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“Let There Be Light” Documentary Screening
July 12, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral presents a documentary screening of the beautiful film “Let There Be Light.”
In 1972, sixteen-year-old Peter Swanson was hooked when his high school art teacher offered a course in Super 8 filmmaking. In 1942, sixteen-year-old Rowan LeCompte made his first stained glass window for Washington National Cathedral. In 2006, the passions of these two artists became intertwined in an odyssey that no scriptwriter could have imagined.
For more than six years, documentary filmmaker Peter Swanson has followed the work of Rowan LeCompte, Dieter Goldkuhle and Mary Clerkin Higgins, all masters of glass and light, commissioned to create and install their final stained glass window in Washington National Cathedral. Narrated by “A Prairie Home Companion,” host Garrison Keillor, the film explores the intense, painstaking work that goes into each window, and the sometimes painful, but ultimately joyous human process of bringing great art to life. Working their magic, these artists seek to control the light that shines into the massive building. Interviews with cathedral administrators, and clergy provide further insight into the human struggle of commissioning, creating, and installing windows on a monumental scale.
The son of an Episcopal minister, Swanson’s father has preached at the cathedral and his mother used to work for the National Cathedral Association. He says that “During summers off from school I used to carry the mail around the cathedral grounds and was inspired by filmmaker Marjorie Hunt who produced an Oscar winning documentary about the cathedral stone cutters.” A graduate of the Rhode Island School of design, he also wanted to celebrate the creative process. “Few people understand the hard work involved in creating art,” Swanson continues, “I get really tired of films that glorify blowing things up and I wanted to show that there is drama in creating art, especially art of this scale and quality.”
Producing the film presented as many trials and tribulations as creating the window. Some of the challenges that Swanson had to overcome in creating this film included:
- Self-financing the film.
- The resignation and then death of one of the film’s central characters.
- Using a weather balloon to shoot details of windows that were located high up in the cathedral walls.
- Trying to stay neutral and follow the story as relations between the artist and the institution ebbed and flowed.
Peter says that “when I started this project, I had no idea that I would be between the artist and the institution and I kept telling both sides that my job was to just follow the story.”
As one fan exclaimed “The project managed to deliver, quite seamlessly, how-to and bio and art and philosophy, history, and even dramatic elements in a single, compelling, story. Tour d’ force!” Told with stunningly beautiful images, the film reveals how inspired passion overcomes huge obstacles and creates art that stirs the human spirit.