I love poetry, I love dance and I love film so a project like Nathalie Teitler’s Dancing Words could have been made for just me as it combines all three to a very high standard. I say that quite deliberately. This isn’t the first time that poetry has been ‘captured’ on film or the first time it has been ‘danced’. Often times, the attempts are woeful, serving none of the mediums adequately and doing nothing to elucidate the meaning of the poem.
What I like about Dancing Words is how much thought has been put into the choice of poem. Each poem is more than just pleasingly arranged words. Nathalie Teitler has chosen poems that are gut punching rather than coolly intelletualising. In addition, filmmaker Fiona Melville’s contemplation of light in each film is measured and considered….it’s no surprise to find out that she trained as a painter.
There’s a whole lot more I could say but it’s time for the films to do the talking.
T.S Eliot Prize 2016 winner Sarah Howe’s poem, ‘Tame’ interpreted by dancer/choreographer Shelley Maxwell. Taking inspiration from a Chinese
proverb, the poem makes a comment about the one child policy in China.
Forward Prize winner Mona Arshi’s poem, ‘Ballad of the Small-Boned Daughter’ interpreted by dancer/choreographer Ella Mesma and with original music by Tom Szirtes. The poem is based on the true story of an honour killing.
Kayon Chingonyi’s poem Kumukanda is interpreted by the poet himself and dancer/ choreographer Sean Graham. Kumukanda is the name given to the tribal rites of passage that young Zambian boys must undergo before they become men.
Karen McCarthy Woolf’s poem Morbleu is choreographed and danced by Ella Mesma with music by Andrea Allegra. The poem was written as part of an elegy for the poet’s still born son, Otto.
Malika Booker’s poem Sweet Liquor was danced by the poet herself and dancer/ choreographer Leon Rose. It is inspired by the stories of Caribbean soldiers returning from war with PTSD and being redrafted.
Warsan Shire’s poem The Ugly Daughter and danced by Ella Mesma during a performance in The Purcell Room, Southbank Centre inspired the entire Dancing Words project. The title is self-explanatory.
A breakdown of what everyone working on a $200 million movie makes, that is.
This falls firmly in the box containing: things you might have wondered about at some point but haven’t been curious enough to investigate. Or things you didn’t think you wanted to know until someone very thoughtfully did all the legwork and presented it in a neat little video that just plopped into your inbox.
It goes on a bit but I suppose a budget that blockbuster huge takes a correspondinly substantial army of people to bust those blocks.
I like to promenade (and promenading is what I do in this location and for a very specific type of relaxation. Bite me!) along the south bank of the river sometimes. That’s the river Thames in London. One of my favourite walks is to get off the tube at Waterloo and stroll along the waterfront from that part of town to London Bridge. Sometimes, I’ll cross the bridge at Tate Modern and walk across to St Paul’s, checking out the anciently curious names on the buildings and street signs like Bloody Mary Yard or the Worshipful Company of Basket Makers. One time, I went round the back of the building that houses Oxo Tower only to find a huge art exhibition space and the names of several Greek muses high up on the walls. The discovery had something of kismet about it. After all, the Muses are supposed to provide inspiration for creativity. Shame only five of them were there though.
The wonderful Radio 4 programme In Our Time does a comprehensive breakdown of how they originated, how they were regarded and in what shaped they have survived to modern day.
Here’s something that really puts the ‘small’ in Small Objects of Desire. The name of it might sound playfully hyperbolic but this museum aggrandises the small, inconsequential things that gain the heft of importance for some people. It’s curious stuff. Witness the “Small Desert Crumb” entry. Nina Simone’s chewing gum. A swallow necklace. Angelina Jolie’s ancient Nokia phone from the film A Mighty Heart from someone who collects celebrity mobile phones (Who knew?). A wind up toy dinosaur. One man’s shrine to the musician Nick Cave whose documentary 20,000 On Earth is linked to this and who had an hand in curating the museum.
It’s mostly a bunch of crap, the flotsam and jetsam that gathers into people’s lives but a curiosity nonetheless. All of human life is here. I’m going to use it as a repository for making fictional characters. It’s ready made tool for that kind of application.
This startling and compelling film by my friend, photographer and director, Cathy Hassan, makes you think about the lengths people will go to in order to attain that elusively subjective thing of desire we call beauty. Skin bleaching, eyelid surgery, breast augmentation…some people even think that bleaching their butt-holes is where it’s at.
Every now and again, and it usually happens on the tube, someone will grab my attention. It’s usually a black woman whose skin colour on her face looks unnaturally light and crucially, uneven in tone. The skin colour on her hands will tell a very different story because it will be several shades darker than that of her face. I’ll study this woman surreptitiously, wondering about the disconnect between what she thinks is an improvement to her looks and the reality of patchwork, badly made waxwork she has come to resemble. I’ll try to imagine her story, wonder about the chopped logic that led her to this place. The socio-cultural pressures that demand she should damage herself in this way with creams that contain poisonous mercury that strips a layer of the skin in order to make it fair.
Cathy’s short film tackles the subject in a surreal, high concept way. At first I thought it was some kind of high fashion statement but repeated viewings make links clear: beauty is a commodity. It’s equity, status and inclusivity. And the search for it can kill you.
Society and its Faces from Burrograndeproductions on Vimeo.
A succinct, animated history of that slice of land called Gaza in its relation to Israel and Palestine. As good a place as any to start in trying to wrap your head around how it has come to this horror we are witnessing there right now.
This Land Is Mine from Nina Paley on Vimeo.