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Eames Day of the Dead
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When you think Eames, images of fun colorful chairs or bright Case Study homes likely come to mind. Lesser known than the furniture and architecture, is the duo’s vast film work. Between 1950 and 1982, Charles and Ray Eames created over 125 short films ranging from 1-30 minutes in length. The spookiest of them all was a project released in 1957, titled simply: “Day of the Dead.”
The film, as you likely guessed, explores Mexico’s jovial celebration of Día de Los Muertos (October 31st to November 2nd). Charles had first encountered the festival while traveling across Mexico for nine months in 1933. The Mexican holiday impacted Charles deeply. He had left St. Louis to travel after an especially painful era of his career, helped in no way by the Great Depression that gripped America. Finding himself in a completely foreign place, Charles took in all of the vivid sights, sounds, tastes, and cultural experiences Mexico had to offer. He painted landscapes and churches, some of which he sold to support his minimal subsistence. Along the way he collected local fabrics, indigenous trinkets, and other art works, many of which he kept for the rest of his life. The formative trip, combined with the experience of living in Los Angeles, served as a rich inspiration and backdrop for the 1957 film.
The 15-minute-long short covers a lot of ground and is surprisingly profound, exploring the deeper meaning behind the fun veneer of sugar skulls, puppets, and parades. Aztec roots and traditional Mexican beliefs about death and the afterlife are explored. The film is comprised of a combination of live action sequences, footage shot from 35mm slides transferred to film, and a series of frames taken from 16mm film. MoMA Design Director, Edgar Kaufmann Jr. joins the crew as a narrator and delightful classical guitar music was composed and performed for the project by guitarist Laurindo Almeida.
No matter where you find yourself, you can celebrate Día de Los Muertos this week by watching the short film here.