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50 Years of the New York Film Festival

NYFF ‘78: Gates of Heaven

 

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NYFF ‘78: Gates of Heaven

Errol Morris 1978
USA | Format: 35mm | 85 minutes

Errol Morris in person for a Q&A following the screening!

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s uncanny debut feature—hailed by critic Roger Ebert as one of the 10 greatest films ever made—follows the shifting fortunes of two Bay Area pet cemeteries. One, San Francisco’s Foothill Memorial Gardens, stems from the lifelong dream of owner Floyd McClure to give Fido the dignity of a human-style burial. But when McClure goes bankrupt, some 450 sets of remains are shipped north to the Napa Valley’s Bubbling Well Memorial Park, and Morris goes with them. In between, Morris casts his deadpan gaze on pet owners, a professional animal byproducts recycler, and other richly bizarre exponents of the old, weird America. A world premiere at the 1978 NYFF, Gates of Heaven famously won Morris a bet with his erstwhile mentor, Werner Herzog, who said he would eat one of his own shoes if Morris ever managed to complete the film and get it publicly shown—a promise Herzog later made good on before a live audience in Berkeley.

“A rigorously filmed, obliquely analytical study of contemporary America. Neither a put-on nor a put-down, this is a revealingly honest and fascinating film.”
—NYFF16 program note

“Surrounded by layer upon layer of comedy, pathos, irony, and human nature. I have seen this film perhaps 30 times, and am still not anywhere near the bottom of it: All I know is, it's about a lot more than pet cemeteries.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times 

Series: 50 Years of the New York Film Festival

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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