Sunday, May 8, 2011


As I've reflected on this year's Full Frame Fest, "Project Nim" and "Scenes From a Crime" definitely had the biggest impact on me, though they both are pretty upsetting. I've found myself talking about those two more than anything else I saw. I highly recommend both to those of you whose commitment to understanding the truth about human beings gives you a willingness to sit through some painful stuff.

The film that most moved me in the moment was "A Good Man" (9), a profound exploration of the creative process and also of how a good man grapples with the truth of himself and his heroes and even the idea of heroes. African American choreographer Bill T. Jones, a visionary of post-modern dance, was commissioned to create a contemporary dance concert honoring Abraham Lincoln, who was one of his childhood heroes. A man who describes himself as a someone without many heroes who has allowed alienation and cynicism to creep into his soul, Jones approaches the project with some trepidation, wary of learning anything that will cheat him of a childhood attachment that meant something to him. Yet Jones is a truth-seeker, temperamentally inclined toward wrestling with hard questions, and his journey in finding a way to honor an American hero turns into struggle over what it means, more deeply, to be a good man.

The film depicts that journey, but is also an intimate look at the creative process. Jones and his company gave the filmmakers nearly complete access to rehearsals and the fits and starts of developing the piece, including moments of frustration and exhaustion and misunderstandings. I had the great pleasure of watching the film with many of the company members who were seeing it for the first time, and it was a rich pleasure to overhear their often boisterous responses to watching Jones and themselves work. The film does a wonderful job of depicting the agony of creation, and the complicated relationships between Jones and members of the company, especially his creative director, Janet Wong. Jones and Wong and the directors participated in a post-film discussion that deepened that pleasure--especially when Jones bounded up to the stage and danced a buoyant impromptu interlude.

It's hard for me to say now whether I was mostly impressed with the film or with the man. I identified deeply with his struggle to remain engaged, to fight--even to use--cynicism in himself to create something truthful. There's a beauty in it, and in that process of making art and oneself, that inspires and opens and instructs.

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