The arts transform our lives on a daily basis, being at once pools of inspiration, forebearers of change and vehicles of emotion. Oftentimes however the people striving behind the scenes are barely in profile. 26th Raindance Film Festival brings out through its Arts Documentary strand the stories of dancers, filmmakers, photographers and artists: their lives, dreams, artistic successes and struggles to live up to their aspirations.
Directed by Steven Cantor
Before the curtain rises on the 2017 BalletNOW programme in Los Angeles, there are a final five days of hard preparation, improvisation and practice to get through. In her roles not only as lead performer but also curator and dance director, the toll on 28-year-old Tiler Peck is a heavy one, both physically and emotionally. BALLET NOW shows Peck immersed in a seemingly endless stream of rehearsals, pep talks, physiotherapy sessions, costume changes, interviews, meet-and-greets and consultations with lighting and sound technicians and stage managers. This is a breath-taking profile on a dancer who, with boundless energy and incredible talent, assembles a programme that could exceed even her own artistic aspirations.
Barbara Rubin & The Exploding NY Underground
Directed by Chuck Smith
Barbara Rubin was a passionate pioneer of the budding underground movement of 1960s New York. Showcasing interviews of influential figures including Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol, BARBARA RUBIN & THE EXPLODING NY UNDERGROUND shows the incredible influence Rubin had on experimental film and in bringing the role of women as artists to the fore. Rubin is perhaps best known for her feature CHRISTMAS ON EARTH, which she shot at the age of 17 with one of 16mm cameras owned by influential filmmaker Jonas Merkas. This work is considered to be one of the first legitimate works of multi-media art. The documentary recounts the wild child life of Rubin as she experiments with drugs and sexuality- and captures a morsel of her explosive personality.
If The Dancer Dances
Directed by Maia Wechsler
“The beauty of dance is that it only exists in the moment. It goes into the air and then it disappears.” Choreographer Stephen Petronio has been teaching his own contemporary dance for thirty years. When his mentor, the legendary Merce Cunningham, passes away, he decides to reconstruct Cunningham’s iconic piece ‘Rainforest.’ Petronio puts his dancers through intensive training of Cunningham’s dance technique, who find his focus on the isolation of individual movements both exciting and challenging. IF THE DANCER DANCES explores dance as an art form that more than any other is lived in the moment in which it is experienced and leaves behind only its emotional resonance. This is an intriguing documentary on what it takes to keep a masterpiece living.
The Artist & The Pervert
Directed by Beatrice Behn & René Gebhardt
A documentary that provocatively peeks into the life of an artist and his eccentric muse. THE ARTIST & THE PERVERT explores the BDSM relationship between one of the 21st century’s most important composers, Georg Friedrich Haas, and his African-American wife, the sexually explicit performer and storyteller Mollena Williams-Haas. Exploring both the role of artists and their various fetishes, the documentary is a touching portrait of a couple who have found true love later in life, and through a master/slave relationship.
The Greenaway Alphabet
Directed by Saskia Boddeke
THE GREENAWAY ALPHABET is a portrait of filmmaker Peter Greenaway; sensitively, intimately, and alphabetically explored by his wife Saskia Boddeke. We begin with Saskia delicately probing and exploring her relationship to him, but it is through conversations with their incredibly perceptive daughter, Pip, that true revelation begins. A is for Amsterdam, says Peter. For Autism, says Pip. We roam through the alphabet of his everyday, his passions, his strongly held opinions, until we reach a brimming encyclopaedia of Greenaway images and words.The artist discusses his death, his children, his legacy with a plainness that sometimes shocks his family. The biography is not his construct. They interrupt him mid-flow, and scold him from behind the camera – this is a rare insight into the iconic filmmaker.
The Whistleblower of My Lai
Directed by Connie Field
One day in March 1968, American troops serving in the Vietnam War slaughtered over 500 unarmed civilians in two rural hamlets. The massacre, known as the My Lai Massacre, was only discovered by chance when helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson noticed the events from overhead. Nearly fifty years later, a composer, librettist, multi-instrumentalist and the legendary ensemble the Kronos Quartet (Mishima, Requiem for a Dream) combine to create an opera, My Lai, about Thompson.THE WHISTLEBLOWER OF MY LAI fuses the preparations for the opera’s premiere with a retelling of Thompson’s story, detailing the courage of a man who intervened between his fellow soldiers and their victims in order to save what few lives he could. A radical and original work, the opera serves as a testimony to Thompson’s morality and is a timely reminder of a shameful historical event which now threatens to fade into the mists of collective forgetfulness.
Directed by Matt Zimbel & Jean François Gratton
Photography is an art, a practice, a state of mind. Not everyone with a smartphone can master the art or really understand what it takes without possessing a great eye. That is the ethos of George Zimbel, a freelance documentary photographer whose career spanning 70 years forged a path for humanist photography. Over the years, Zimbel has worked for established magazines such as the New York Times and has exhibited in prestigious galleries worldwide. ZIMBELISM explores Zimbel as much as an anthropologist as a photographer. Incorporating his historical subjects, from John Kennedy to Marilyn Monroe in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, the documentary emphasises how the artist strived to capture the humanity of his subjects and make photographs that were emotionally resonant. ZIMBELISM is a moving reflection on the dreams and trials of a revered man behind the camera.