Sundance 2020: Aggie

A still from Aggie by Catherine Gund, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Aggie shows how far one art collector and philanthropist will go when it comes to criminal justice and having a dialogue on social action.

Agnes “Aggie” Gund’s life has been rather impressive.  By serving as a longtime president of the Museum of Modern Art, Gund has an important name in the industry.  And yet, she’s not afraid of using her name when it comes to important causes.  As one should, of course.  However, some of the more recent activities came as a shock so to speak within the community.  After all, how many people would put Roy Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece on the market?  You don’t need to answer that.  It’s a rhetorical question.  Anyway, the painting brought in some $165 million or almost as much as it cost to make the Cats movie!

I know what you’re thinking.  Why would someone sell a painting just to bank some dough?  Is it because they want to give the money to their children and grandchildren?  The answer to the question is no.  It’s actually because Aggie wanted to put the money to a good cause.  In this instance, it’s criminal justice reform.  What Aggie wants to do with the money is start up the Art for Justice Fund.  Her hope is to end mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system.  It’s an uphill battle to say the least.  Not surprisingly, there’s a reference to Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy (the book, not the movie).  Stevenson’s work has served as an influence on Gund.

What documentary filmmaker Catherine Gund does here is give us an inside look at her mom.  The younger Gund even learns some things about her along the way.  If you had told me before the film that there was an intersection between art, race, and reform, I’m not sure what I would have told you.  Here’s a woman who’s been inspired by works such as Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated/Emmy-winning 13th.  The elder Gund is hoping that people find the value in art and what it can do to enhance the conversation.

On the one hand, you can’t help but look at Aggie Gund as being a white savior.  On the other hand, she’s using her voice and money to lift up people of color.  Regardless of whether she is or or isn’t, the art collector is using her money for good.  At the end of the day, this is what truly counts, right?

If there’s a takeaway from viewing Aggie, it ought to be further dialogue on criminal justice reform.

DIRECTOR:  Catherine Gund
FEATURING:  Agnes Gund, Darren Walker, Ava DuVernay, Thelma Golden, John Waters, Glenn Ligon

Aggie holds its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Premieres program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.