CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Flatlands Dance Film Festival will open with a new documentary film, which premiered in June, about performer Okwui Okpokwasili and her one-woman show “Bronx Gothic.”
The University of Illinois dance department’s film festival will be Sept. 1 and 2 at Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana. Tickets are available at the door and are $10 general admission and $5 for students and seniors.
The film “Bronx Gothic” follows Okpokwasili on the final tour for her one-woman show of the same title. “Bronx Gothic” the show is a multidisciplinary display of dance, singing, drama and comedy. The semiautobiographical story she tells is set in the 1980s and centers on two 11-year-old girls, their friendship, and their discussions of puberty and sexual violence. The film shows Okpokwasili performing and also leading talkbacks with audience members on the questions concerning gender and culture issues raised by her performance.
Several members of the dance faculty saw the show live in New York City, and others saw a video of the performance. The Illinois dance department screened the video of the performance for dance students before the documentary is shown at the film festival.
“I was just as blown away with the documentary as I was with the dance work,” said Rebecca Ferrell, the director of the film festival. “Okwui is a master storyteller. Dance, text, song, she weaves it beautifully together in ‘Bronx Gothic.’ You are watching her transform throughout the piece, and at the end you yourself feel transformed as well.”
The screening of “Bronx Gothic” is co-sponsored by Krannert Art Museum and the Department of African American Studies.
The South Korean film “Mago” tells the story of the mythical Grandmother Mago. It is one of 11 short films that were chosen as part of the Flatlands Dance Film Festival’s Short Films Competition Program.
Courtesy Flatlands Dance Film Festival
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The second night of the festival features 11 short dance films from all over the world that were chosen through the festival’s Short Films Competition Program. The festival received more than 350 submissions from 50 countries. A panel of community members chose the finalists.
One of Ferrell’s favorite short films is “Exquisite Corps,” the fourth in a series of hypermatch-cutting films directed by a dance professor at Ohio State University. In “Exquisite Corps,” 42 contemporary dance choreographers dance for seven seconds each, with the film cutting from one to the next, each dancer picking up where the previous one left off.
“I love the chain letter of choreography traveling through 42 choreographers. There is singing, pizza-eating, underwater dancing and everything in between. It’s a unique and delightful way to highlight today’s modern dance-makers,” Ferrell said.
A film from the United Kingdom, “Stopgap in Stop Motion,” uses stop motion techniques, allowing the dancers to move in and out of frames within the film.
“I was really excited to see a stop-motion entry this year. We have received them in the past but not up to this production level. I thoroughly enjoyed the quirkiness of the film and its inclusion of disabled and nondisabled dancers,” Ferrell said.
A film from South Korea, “MAGO,” is an ethereal film that uses dance to illustrate a myth of the Grandmother Mago. “The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking,” Ferrell said.
A full list of the films selected for the Short Films Competition Program is online.