When we think about story telling in film, we typically focus on actors and dialog, and we often only subliminally absorb visual clues as they connect to those narrative staples. When we consider dance in movies, we immediately think about the Hollywood musical, and recall our favorite performances by talented artists both past and present. Dance in this context is designed to entertain and showcase the performer’s ability, and only in rare cases, communicate an emotion in itself.
Dance, as a pure film genre, doesn’t get a lot of attention, and that’s why producers Alexa Roman and Betsy Uhler Colombo decided to host the LA Dance Film Fest. They, along with their team of judges, board members, friends, family, organizers and sponsors (Discount Dance Supply), reviewed and assembled short films from around the world and dropped them off on Hollywood’s door. Fourteen short films from six countries found their way into the Los Feliz Theater in Los Angeles on January 26th 2017, and the sold out theater enjoyed every minute of it.
The running times ranged from two minutes to fourteen, and told stories about loss, love, youth, and rebellion. The Dance genre focuses on movement and uses the performer’s physicality to play with the available space on the screen. How they shape it and move through it is often part of the story, and in the case of one of the films, Gimp Gait, it can be provocative and moving. The shot of an able-bodied and physically handicapped dancer stepping in unison during the closing seconds of the film absolutely floored me.
The film Invisible Point, by director Tanin Torabi from Iran, is especially notable when you know that dancing is illegal in that country. The final shot of a dancer dressed in a burqa and pointe shoes ‘en pointe’ on a public street, is not only fantastic, but also a powerful act of bravery.
Two short documentaries made up the evening’s entertainment too. Live the Game explored the origins and positive influence of the martial art, Capoeira. See the extended version here (https://vimeo.com/185090591). Diamond Linda, from director Jennie Liu, explored dance as a route to self-discovery.
While films that seriously explore complex emotional topics are vital, it is also important to remember that dance is supposed to be fun. The film Farther Up the Road delivered a blast of high school prom choreographed action, and an entry from Finland, Cold Storage (my personal favorite), delivered a hilarious drunken performance after a man finds his soulmate buried in the snow.
The inaugural LA Dance Film Fest was well-organized and fascinating. A must-see event for dancers and independent filmmakers alike. I have it on good authority that the festival will return next year, so please, bookmark the website, http://ladancefilmfest.org/ and follow them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ladancefilmfest) to make sure you don’t miss it!
Films Shown at the Festival:
Vagalume – Directed by Alois Di Leo (Brazil) 2016
Swimminghole – directed by Sarah Friedland (USA) 2016
In the Pines – directed by Elliott Geolat (USA) 2015
Gimp Gait – directed by Pioneer Winter (USA) 2016
Invisible Point – directed by Tanin Torabi (Iran) 2016
And So Do I – directed by Jana Younes (Lebanon) 2016
For All My Pacing, I do Not Move – directed by Nicola Collie (USA) 2016
Capoeira – Live the Game – directed by Eric Joddy Matthews (USA) 2016
Where are You Now – directed by Steven Diaz, Ashton Frederick and Frank Soares (Japan) 2015
Diamond Linda – directed by Jennie Liu (USA) 2016
Songs of the Underworld – directed Nicola Hepp (Netherlands) 2016
Farther up the Road – directed by Mark Orsborn and Jen Ray (USA) 2016
Cold Storage – directed by Thomas Freundlich (Finland) 2016
Confrontation – directed by Shannon Janet Smith (USA) 2016
Following the screenings, several awards were handed out.
3 Standard Vision Showcase Awards went to: Confrontation, Cold Storage, and Where Are You Now.
Standard Vision is a company that creates large-scale media displays and will be taking parts of their three selected films to play on a 4-story LED screen in downtown Los Angeles.
Here is their website for more information: http://www.standardvision.com/
Gimp Gait won the Jury Award.
Confrontation won the Audience Award.
Festival Website: http://ladancefilmfest.org/