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Robert Frerck Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2015-09
Repository
CFA
Extent of collection
134 reels of 16mm film; 1 reel of 35mm; 7 Betamax tapes; 1 U-matic tape; 1 U-matic S tape; 3 reels of ½" Open Reel audio; 10 reels of ¼" Open Reel audio; 3 DVDs; hard drive; paper materials; two boxes of Kodaliths
Bulk Dates
1970 - 1976
Abstract
The Robert Frerck Collection consists of elements and different release prints of two documentaries created by Chicago-based filmmaker and photographer Robert Frerck: "Stella" documents the life of Ray Slupik, captain of the ship Stella and the last commercial fisherman in Chicago. "Al Andalus" (also titled Spain: The Moorish Influence) tells the history of the Moorish Culture of Spain, shooting on location in France, Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Also included is stock footage and Kodalith artwork incorporated into the production of "Al Andalus."
Description
The Robert Frerck Collection consists of elements and different release prints of two documentaries created by Chicago-based filmmaker and photographer Robert Frerck. 

“Stella” was produced as Robert’s thesis film for Charles Sharp’s filmmaking class at IIT. The 16mm film documents the life of Ray Slupik, captain of the ship Stella and the last commercial fisherman in Chicago. The film features the Stella sailing along the Chicago River and Ray and his crew fishing on Lake Michigan. In interviews, Ray discusses the difficult life of a fisherman and the likelihood that his young son would follow in his footsteps. Twenty years later, on December 29, 1985, Ray was helping his son fish on his son’s boat, the Searcher, when the boat sunk in Lake Michigan. His son and two men were saved, but Ray and two others were lost.

Completed in 1976, “Al Andalus” is 45 minutes long and traces the 700 year history of the Moors, from their invasion of Spain in 711 to their final expulsion from Granada in 1492. The film mixes color live action footage shot by Robert and his friend with animation of historic artwork, including line engravings, illuminated manuscripts, and paintings. Additional footage was shot for four more films, focusing on the cities of Granada, Cordoba, Toledo, and Seville, but the projects were abandoned and the footage incorporated into the one longer film. “Al Andalus” was distributed in high schools and universities and was later re-edited in the 1990s as “Spain: The Moorish Influence” by Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corp. Films.
Creator
Frerck, Robert (created by)
Robert Frerck was born in St. Louis in 1943. He studied art and graduated from Washington University in 1966. It was around this time that Robert first traveled to Spain and was inspired by the artwork and culture he discovered in Seville, Cordoba, and Granada. Upon returning to Chicago, he enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and later at the Illinois Institute of Technology, studying design, photography, and film and finding a strong connection between his work and the design work he had seen in Spain.

While at IIT, Robert completed a number of experimental films, including “Nebula 1,” “Nebula 2,” and Phaethon, which were shown at experimental film festivals around the United States and Europe. “Nebula 2” was also included in a John Cage performance called HPSCHD performed at UIUC and in the TV series “The New Filmmakers,” narrated by Peter Fonda.

“Stella” was produced as Robert’s thesis film for Charles Sharp’s filmmaking class at IIT. The 16mm film documents the life of Ray Slupik, captain of the ship Stella and the last commercial fisherman in Chicago. The film features the Stella sailing along the Chicago River and Ray and his crew fishing on Lake Michigan.

After graduating from IIT with a Master's Degree, Robert traveled again to Spain and Morocco for three months to study the Moorish Culture. He returned to Chicago for three years to work for Goldsholl Associates and produce documentary and commercial films, expanding his knowledge of animation and writing in the process.

In 1973, Robert left Goldsholl Associates to pursue his idea for a documentary about the influence of Moorish culture on Spanish culture and architecture/design. He and a friend (acting as translator and camera assistant) traveled in 1975 through Southern France, Spain, and Morocco. They worked on a shoestring budget for four months, living and traveling in a VW van and shooting on location with rare access to landmarks such as the Great Mosque in Cordoba, the Alcazar Palace in Seville, and the Alhambra palace in Granada. Additional footage was shot for four more films, focusing on the cities of Granada, Cordoba, Toledo, and Seville, but the projects were abandoned. Instead, the footage was incorporated into one longer film, titled "Al Andalus" and finished in 1976.

After finishing “Al Andalus,” Robert decided to put behind documentary filmmaking in favor of more opportunities to travel. He founded the stock photography company Odyssey Productions in 1977 and took travel assignments from magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Travel and Leisure, The Smithsonian; United, Pan Am, and Eastern Airlines Inflight Magazines; National Geographic and Geo Magazine, and others. During this time he traveled for an average of 8 to 10 months a year and eventually worked in nearly 60 countries. Robert’s work also included extended educational projects in India, Africa, and South America, as well as several years spent shooting underwater photography with a marine biologist.

In 1992, Robert incorporated four years of travel photography in Spain into the book “Eternal Spain,” which featured panoramic images of Spanish landscapes and traditional architecture and lifestyle. The book was used by the Spanish Ministry of Tourism as their promotional book during the 1992 World’s Fair in Seville and Barcelona Olympics. “Eternal Spain” led Robert to create another book, “Eternal Mexico,” in 1996, which received the “Lente de Plata” award for photographic excellence from the Mexican government. A third book set in Turkey was planned in the late ‘90s, but fell through due to changes in government.

Robert’s most recent projects have taken him to the Southwestern United States, Mexico, and South America. He currently lives in Canada with his wife and two daughters.
Custodial History
The Robert Frerck Collection of films and ephemera was previously stored by Frerck in the Chicago office of Odyssey Productions. Frerck donated his collection to CFA in three parts, once in June of 2015, in October of 2015, and in March of 2016.
Language of Materials
English
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
Chicago Film Archives holds the copyright for the films in this collection
Related Materials
CFA's Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection contains numerous sponsored films Robert worked on while he was employed at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates