Notes on Straight From Bertha, Friedman and Weinbren, 2015
Straight From Bertha is straight from the heart. From the mind, it is hardly straight. The Gertrude Stein epigraph—”Everything being alike everything is different simply different naturally simply different”—prescribes the profoundly recursive style of the film will take, starting, as the film does, with the minimalist, structuralist, looping film-within-a-film, appropriated from an earlier era, 1976, then folding into that film new material from many earlier and later eras, generations, and themes, including film history, film language, film style, film institutions, family history, biography, and autobiography.
Straight From Bertha eventually modulates from a structural/materialist, minimalist film into a documentary somewhat related to the family-history genre pioneered by Amalie Rothschild and her cohort, and later by Ross McElwee, Alan Berliner, and others. The title and central focus of Straight From Bertha suggest that it is intended primarily as a bio-pic, treating several generations of the Gorman family, but celebrating Bertha Gorman, the long-deceased mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother, and aunt of the film’s living informants.