In 2020, Garrett Bradley became the first Black female director to win Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival. An artist, as well as a filmmaker, Bradley's practice ranges across documentary, narrative and experimental modes of filmmaking. Combining archival and newly produced footage, her films cut across temporal periods to assemble new perspectives on histories of race, class, and culture in the United States.Read More
Garrett Bradley was born in New York City. Her parents are abstract artists Suzanne McClelland and Peter Bradley. Her upbringing in an interracial family has led her to pursue themes of identity, heritage, and Black history throughout her work, examining the racial, social, and economic politics that pervade her subjects' everyday lives. Often blurring the boundaries between documentary and narrative, her films question the preconceived relationship between representation, objectivity, and truth, upholding a multi-faceted understanding of identity.
After completing her education at University of California, Los Angeles, and a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Maine, Bradley's short film Alone (2017) was released through The New York Times OpDocs. The film, which won a Sundance Short Film Jury Award (2017) and was shortlisted for the Academy Award in Short Nonfiction Filmmaking (2018), explores the effects of mass incarceration on the families of incarcerated peoples through the story of a single mother in New Orleans. Alone was also shown as part of Bradley's first solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) in 2019.
Additionally included in the CAMH exhibition were the films AKA and America (both 2019). Exhibited as part of the Whitney Biennial, AKA is the first in a trilogy of films exploring the relationships between mothers and daughters born into an interracial family. Emphasising multiplicity, the film resists binary categorisations of identity.
America (2019), included in Bradley's first solo exhibition in New York, Projects 111: Garrett Bradley at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), constructs a speculative archive of early Black cinema. The multi-channel video installation combines newly shot footage alongside scenes from Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1914), purportedly the first feature-length film with an all-Black cast. Troubling the distinction between past and present, America is a celebratory re-imagining of the history of Black film and representation, with an aim to recover what was omitted from the historical record.
Time (2020), Garrett Bradley's first feature-length documentary, extends the themes of Alone. Splicing documentary footage with home videos of her subjects, Bradley chronicles a Louisiana family dealing with the 60-year prison sentence of their father. Time examines the contemporary impacts of mass incarceration, including the burden of labour that it has historically placed on Black women left to care for their families and its historical ties to racism, slavery, and capitalism.
Time has been nominated for over 57 awards. In addition to winning Best Director at Sundance, it was shortlisted for an Academy Award in the 2021 Documentary Feature category.
Garrett Bradley's work has been presented over a range of platforms including the Whitney Biennial (2019) and The Sundance Film Festival (2020).
Garrett Bradley's America: A Journey Through Race and Time, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York (2019); Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas (2019); Projects: Garrett Bradley, MoMA, New York (2020–21).
Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, New Museum, New York (2021); and Bodies of Knowledge, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans (2019).
Alena Kavka | Ocula | 2021