EX LIBRIS is an animated documentary film tracing the vanished world of the ex libris collection my grandfather Marco Birnholz commissioned, created and lost in Vienna, Austria between the two world wars. EX LIBRIS will explore the intimate, intricate, universe, parallel to his everyday life as a neighborhood pharmacist.
Ex Libris is a hybrid non-fiction film incorporating animation, collage, and first person narrative to frame my grandfather’s story as he did: through his collection of exlibris, an art form now almost forgotten. Exlibris, or bookplates, are small limited edition prints, commissioned to commemorate the people, places and times of the collector. Those graphics marked and commemorated what was most meaningful to my grandfather. On the surface, he was an ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances – Vienna in the early 20th century, a time of cultural and political ferment; the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Nazi occupation of Vienna. He was also an eccentric dreamer who created a personal iconography, a vibrant universe parallel to his everyday life as a neighborhood pharmacist.
The bookplates, which contain great visual beauty and narrative expressiveness, will be the center of the film. Through animation, hand-drawing, and collage they will be illuminated, manipulated, and re-imagined. The film will reconfigure my grandfather's world and refract it through high-definition video, super 8mm film, archival footage, family photographs, and cityscapes. Marco’s diaries provide a narrative spine; allowing his rich, observant voice to offer content and commentary.
A companion book and interactive website where collectors can upload images and stories of their exlibris will enlarge the scope of the film and support my intention to ignite a renewal of exlibris culture.
Melissa Hacker is a film and video maker who works with themes of memory, history, family and loss. Melissa made her directing debut with the documentary film My Knees Were Jumping; Remembering The Kindertransports, which was short-listed for Academy Award nomination and seen in more than 50 film festivals, including the Documentary Competition of the Sundance Film Festival; museums, and universities worldwide. My Knees Were Jumping was released theatrically in New York City and aired on television in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Israel.
Melissa is currently directing Ex Libris, an animated documentary on her Austrian grandfather’s life and bookplate collection. Honors received include a Fulbright Artist-in-Residence award in Vienna, and artist residencies at Yaddo, VCCA, Playa, Willapa Bay AIR, Escape to Create, Saltonstall and Digital Art Studios, Belfast. Melissa’s video Venus was featured in the group exhibition "Objects of Devotion and Desire: Medieval Relic to Contemporary Art," and received special accolades in the New York Times' review of the show. Venus was screened in Vienna, where it was filmed, at the Josephinium Medical History Museum. Melissa directed the three channel video Letters Home which was screened at the New York, Washington DC, and Toronto Jewish Film Festivals. Melissa is also a wandering film professor, most recently in Myanmar, at Yangon Film School, and a freelance film editor who has edited two Academy Award nominated documentary shorts; Sister Rose's Passion and The Collector of Bedford Street.
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