Remembering Jonathan Schwartz

Keene State community comes together to celebrate the work and life of the late film professor

Benajil Rai / Multimedia director

Students, faculty and alumni of Keene State College gathered yesterday, November 7, to celebrate Professor Jonathan Schwartz’s life and work. The Putnam Theater was filled with people. Professor Irina Leimbacher, who recalls Jonathan as her “friend and colleague,” gave the welcoming speech.

She said, “I’d like to give a context to this. This is part of our First Thursday series. It’s been going on for two years now, curated by the film department and the Film Society. First Thursday screenings are for the campus and the film department to get to know the film department aswe are a pretty diverse, eclectic, interesting department. Our students are as well. We have screenings of student films and documentaries by students and faculty members.”

Jonathan Schwartz was a film professor at Keene State College and an experimental filmmaker whose work has been shown nationally and internationally. Schwartz passed away after struggling with cancer last  October.

Seven of Schwartz’s films were shown. The titles are, in order of viewing, “Interior Ape,” “Sunbeam Hunter,” “The Wedding Present,” “Three Miniatures” (“An Aging Process”, “A Kind of Quiet”, “A Certain Worry”),  “Nothing is Over Nothing,” “A Mystery Inside of a Fact” and “The Crack Up.” The films can be viewed on Vimeo or on Canyon Cinema. Technical problems rendered it impossible to view the films in their original 16 mm format. The projector in the Putnam dates back to 1987 and no longer works. However, the films were still shown in their digital format.

Professor Laura Judge said, “Every time I’ve seen them [Schwartz’s films], I have had a different reaction or feeling because he has a real knack for, I think,dealing with time. For me at least, I’m always really grateful because it doesn’t feel like going to see something, it feels like going to think through something. His films have a lot of space which gives you, as a viewer, the chance to interact with maybe something in the film but also maybe with something in yourself. That’s a quality that is particular to him.”

Professor Irina Leimbacher said, “They [his films] explode your whole worldview. They are small poems, miniatures, reflections on difficult transitions. They ask us to reconsider what we consider a story, or life or meaning. They ask us to re-think how we think about the world.”

New film faculty member Taylor Dunne said, “They [Schwartz’s films] are a way of translating his inner poetry into light. He is looking at the world through this lens and then he is translating the world and then bringing it back out as a film and projecting it back out as light.”

Jonathan Schwarts’s father Bruce Schwartz said, “He would say, ‘Dad don’t make this a big deal. It’s not a big deal. I didn’t really want this Dad.’ But one thing that he did say to me when he was getting to the end was, ‘You know, I am one of the luckiest human beings. I have led my life the way I wanted to. I have had the good fortune of having the love of family, friends, a wife, a partner and most of all my son.’ To those who have come tonight, all I can say is thank you for showing him your love. Thank you so much.”

First Thursday screenings happen the first Thursday of every month in the Putnam Theater at Keene State College. They are open and free to the public. Films by students, faculty, alumni and external guests are shown every first Thursday. The Film Society, a Keene State College organization, also screens films every day of the week, except for Tuesday. The films shown range from blockbusters to art films to documentaries. The price for students is $2, for general admission $5 and for seniors $4. For more information go to\arts\putnam.

Jacqueline Pantano can be contacted