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Mark LaPore, 53; captured various cultures in his films

Mark LaPore's documentary ''Kolkata," which depicts the ''ebb and flow of humanity" on Calcutta's streets, will have its world premiere next weekend at the New York Film Festival.

Mr. LaPore, a Massachusetts College of Art professor, wrote in an artist's statement that the film is one of his many ''experimental documentaries which concern problems of imaging and translating culture."

Mr. LaPore, a Brookline resident who traveled the world to make his many prize-winning documentaries, died at his home Sept. 11. He was 53.

His films have been shown in New York at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, and at international film festivals. ''Kolkata" will be shown at the Torino Film Festival in Italy in November.

''Mark was an absolutely inspired and committed teacher," said Beckman, a MassArt faculty member who designed the school's filmmaking curriculum with Mr. LaPore. ''Students far and wide have followed careers in filmmaking because of him. He was an absolute artist, and in the last few months of his life finished four new films."

Mark McElhatten, cocurator of the Views from the Avant-Garde program of the New York Film Festival, described Mr. LaPore's films as ''unique, a form of visual anthropology but equally about the mystery of being and film as consciousness.

''These uncompromising films have enormous integrity and deserve a very important place within the entire history of film," he said.

A longtime friend, Philip Solomon, professor of film at the University of Colorado in Boulder, described Mr. LaPore's art as ''subtle and painstaking."

Mr. LaPore was born in Tacoma and grew up there and in Larchmont, N.Y.

He had ''a lifelong love affair with music and film," said his wife, Laura McPhee, a photographer who teaches at Massachusetts College of Art.

''He spent his youth at Fillmore East," she said, referring to New York's famous music hall of the 1960s. ''He loved classical and rock. Music was sort of the mainstay of his life."

Mr. LaPore, she recalled in a eulogy given at a service last week, was also devoted to their 9-year-old daughter, Isobel McPhee. He was, she said, ''the most devoted father I have ever witnessed."

Mr. LaPore enrolled at the State University of New York in Binghamton to study journalism but a film course detoured him to filmmaking. In 1973, he completed his first film, ''Halloween," which dealt with violence and play.

After graduating in 1976, he traveled to Europe and Africa. He received his master's degree in film at Massachusetts College of Art in 1979, and taught film production while in graduate school.

In 1981, he went with a social geographer to live in rural Sudan for his first experimental ethnographic film -- documenting 10-year-olds at work and at play in an agricultural village. ''That was the basis for his lifework," McPhee said. ''It was to show how people worked and lived."

Between 1981 and 1989, he made a trilogy of films. The first two were shot in a village in Sudan; the third was shot in Sudan, Poland, and New York. The idea, Mr. LaPore's wife said, was ''to show how cultures influenced one another and how people are both linked and separated by our life experiences.

''Mark's work might be compared to the difference between a short story and a poem," she said. ''When you read a poem, you have to interpret it."

Mr. LaPore was awarded two Fulbright scholarships, one to Sri Lanka in 1993 and another to India in 2001. In Sri Lanka he made a 28-minute color film, ''A Depression in the Bay of Bengal," which documents everyday life in the tense atmosphere of war, she said.

McPhee accompanied her husband on many projects, living and working in Thailand, Burma, India, Sri Lanka, Italy, and England.

Along with his many films, Mr. LaPore's former students at Massachusetts College of Art are another legacy.

''I can't think of any other single person who changed the course of my life than Mark," said Elisabeth Subrin, a professor of film who taught at Harvard before going to The Cooper Union in New York.

''It's impossible to understand the impact he has had on many important filmmakers who went through his program," she said. ''In the study of cultures through films, Mark was really ahead of his time."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. LaPore leaves his mother, Dayle Walden of Scottsdale, Ariz.; his sister, Leigh Harris, also of Scottsdale; his brother, Gregg of Albuquerque, N.M.; and his father, Gary of London.

Services have been held.

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