This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Los Angeles based Dance Camera West (DCW) led by Executive and Artistic Director, dancer, choreographer and filmmaker Kelly Hargraves. The opening night of DCW Film Festival 2022 took place at the recently opened 2202 Arts & Archives, a volunteer-run community arts center. The festival will continue March 31 – April 2, 2022 at the beautiful Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz on West Pico Blvd. Tickets are on sale now. The film portion of the evening was preceded by what I would categorize as beautiful and informative performance art by Linda Lack and the artist known as Inksap demonstrating how they create the work that they distribute around the city.

The films presented on the festival were selected from approximately 400 submissions and viewed by 40 judges. They represent dance film makers from around the world, and Hargraves informed the audience that she was very pleased to see a substantial increase in submissions from dance artists in Los Angeles. On the opening program, for example, The Farewell was directed and choreographed by Kitty McNamee and performed by two LA based dancers Stephanie Kim and Raymond Ejiofor and The Weight of Sugar was directed and choreographed by LA dance artists Jingqiu Guan and Bernard Brown.

Inksap with Linda Lack - Still from "Ink & Linda" - Director/Cinematographer: Stuart C. Paul

Inksap with Linda Lack – Still from “Ink & Linda” – Director/Cinematographer: Stuart C. Paul

The first film on the program was an incredible feature-length documentary by Stuart C. Paul titled Ink & Linda which chronicles how two artists from totally different backgrounds, genres, cultures and generations came together to create stunning street art. See the review of Ink & Linda by Alice Alyse HERE. Paul was awarded the DCW 2022 award for Best Documentary.

I was only able to attend the opening night of DCW2022 and though all of the other dance films presented were strong, several stood out above the rest.

Meredith Webster in "Evidence Of It All" - director/choreographer Jacoby Drew - Courtesy of DCW

Meredith Webster in “Evidence Of It All” – director/choreographer Jacoby Drew – Courtesy of DCW

Evidence Of It All by director/choreographer Jacoby Drew and performed by dancer Meredith Webster, currently the Ballet Master of LINES Ballet. Narrated by Golden Globe- winning actress Rosamund Pike and sound design was by composer Mikael Karlsson. The film was shot in black and white and I sensed that the woman in the film was not only disturbed but haunted by what happened inside this beautiful home. The thought even crossed my mind that it was she who was forever doomed to roam its rooms. The sharp-edged editing gave Drew’s pedestrian-like movement much of its energy and desperation, but it was Ms. Webster who dominated the screen.

Jennifer Rose in "Edge of Mercy" Directed by Roberta Shaw - Photo courtesy of DCW

Jennifer Rose in “Edge of Mercy” Directed by Roberta Shaw – Photo courtesy of DCW

The Edge of Mercy by Director Choreographer Jennifer Rose and Roberta Shaw was not an easy film to watch. The performer, Jennifer Rose, takes on the quality of a centuries old demon, bound to exist here on Earth forever. Rose is an amazing actress and a stunning mover who holds one’s attention from the first frame to the last. The chilling music that calls out to one’s soul was “Call to Prayer” by Ghalia Benali, Romina Lischka, and Vincent Noiret, who merge Classical Arabic Maqam, Indian Dhrupad Raga, and Early European styles.

"On Mending" director/choreographer Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern, Emilie Louise Lerich of Italy - Photo courtesy of DCW

“On Mending” director/choreographer Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern, Emilie Louise Lerich of Italy – Photo courtesy of DCW

A film where the editing and camerawork enhance and drive the action is On Mending by director/choreographer Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern, and Emilie Louise Lerich.  It is beautiful to look at, magnificently performed and left me asking how did they choreograph and perform that scene where everyone was travelling so quickly down a mountainside. The film is about love, friendship, loss, and healing. The duets between the lovers, one lost and one grieving, are heartbreaking and real.  On Mending is a brilliant film.

Although the film Ostra by Director/Choreographer Austen Brown, and Zach Enguist leaves one questioning its meaning, I have to admit that I was totally intrigued from start to finish. The problems of reality were investigated and questionably resolved via the Martial Arts style choreography. Much of the special effects were glaringly reminiscent of the Matrix films starring Keanu Reeves, but they served their purpose. The choreography was very strong and the dancers were brilliant.

In Plain Sight (Islamic Republic of Iran), by director/Choreographer Tanin Torabi won my vote for the best dance film shown on that night. Shot in what appears to be one long take, who are the performers and who was simply a passerby became confusing in the most beautiful of ways.  The movement is not complex, even pedestrian at times, but it all moves together like a finely woven tapestry.

I loved Empty Vessel not just because it was so short (2 minutes and 16 seconds), but with simple gestures and expressions, and only filming the performer from the waist up, the choreographer Madison Elliott and director Taylor Yocum made a film that I am positive everyone in the theater related to. Set to Hobo Johnson’s “February 15th,” Empty Vessel is exactly like its film comment said, “A minimalist dance film exploring intoxicated sadness and loneliness.”

Special mention goes to the powerful The Weight of Sugar directed by Jingqiu Guan and choreographed by Bernard Brown. It is a gorgeously shot film through which Guan and Brown expressed the cruelty and suffering that the sugar cane plantations owners hoisted onto black slaves and the perseverance they endured to survive and thrive.

"Structure: Making Bolero" - Choreography by Kim Seoljin and directed by Seoljin and Iwa - Photo courtesy of DCW

“Structure: Making Bolero” – Choreography by Kim Seoljin and directed by Seoljin and Iwa – Photo courtesy of DCW

Structure: Making Bolero by choreographer Kim Seoljin and directors Seoljin and Iwa (South Korea) was great fun until it was not, and when it went bad it became painful. I laughed along with the Monty Python antics choreographed to Ravel’s Bolero.

DCW2022 continues with the International Dance Film Festival at Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz March 31 – April 2, 2022. For information and tickets, please click HERE.

For more information on Dance Camera West, please visit their website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: “On Mending” director/choreographer Shawn Fitzgerald Ahern, Emilie Louise Lerich of Italy – Photo courtesy of DCW