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Multimedia event profiles R. Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller
R. Buckminster Fuller with one of his geodesic domes.

Academy Award-nominated director Sam Green and rock band Yo La Tengo will accompany Green's new documentary, "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller," presented by Cornell Cinema Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. in Willard Straight Theatre.

Green will provide live narration as the band performs its original live score to the film about Fuller, the influential and visionary futurist philosopher, engineer and architect who taught at Cornell in the 1950s as a visiting critic in architecture.

Fuller (1895-1983) was one of the earliest proponents of environmental stewardship through sustainability and resource conservation, and of design as an agent of social change. He is best known for designing the geodesic dome and dymaxion car and for his 1968 book "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth"; he also consulted on Spaceship Earth at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center, which opened in 1982.

Fuller's experience as an academic was transformative, Green says. "He got a lot of energy and inspiration from students, and for the students it was a great experience to go out and build something as part of a workshop with him."

Architecture students designed and constructed Fuller's Geoscope, a 21-foot geodesic globe, on the roof of Rand Hall in 1952. Fuller would later propose a similar structure for the United Nations. Shoji Sadao, B.Arch. '54, continued to work with Fuller on various design projects, and with artist Isamu Noguchi, Fuller's longtime friend and collaborator.

film screening
Charlie Villyard
Sam Green and Yo La Tengo onstage with Green's R. Buckminster Fuller documentary at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in May.

Green says that Fuller was "an odd speaker; I'm definitely fascinated by his speaking style -- this elaborate, winding, very dense kind of speaking that ... has meaning in its vastness. He called his talks 'thinking out loud,' which they really are, going from his brain into his mouth."

The live Fuller program premiered in May at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) and is touring the United States through 2013.

Yo La Tengo has scored five feature films including "Junebug" (2005) and "Adventureland" (2009) and occasionally performs "The Sounds of Science," original instrumental music to accompany underwater nature films by Jean Painlevé.

Green was commissioned by SFMoMA to make a film on Fuller and asked the band to participate in the project. The score, he says, is "definitely cinematic ... it allows you to be transported by the images."

Following the screening, Yo La Tengo performs a 9 p.m. "Freewheeling" concert and Q&A with the audience. The film program is sold out; a few tickets remain for the "Freewheeling" show ($24, $20 students). See for availability.

Green showed his Academy Award-nominated documentary "The Weather Underground" at Cornell Cinema in 2003 and his live documentary "Utopia in Four Movements" in 2010 with music performed by The Quavers.

"I am a huge Cornell Cinema fan," Green says. "Years ago there were many such organizations, but these days it's a real voice in the wilderness. I don't know if the students know how lucky they are to have such a fantastic resource, but for me it's a real privilege to show something there."


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Joe Schwartz