On May 3, 1955, The Museum of Modern Art hosted the world premiere of Pather Panchali, by a young Bengali filmmaker named Satyajit Ray. While in India preparing for MoMA’s exhibition Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India, Edgar J. Kaufmann, Jr., saw portions of Ray’s work-in-progress, The Story of Apu and Durga. Impressed with this footage, he showed stills from the film to Edward Steichen and Monroe Wheeler, then MoMA’s Director of Exhibitions and Publications. Wheeler sent Ray finishing funds so that the young artist’s film could be shown during the textiles exhibition. Pather Panchali, as the completed work was titled, had its world premiere at MoMA, and it immediately established Ray as one of cinema’s major talents; with the special presentation of the film at the Cannes International Film Festival the following year, Ray’s reputation was firmly established. Ray subsequently made two more films, completing what became known famously as The Apu Trilogy. Recognized today as one of cinema’s great poetic realists, Ray captured essential themes of his culture while also evoking universal truths and values.
Organized by Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, Department of Film and Media.