Augusta Palmer has created award-winning fiction, experimental, and documentary films. Her debut feature, The Hand of Fatima (2009), a feature documentary about music, mysticism, and family history about her late father, the great rock critic Robert Palmer. Her fiction short for children, “A is for Aye-Aye: An Abecedarian Adventure” (2015) played in festivals from New Zealand to New York. She is at work on a new documentary, The Blues Society, about the Memphis Country Blues Festivals (1966-1970). Palmer earned a Ph. D. in Cinema Studies from New York University and is an Associate Professor of Communication Arts at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, where she heads the St. Francis College Women’s Film Festival.
What do I do best?
I play well with others. I love to collaborate with and forge connections between people, and I love to share art (books, music, paintings, films) that I love with new audiences.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I am the best version of myself when I remember to play. It’s too easy to take life too seriously. We have to trust ourselves, especially when we fail. I just had some of my students read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and one of them pointed out this quote I’d forgotten, which seems like the best guide for living well: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
What are my aspirations?
To make my own great films and help others do the same. To turn people on to ideas and works of art they never imagined loving.
My Biggest Success?
My biggest success has been reinventing myself as a filmmaker after many years as a film scholar. Now I love and teach both filmmaking and film history, and I am excited to helm the St. Francis College Women’s Film Festival, which celebrates female media makers from the college and the world beyond.
My Most Challenging Moment?
Taking my driving test at the age of 48. (I passed on the second try.)
I love what Terrence McKenna said: “the real secret of magic … is that the world is made of words. And if you know the words that the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.” I also really love the famous Samuel Beckett quote – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
My Favorite People/Role Models?
Alice Neel, Randy Weston, Shirley Clarke, Leo Rabkin, Agnes Varda
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
Morocco, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Puerto Rico, Memphis, New Orleans
My Favorite Products/Objects?
Notebooks, endless notebooks, a beautiful Chinese porcelain bowl I inherited from an aunt, but gave to my mother (who can deny their mother what she loves?), my hamsa/hand of fatima, and the key to the city of Pocahontas, Arkansas
My Current Passions?
My children, my husband, women filmmakers and the story of the Memphis Country Blues Festival (1966-1970). My parents both worked on making this festival happen and it is the subject of my next film, The Blues Society: https://vimeo.com/280783917 . I am so honored that so many participants, organizers, and scholars have shared their experiences and ideas with me.