Le Joli Maysles is a celebration of the beautiful month of May at Maysles Cinema. This series summons its name from Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme's, Le Joli Mai (1963), a portrait of Paris just after the ceasefire between France and Algeria. This seminal documentary, with its on-the-street interview and reflections on happinesses, itself harks back to Chronicle of a Summer (1961), in which Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin took the streets of Paris to ask people the blunt (and sometimes confrontational) question, "are you happy?". These films capture the truths and fictions generated between filmmaker and film subject, and situate personal wellbeing within a larger web of political struggle and collective consciousness.
Le Joli Maysles looks at the lineages of Le Joli Mai and Chronicle of a Summer in a wide range of repertory and new release documentaries. The filmmakers in this series (including but not limited to: Mark Street, Brett Story, Gordon Quinn) contemplate issues of labor, bodily autonomy, personal safety, impending crisis, rising temperatures, and the passage of time. Sometimes tributing Marker and Rouch and sometimes challenging them, these filmmakers connect the lives of individual people with their complex social, political, and economic environments. They take a hard and thoughtful look at the present moment-actual people and their collective memories, anxieties, and desires-while gesturing toward an endlessly uncertain future.