Private Project

The Light at Walden

"Let your life be a counterfriction to stop the machine." –Thoreau

A young man's experiences on a wilderness island in Canada during the U.S. / Vietnam War illuminate the words of Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," and "Civil Disobedience," in this meditation on peace and freedom photographed in Nova Scotia in the 1970's, and today at Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts.

"Pablo Frasconi has offered us a gift with his film THE LIGHT AT WALDEN. As we face into our need for integrity and courage during these dark times, Frasconi turns to Thoreau's living of civil disobedience and its effects on Gandhi, King, and himself as a young man coming of age during the Vietnam War. You will be transfixed by its beauty, as Frasconi interweaves Thoreau's philosophy, his own journey into an ethical manhood, and the call of the world to be noticed lovingly and with gratitude. It is a gem, a true work of art."
​ –Mary Watkins
Co-author, Toward Psychologies of Liberation
Chair of the Depth Psychology Program, Pacifica Graduate Univ., CA

"Pablo Frasconi's THE LIGHT AT WALDEN invigorates the mind and calms the spirit. It awakens the longing for deep peace and serenity. Thoreau's words resonate with today's need for activism and inspire us to take steps towards a monumental shift.”
–Gerry Fialka, curator, 7 Dudley Cinema, Beyond Baroque, Los Angeles

"It is the earth's eye," wrote Thoreau, about the individual's perspective on freedom and individual conscience. This quote is woven along with many others into the fabric of this deeply meditative anti-war film, written and directed by Pablo Frasconi -- THE LIGHT AT WALDEN. The stunningly beautiful close-up shots of nature are contrasted with footage of the massive bombings in Vietnam. The earth's eye is what we have the privilege of "seeing through" here, as we follow the young men, draft-resisters, who buy land in Nova Scotia and create a Walden pond perfection of idealistic youth and mature civil disobedience - as the great rhythms of Nature teach the lessons of silence and peace."
– Carol Muske-Dukes
poet, novelist, critic
former Poet Laureate of California

"It was nice to watch a movie that attempted to convey a peaceful message in a peaceful manner. I love how he wove together the story of Walden with his personal story and the story of the Vietnam generation. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, and made me feel transported. Very beautiful and awe-filled shots/angles. The old film and photos really tied us to the true grit and passion of the war resisters. Truly inspirational. Visually stunning, and the excerpts captured the spirit of Thoreau. Very moving and effective approach to such powerful content."

– participants in "Speaking a Word for Nature, For Absolute Freedom & Wildness: Reading Thoreau at a Decisive Moment" at La Terre Institute for Community and Ecology, Kiln, MS

  • Pablo Frasconi
    The Longing; Survival of a Small City; The Woodcuts of Antonio Frasconi; Towards the Memory of a Revolution; Why Great Revolutions Will Become Rare; The Song of the Soul
  • Pablo Frasconi
  • Richard Burton
    Sound Mix
    Babel; Bukowski: Born Into This; The Usual Suspects; The Exorcist
  • John Luther Adams
    Music Composers
    Alaska: Spirit of the Wild; Stone; Oil on Ice; Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action
  • Arvo Part
    Music Composers
    To the Wonder; Fahrenheit 9/11; The Insider; There Will be Blood
  • Joan Jeanrenaud
    Music Composers
    Fearless; Frances Ha
  • Charles Ives
    Music Composers
    The Thin Red Line; Run Lola Run
  • Robert Kositchek
    Additional Cinematography
    The Heart of Darkness; X-Files; Murder, She Wrote
  • Nancy Salzer
    Additional Cinematography
    Survival of a Small City; Towards the Memory of a Revolution
  • Jennifer R. Mandel
    Music Supervision
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Cine-poem; experimental documentary; memoir
  • Runtime:
    39 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 1, 2014
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • The Wild and Scenic Film Festival
    Nevada City, CA
    January 18, 2015
    World Premiere
  • The Peace on Earth Film Festival
    Chicago Civic Center, Chicago, IL
    March 19, 2015
    one of 40 films from 10 nations
  • The University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts
    Los Angeles, CA
    February 10, 2015
  • Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
    Venice, California
    September 27, 2015
    an Evening with Pablo Frasconi (interview and 3 films)
  • Awareness Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    Winner, Merit Award of Awareness
  • Global Peace Film Festival
    Orlando, Florida
  • Roma Cinemadoc
    Rome, Italy
  • The IndieFEST Film Awards

    Winner, Award of Merit
  • The Accolade Global Film Competition

    Winner, Award of Merit
  • International Film Festival: Spiritual – Religion – Visionary
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    November 20, 2015
    Asian Premiere
    Winner, International Award of Excellence
  • San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    March 16, 2016
    Central Coast Premiere
Director Biography - Pablo Frasconi

Pablo Frasconi has been making films since 1969, when, at age 17, his short film, REDEVELOPMENT, a critique of conditions in his hometown, South Norwalk, Connecticut, won an award at the National Newsweek-Bolex Documentary Film Contest. The film premiered at the Newsweek Building on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Soon after, he left the U.S. during the U.S. / Vietnam war to live on a wilderness island in Nova Scotia, and later to study filmmaking in Toronto. He returned to the U.S. in 1976, and has since made films about the U.S. bicentennial, gentrification, childhood literacy, public art, creativity, civil liberties and poetry.
He has received 20 grants and fellowships from national, regional and private foundations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Film Institute, and the Park Foundation.

His films, including, "The Woodcuts of Antonio Frasconi," "Towards the Memory of a Revolution," "Survival of a Small City," and, "The Longing," have been screened throughout the world, including the Festival dei Popoli, Firenze, Italy; National PBS Broadcast; The International Festival of Films on Architecture, “The Future of the City;” the Smithsonian Institution; The Museum of Modern Art (1977, 1981, NYC Premieres); the Havana International Film Festival; The Margaret Mead Film Festival; the Museo de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid; The Dia Art Foundation, NYC; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; and have received awards at The Awareness Festival, Merit of Awareness Award, L.A. (2015); The International Film Festival: Spiritual - Religion - Visionary, International Award of Excellence, Jakarta, Indonesia (2015); the International Festival of Films on Architecture and Planning (1984, New York City); and the American Film Festival (1983, New York City). He has worked as cinematographer and editor for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Asia Society; and Weston Woods Studios.

He is currently Full Professor of the Practice of Cinematic Arts in the Production Division at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC in Los Angeles where he teaches Editing; Creating Poetic Cinema; Nature, Design and Media; The Embedded Story: Designing Digital Landscapes and Languages (in the new Media Arts + Practice Division); mentors advanced graduate projects, and coordinates the first year of the graduate M.F.A. production program. He recently designed and taught the USC-YouTube Creator Institute; the USC/Disney Studios Producing and Directing Course; a seminar in World Building with Alex McDowell; a workshop at the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching on Contemplative Pedagogies; and was invited by the USC Provost to conduct seminars in Transmedia and Political Engagement, and, Mindfulness, Meditation, and Guided Visualizations. He is currently mentoring adaptations of poems for children with MotionPoems and The Poetry Foundation. He has previously taught at The New School; the State University of New York, College at Purchase; Occidental College; the University of Hawaii; Cinecitta, Rome, Italy; and the Communication University of China, Beijing. Recent speaking engagements include: Text & Subtext: Creating Poetic Cinema, at the Beijing Film Academy; The Tranvergence Summit: The Future of Content (Transmedia and Cross-Platform Storytelling), Los Angeles; The Source: Mindfulness, Meditation & Visualizations in the Creative Process, Graduate Annenberg Fellows Micro Seminar, USC; World Building, Transmedia & Pedagogy at Tecnologico de Monterrey, Guadalajara, Mexico; "Creating Poetic Cinema" in the MFA Production Program at USC; "Graduate Poetry Form & Theory" at USC, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences; and, "An Evening With Pablo Frasconi," at Beyond Baroque, Los Angeles.

His latest film is "The Light at Walden," based on Henry David Thoreau’s "Civil Disobedience" and "Walden," funded by the Park Foundation, New York, and a grant from USC: Advancing Scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences; sponsored by the Center for Independent Documentary, Inc., in Massachusetts, had its World Premiere at THE WILD AND SCENIC FILM FESTIVAL –"where activism gets inspired"– in Nevada City, CA in January 2015, and has since won four international awards.

Frasconi is currently in production on THE FILM OF CHANGES based on the ancient Chinese I CHING, and recently received a USC Zumberge Interdisciplinary Grant, with California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, to complete research for a documentary film on California poet, environmentalist, conscientious objector, and spiritualist, William Everson.

His films have been distributed by the American Federation of Arts, NYC; The Museum of Modern Art, NYC, Filmmaker’s Library, NYC; and, El Museo del Barrio, NYC.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

A few months before I registered for the draft in 1970, my father, Antonio, a Uruguayan woodcut artist, gave me a copy of a letter-press, hand-printed, limited edition book of Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," ("A Vision of Thoreau," Spiral Press, NY) which he illustrated with 12 portraits of Thoreau.

Within a few months, I saw "The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes," and "Dog Star Man" by Stan Brakhage at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In my young mind, these experiences converged to alter the direction of my life.

In the spring of 1971, I left my home in Connecticut (in an old station wagon full of farming and construction tools, cooking utensils, tents, musical instruments, and cameras) heading north, first visiting Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, then studying with Brakhage at The University of New Hampshire in Durham. Soon after, I crossed the border by ship from Maine to Nova Scotia, Canada, where a friend and I bought a wilderness island, built a cabin, and attempted to live a simple, sustainable life – out of the range of the war machine.

The film is dedicated to warriors for peace throughout the world, including my father –who passed away before the film was completed.