Sam Witherow

MFA ’22 Film/Video

Talking the Fire Out

You must understand that your pain is trivial except insofar as you can use it to connect with other people’s pain; and insofar as you can do that with your pain, you can be released from it, and then hopefully it works the other way around too; insofar as I can tell you what it is to suffer, perhaps I can help you to suffer less.”
– James Baldwin

Imbued with grief, family, religion, and post-traumatic stress, the center of this essay film is landscape. Shot almost entirely outdoors, bouncing between towns in central Massachusetts and the western edge of Pennsylvania, this film aims to interrogate the various meanings a place can hold along with the marks it, and we, leave behind. More than what is said or seen, each space we inhabit becomes imbued with our own subjectivity. In this piece the camera lens becomes a tool of excavation, turning over thoughts and emotions to shine a light into the murky nature of memory and memorial to craft a narrative that is both revealing and withholding, marinating not just in the aesthetics of these places but the ghosts which have been left behind through loss and trauma. At its core are two questions; how do we grieve for someone we did not fully know, and to what extent does trauma isolate us from ourselves and our past?

Sam Witherow, based in Massachusetts, works primarily in film, video, photography, and performance. With a background in narrative filmmaking, Witherow has shifted her focus, since the pandemic began, to an experimental and autobiographical approach that concerns itself with the boundaries of truth and privacy. Her work searches for a balance between the importance of storytelling in healing from traumatic events, and the push towards exploitation in a world where painful stories too often become vehicles of entertainment.