Anthology Film Archives

Anthology lost one of its most important, devoted, and well-loved staff members on April 28, with the passing of Robert Haller (1942-2021). Robert was a fixture at Anthology since 1980, when he first arrived in New York for a four-year stint as Anthology’s Executive Director. He departed temporarily in 1984, but returned in 1990, serving again as Director for several years, before becoming responsible for Anthology’s Library. He assumed an Emeritus position more recently, but was still coming into Anthology on a weekly basis up until the onset of the pandemic. With 35 years at Anthology all told, only AFA’s founder Jonas Mekas could claim seniority over Haller!

Robert was born in Pittsburgh in 1942, and was instrumental, alongside the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Sally Dixon, in forming and nurturing that city’s experimental film culture as well. He was the founding Executive Director of Pittsburgh Film-Makers from 1973-79, and later published a book chronicling those years, Crossroads: Avant-Garde Film in Pittsburgh in the 1970s (2005). He was also the Publisher/Editor, from 1977-85, of the film journal, Field of Vision.

At Anthology, Robert preserved numerous films, published several books (Intersecting Images: The Cinema of Ed Emshwiller; Fritz Lang 2000; Galaxy: Avant-Garde Film-makers Look Across Space and Time; several volumes devoted to filmmaker Jim Davis; Perspectives on Jerome Hill and Anthology Film Archives; and Crossroads; among others), and organized many important film programs (including retrospectives devoted to Louis Feuillade, Michelangelo Antonioni, Hans Jurgen Syberberg, Fritz Lang, and Turkish filmmaker Omer Kavur and Zeki Demirkubuz, as well as the ambitious “First Light” series, which focused on films “that treated light abstractly and musically”).

Robert was also an extraordinary photographer, producing both fine art images (focusing predominantly on landscapes and on the “landscape” of the body) and a wealth of crucially important photographs documenting avant-garde film culture throughout the second half of the 20th century. His images of screenings and gatherings in Pittsburgh, New York, and elsewhere in the 1970s and beyond, and his portraits of filmmakers and scholars, are an indispensable record of the community.

The same year Robert came to New York, he married filmmaker and cine-dance pioneer Amy Greenfield. The two worked closely together, and remained an inseparable couple until the very end. Robert is survived by Amy, as well as his brother John.

Aside from his many accomplishments, and tireless devotion to the cause of avant-garde cinema, Robert was a totally singular, profoundly good-natured, and invariably entertaining presence. He was a true eccentric, in the best possible sense. His mind worked in mysterious ways, but there was no mistaking his infectious sense of enthusiasm and seemingly inexhaustible store of knowledge. Coming just two years after the death of Jonas Mekas, Haller’s death represents the eclipse of another invaluable witness to 20th century film culture. But generations of Anthology community members have and will continue to remember him with immense fondness.

Stay tuned for news of an in-person tribute event this fall, once we’re fully reopen. And in the meantime, we pay homage to Haller by way of Jonas Mekas’s short film, ROBERT HALLER’S WEDDING (1980, 3 min), which Jonas made as a filmic wedding present on the occasion of Robert and Amy Greenfield’s nuptials. Click here to watch!

Robert also features in another short piece that Jonas included as part of his “365 Day Project” in 2007: a video document of the funeral of Anthology’s longtime cat-in-residence, Max, who was laid to rest in the backyard of Robert and Amy’s Staten Island home. Haller was Max’s main caretaker and best human friend/fellow good-natured curmudgeon, so it was fitting that his yard should become her eternal resting place. Jonas’s tribute to Max now serves as a lovely elegy to Robert as well. Click here to watch the Max film.