The truth of the matter is, I’m not really a film buff. It’s one of those things that I wish for when I paint the picture of my “ideal self.” Ideally, I would always be impeccably dressed, be able to finish two books per week, and know everything about film. Instead, there is usually a jelly stain or muddy paw print somewhere on my shirt, I fall asleep within the first 10 pages of the book I pick up from the pile of neglected ones on my desk, and I rarely watch or appreciate movies. It takes a very specific kind of movie to keep my admittedly short-lived attention span. This movie usually falls into one of these categories: historical biography, period drama, or campy independent à la “Moonrise Kingdom” or “The Royal Tannenbaums.”
Last night I came home from Indie Grits Film Festival’s Cinemovements
with a brand-new appreciation for film. But not just film -- experimental short film.
Now in its second year of production, Cinemovements is a collaboration between the Nickelodeon Theatre
and the South Carolina Philharmonic
. This year four filmmakers were paired with the philharmonic’s concertmaster, Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian. S.C. Philharmonic conductor Morihiko Nakahara carefully selected works that were composed by Kinosian, and those pieces were then turned over to four independent filmmakers who in turn composed short films around what they heard. The result was four films that delighted the audience at 320 Senate Street, a Columbia venue near the banks of the Congaree River on the edge of the Vista.
The films ranged in theme, as each filmmaker conjured up vividly original ideas surrounding the music. Florida resident David Montgomery showed his love of the scientific intricacies of flowering botanicals in “Asteraceae,” a film that consisted of stop-motion photographs of flowers in their various stages of life. The film was paired with Kinosian’s “Simplicity,” which the composer said was written while channeling Mozart and how he might work during the digital age.
“Fire: Control” by Gideon Kennedy and Marcus Rosentrater is a fascinating study in the ways in which humans attempt to control the element of fire, and in turn lose control of this element that is actually bigger than ourselves. The corresponding composition was called “Firedance.” Before we listened to the piece, Nakahara instructed the audience to “Hold on to your drinks, because this is a wild musical ride!” He was right. The music was fun, and the study of fire in the film was often lighthearted and worth a chuckle.
The music for “Contemporary Conversations,” which is the title of both the film and the composition, moved from exciting staccato movements into longer, drawn-out gasps from the viola and violin and back again. Kinosian said that she was thinking of Stravinsky, “uncomplicated Stravinsky,” when she wrote the piece. It was so full and exciting that filmmaker Roger Beebe worried when he first heard it. “There are so many notes in here that there is no room for images,” he said. But he figured it out nicely. He started thinking about baseness and attention deficit disorder of celebrity and ended up comically weaving together scenes from internet sensations from the past few years. Some of the most recognizable YouTube clips included Ted Williams
(the homeless man who was discovered for his “golden voice”) and Antoine Dodson
(of “hide yo’ kids” fame, with over 52 million views on YouTube). “At first I wanted to focus on the Kardashians, but they somehow didn’t seem quite low enough for this,” Beebe laughed as he addressed the crowd. “But these people are so much better because they aren’t doing these things for money, they are sort of putting themselves and their traumas out there in a way that’s real.”
I have to make a confession about the final film, but only because I was sitting with friends who will call me out if I don’t. It appeared to anyone who saw me that I was obsessed with getting photographs of “Ask the Bones” on screen with the quartet playing next to the scenes. While the scenes in this short film are amazingly photographic, the truth is that I’m not good with any kind of horror film, and was kind of hiding behind my camera lens! The music was perfectly suspenseful, and Steve Daniels chose the perfect shooting location in the abandoned historic home in Calhoun County that is reported to be the place where Gen. Sherman spent the night before going on to burn Columbia.
Cinemovements was a fun experience for all involved. The filmmakers were honored and humbled to be a part of the Indie Grits film festival and the collaboration with the S.C. Philharmonic, and the audience was thrilled with each film. Nakahara and Nickelodeon Theatre executive director Andy Smith came up with the concept for the event over beers, and it has since become a much-anticipated tradition. Unfortunately, fans of the partnership will have to wait two years for the next incarnation of the event. Nakahara would like for the two organizations to spend more time soliciting young composers from around the Southeast and pairing them with filmmakers so that they can have a full year to complete their work. With more time to prepare, the philharmonic can explore the option of moving the live music from a quartet to a chamber orchestra of up to 15 – 20 players, therefore maintaining the intimate feel of the event. So, while we are all sad that we will go through 2014 with no Cinemovements, we are all quite excited for what the future will bring for the event!
All four of the films shown were thought provoking, leading me to consider expanding my tight restrictions on watching movies. I learned that the short film genre forces a filmmaker to saturate images and scenes with extra thought and poignancy in order to get the point across in a truncated amount of time. The addition of live musicians accented the exploratory feel of the movies in a way that really can’t be duplicated. If only every movie could be enjoyed while its soundtrack is played live, I might not miss a single screening.
The Indie Grits festival
continues through April 21 at various venues around Columbia