A film by Pat Collins
2019, 105 minutes
No. 273

Henry Glassie has made a life out of studying folk artists and the marvels they create. Over the past 50 years, the renown US scholar has travelled to five continents, conducting fieldwork with an obsessive thoroughnes. Each project Glassie undertakes requires at least a decade. Brimming with insights into the artistic impulse -- and how every culture manifests its own standard of beauty and meaning -- this poetic portrait of Glassie doubles as a travelogue, taking us places Glassie has embedded himself. 

In Bahia, Brazil, we meet Evidal Rosas, charged with reconstructing sacred statues for which remain no record, and Rosalvo Santana, who meticulously sculpts from clay a magisterial saint flanked by cherubs. Captured with mesmerizing intimacy by director Pat Collins (Song of Granite) and cinimatographer Colm Hogan, the process of these artists is awe-inspiring. 

Henry Glassie: Field Work also allows us to witness the walling up of a massive kiln in Piedmont, North California, and features archival recordings of Glassie's encounters with carpet weavers and ceramicists in Western Turkey, and storytellers in Collins and Hogan's home country of Ireland, where Glassie's subjects reflect on their troubled present by talking about the past.

Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival

“The combination of wise words and beautiful objects is comfort viewing for the soul and given the state of the world it has rarely felt more welcome… Glassie’s generous spirit, ceaseless curiosity and respectful approach to the world seems to have steeped into the very fabric of Collins’ cleverly constructed and heartfelt documentary… Collins provides ample illustration of key moments from Glassie’s travels and the many truly stunning objects he has seen.” – Screen Daily

“An ode to artists and artisans and, in particular, one man who has devoted his life towards documenting the works of painters and poets... Like the sculptures and figures that gradually form before one’s eyes, Field Work comes alive through a similarly methodical process. Collins begins with scenes that all but resemble raw materials and then the doc slowly, beautifully, reveals a work of art.” – POV Magazine

“Collins provides extraordinary detail and patience in documenting the emergence of each artistic work he features from the materials used” - Seán Crosson, Film Ireland

“intellectual integrity played out at a studied pace” - Donald Clarke, The Irish Times

“A beautifully shot program. For more than 50 years, folklorist Glassie and his wife have travelled five continents in search of artists creating works that are known to be outstanding in their own communities. The role of art, according to Glassie, is to bridge the gap between the individual and society, and his work with these artists does just that. Often staying ten years in locations to find artists and fully understand the cultures, Glassie demonstrates cultural anthropology at its finest.” - Booklist