As a filmmaker, Paul Ratner is drawn to images. His first love of film came from old black and white movies by world cinema auteurs like the jarring works of Bergman, Eisenstein, Bunuel, Lang, Dreyer, Ozu and other great masters.
“For a while in college, it felt almost like cheating to watch a film made in color,” he said. “As I grew older, I accepted color and now find it hard to stick to a monochrome diet. Life seems too resplendent for just one tone.”
While making Moses on the Mesa, a film about a German-Jewish immigrant who fell in love with a Native-American woman and became governor of her tribe of Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico in the late 1800s, Ratner developed a passion for researching old photographs of indigenous people.
“Many of the photographs I found were colored by hand, as color film was only the domain of experimentalists until 1930s (thanks, Kodachrome!) Painting on black and white prints was an art in and of itself, and many of the colorized photos exhibit true talent which preserved for us the truer likeness of the people many a hundred years ago thought were vanishing. Of course, Native Americans have not vanished despite the harrowing efforts of so many. They are growing stronger as a people, but a way of life they left behind is often only found in these photos.”