The Dance Camera West (DCW) 2022 Film Festival took place during the month of April in two different venues, 2202 Arts & Archives in downtown Los Angeles and at the intimate Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz located on the campus of Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles. I was able to attend and review two of the programs, one at each venue, and was recently asked to review the final night of the international film programs that took place on April 2. I was sent a link to view the films on my computer and although it was not the optimal way to see the films, I enjoyed most of the 10 films. The Executive and Artistic Director of DCW is Kelly Hargraves and the Executive and Artistic Director of Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz is Pierre Leloup.
Jolly Folly (UK) was beautifully filmed, edited, choreographed, and performed by the English National Ballet with choreography and costumes by Arielle Smith and directed by Amy Becker-Burnett. Filmed in black and white, Jolly Folly made references a bygone era in movies through Smith’s movement and her choice to costume the dancers in tuxedos. In Act One, the set, and part of the lighting, was three tall street lamps and a touch too much mist throughout. The choreography was fast paced, athletic and included moment of subtle humor. Smith’s style was a fusion of ballet and contemporary dance with gorgeous and inventive floor work not often seen performed by ballet companies. The lively music for Act One was Cuban Danube written by Johann Strauss II and performed by Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion.
Act Two brought more tongue-in-cheek humor through the music, Cuban Sugar written by Tchaikovsky and performed by Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion. Here Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite met Cuban Calypso. This time, far too much mist/fog, so much so that it was difficult to determine exactly what objects were placed upstage. The dancing and choreography ruled here as well, however, with one man ending the section performing on a mountain top with a projection of clouds behind him.
Act Three was more visible with these incredible dancers performing in front of projected moving objects, and then in a boxing ring. There was snow and rain and one wanted this film to go on and on. Again the music was performed by the Klazz Brothers, this time written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Smith is a wonderful choreographer and one hopes to see her work live in the Los Angeles area soon. The amazing dancers in Jolly Folly included Georgia Bould, Joseph Caley, Julia Conway, Daniel McCormick, Ken Saruhashi, Francesca Velicu, Erik Woolhouse, and Rhys Yeomans.
Nioun Rec (France) was also shot in black and white and in and around a modern architectural building. The choreography, a combination of pedestrian movement, breaking and contemporary dance, was by French dance artist Amala Dianor who began as a hip hop dancer and went on to study other forms of dance at the National Centre for Contemporary Dance in Angers. There were stunning closeups of the two dancers, wonderful shots of them on the outside ramps and performing separately and together in one of the building’s rooms.
For this film, the editing and camera work play a huge role in how the choreography is perceived and both are very successful. Both Dianor and Nangaline Gomis are strong dancers with powerful onscreen presences, and although the film was somewhat meditative, it was very enjoyable to watch.
The music was composed by Awir Leon and the Director of Photography was Elena Erhel.
Ephemera (Czech Republic) Directed by Viliam Dočolomanský and Jiři Matoušek, and presented by Farm In The Cave, was shot in color with several storylines running throughout – not all of them clear. Often filmed from inside an ever-moving elevator with no gate or door, the camera presents the lives of people performing or emoting in the hallway of each floor. A distraught woman, a man entertaining his son, a long line of drowsy people in red chairs, a trio of office types with blue plastic water glasses, and two very bizarre acting and sometimes threatening women dressed in bright red and grey tight fitting dresses. The film is a not always successful investigation into separate lives occurring simultaneously, often giving the awkward sensation of peeping through the keyholes of their environments. If I read the ending correctly, one of the depressed women in Ephemera was the mother of the boy seen dancing and playing with his father. A custody battle, perhaps. If so, the woman walks off with the boy at the end of the film. I was reminded of the films by Ingmar Bergman but without the excellent content and quality.
The choreographer for Ephemera was Viliam Dočolomanský and the performers included: Eliška Vavšiková, Gioele Coccia, Andrej Štepita, Eleftheria IIiopoulou, Julian Hajduk Brown, Lukas Blaha, Barbora Ješutová, Barbora Nechanická, Monika Částková, Simona Dejmková, Matěj Petrák, Karolina Grygarová, Kamila Růtová, Jakub Kohout, Eliška Řezničková, Adéla Garabiková, Julie Kubrychtová, and Omar Torrico. The editor was Karolina Čejková and the haunting score was by Marcel Barta.
Even less enjoyable was BLAST: The Anthem of Doomed Youth (UK) directed by Jake Duncan and edited by Duncan Wood. The performers were wonderful, but the content was disjointed, placed in different eras and too abstract to follow. The cinematography was excellent, Colorist Chris Lyons, and the uncredited choreography for the two male dancers was exciting. The cast included Kennedy Muntanga, Evan Schwarz, Sonya Cullingford, Harry Humberstone, Joshua Ben-Tovim, Dilyana Dimitrova, and Karen Morocutti.
Back on track, Out of Ordinary (Switzerland) choreographed by Luca Signoretti and directed by Alicja Pahl, Luca Signoretti and Tobias Buchmann, was a beautiful film shot primarily in an art gallery and its success was due to the editing by Gina Calamassi and Hubert Schmelzer. Twelve women and two men dance and moved eerily through the gallery wearing green and pink interchangeable costumes. With the exception of one section, the movement was built on stillness. Although the cast was strong, I was more taken with the camerawork and the cinematography than I was with the choreography.
The dancers in Out of Ordinary included Joana Hermes, Naina Zanantsoa, Alessio Russo, Charlott Fischer-Wachsmann, Eefie Van Den Bergen, Elise De Heer, Gian Luca Lazzarini, Giulia Spada, Ilaria Rabagliati, Lola Marie Bournillat, Louise Tiguely, Mara Peyer, Naomi Roth, and Sophie Feige.
Another black and white film, The Burning Building (UK) by Javier De Frutos was masterfully done. It was intriguing, beautifully filmed and edited, and the performances by Sofia Liñares and Shuailun Wu were outstanding. The entire set to represent the lives of those inside this building consisted of four chairs and a few personal articles. It was the direction and editing by Dan Löwenstein that provided the interiors and closeups of their inhabitants. The movement is balletic with hints of contemporary dance, but it is the acting or Liñares and Wu that prevail and provide the fear and tension seen throughout the film.
The music for The Burning Building was Ombra Mai Fu by George Frideric Handel and the very appropriate costumes were by Vanda Hewston and Elain Garlick.
Water & Man (Scotland) by Rob Heaslip and Katrina McPherson, though visually pleasant, was a film in search of a purpose. Its creators appeared to be more fascinated with the objects used, umbrella, a teal sequined mask, a yellow slicker, and a bowl of water, then they were the connection between man and water. Heaslip, choreographer and the performer, moved very aptly but rarely explored all the uses of the objects he utilized. McPherson was the cameraperson and editor and deserves all the credit for what was salvable from this film. The music was written and performed by Philip Jeck and the Sound Designer was John Cobban.
Spoken word and atmospheric lighting brought wonderful intrigue and wonderment to snakes for her (Greece) directed and choreographed by Athens born Antonia Economou. The narration is told by a woman relating her dreams and the powerful choreography, though minimal, often displays only half of the characters bodies. People randomly come and go as they do in dreams, and the symbolism was as strong as our subconscious portrays. There are closeups, darkness, angst and turmoil that is not always explained, but which is not necessary to grasp the power of this film. Kudos to the Cinematographer John Nelson Eskioglou and Editor Georgis Grigorakis.
The stunning performers in snakes for her included: Xenia Stathouli, Pavlos Lykoudis, Xenia Tabourlou, Orestis Alexiadis, and Antonia Economou. The chilling script was also by Antonia Economou.
Birds (France), directed by John Degois, was another film that left me cold. Filmed outdoors in black and white, the movement’s improvisational quality reminded me of early Twyla Tharp without the structure. I suppose the performers Judith Arazi, Isabelle Clarençon, Robin Fabre Elissade, Jade Felhmann, and Hakim Hachouche were meant to be representative of birds gathering in an open field, but it was only the title that caused me to presume that. Birds was also hindered by the longest ending in recent film history. The original soundtrack was by Yehezkel Raz.
Closing the program was an entertaining desasosiego. (Spain) choreographed by Aina Lanas and bailarina to music by Raquel Lúa. Four women (Miriam Salvador, Irene Baeza, Tina Marti, and Aina Lanas) make total use of 3 red and 1 grey low stools, lemons and a pear. The choreography and the performances are charming, humorous and playful, investigating the many sides to a group of women friends. Kudos to the cinematography and editing by Marc Costa.
To find out more about Dance Camera West, please visit their website.
To learn more about Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz, please visit their website.
Featured image: desasosiego. (Spain) by Aina Lanas and bailaina – Screenshot by LADC