Clarke, Shirley: Pioneering Indie Filmmaker

Clarke died of a stroke in Boston, Massachusetts after a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, shortly before her 78th birthday.

The only full-length feature to receive media coverage during Clarke’s lifetime was The Connection.

It was not her only film to be banned by New York State censors, or to suffer distribution challenges, posed by the then lack of infrastructure for independent filmmakers.

Clarke’s reputation languished for years, during which she was marginalized, written out of histories and dismissed as a dilettante.

There has been renewed interest in her filmmaking, however. The first Shirley Clarke Avant-Garde Filmmaker Award was presented to Barbara Hammer in October 2006.

Her features are essential works of New American Cinema.

In 2012 onwards, Milestone Films undertook “Project Shirley”, an eight-year project to release restored versions of many of Clarke’s films on DVD and Blu-ray, some preceded by limited theatrical runs.

This encompassed Ornette: Made in America (Volume 1, November 11, 2014), Portrait of Jason (Volume 2, November 11, 2014), The Connection (Volume 3, February 24, 2015) and The Magic Box: The Films of Shirley Clarke. 1927-1986 (Volume 4, November 15, 2016).


A Dance in the Sun (1953)
In Paris Parks (1954)
Bullfight (1955)
A Moment in Love (1957)
Brussels “Loops (1958)
Bridges-Go-Round (1958)
Skyscraper (1959) with Willard Van Dyke and Irving Jacoby
A Scary Time (1960)
The Connection (1961)
Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World (1963)
The Cool World (1963)
Portrait of Jason (1967)
Man in Polar Regions (1967)
Trans (1978)
One Two Three (1978)
Mysterium; Initiation (1978)
Savage/Love (1981)
Tongues (1982)
Ornette: Made in America (1985)