harvard Film Archive also holds the intellectual and distribution rights to Robertson’s work. 
Anne Charlotte Robertson (March 27, 1949 - September 15, 2012) was a Super 8 filmmaker and diarist who lived in Framingham, Massachusetts. She began making films in the mid-1970s as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and earned her MFA at the Massachusetts College of Art in 1985. Her main work is the thirty-eight-hour opus, Five Year Diary, which she began in 1981 and continued filming well beyond five years. Spanning varying numbers of days, each episode is twenty-seven minutes—approximately eight camera rolls—and the diary is eighty-three reels long. In addition to the Five Year Diary (1981-1997), Robertson made over thirty other short films—mostly diaristic—including Apologies (1990), Talking to Myself (1985), Magazine Mouth (1983) and Melon Patches, or Reasons to Go On Living (1994).

Robertson took the written diary form and extended it to include documentary, experimental and animated filmmaking techniques. She did not shy away from exposing any parts of her physical situation or emotional life. She became a pioneer of personal documentary and shared experiences and observations on being a vegetarian, her cats, organic gardening, food, and her struggles with weight, her smoking and alcohol addictions, poverty and depression (she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder). Romance (or lack thereof), obsession and the cycle of life are also long-running themes in the Diary films. Robertson sows seeds, reaps vegetables, cooks and pickles them, then composts the scraps. She welcomes babies and buries family members and beloved cats, notes the changing seasons, contemplates suicide, has nervous breakdowns, pines for her celebrity crush (Tom Baker of Doctor Who), finds religion and obsessively documents her own life on film, paper and audio tape.

Robertson recorded sound on film at the same time as the picture with a sound Super 8 camera. She created a multi-layered soundtrack by recording audio cassettes to play with the films. Adding a performative element to her shows, she often spoke during a film screening and also occasionally played the radio. Her work touched many people and inspired a number of women filmmakers. In 2001, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Filmmaking.

The collection also contains scores of hours of audio tape, some of which is not directly associated with the films, papers (including diaries and letters), artwork and photographs.

The HFA is presently undertaking a project to preserve the work to 16mm film and digital formats.  Some of the material, as a condition of the will, remains unavailable until 2022. 

Pixillation (Anne Charlotte Robertson, 1976). HFA Item #32730
Original silent 18 fps Super 8 film digitized at Colorlab in 2017.

Five Year Diary, reel 22: A Short Affair & Going Crazy (Anne Charlotte Robertson, 1982)

Related programs

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I Wanted to See How I Lived, I Wanted to Love Myself and My Past.
A Tribute to Anne Charlotte Robertson

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Dear Video Diary: Christmas with Anne Robertson and George Kuchar