Dance and film merged in the inaugural Moving Body–Moving Image Festival on April 7, hosted in Barnard’s Altschul Hall and Atrium.
The one-day short film series focused on themes of social justice, featuring the hybrid art form of ScreenDance, which involves films shot and edited around a choreographed dance performance. The festival paid special attention to the representation of the “brown body.”
The event was curated by Gabri Christa, an assistant professor of professional practice at Barnard. Sponsors of the event included the Athena Film Festival and the Provost’s Office.
Entries came from students and from other festivals, with the requirement that either the choreographer, director, or producer had to be a person of color.
The exhibition opened at noon with an installation by dancer and visual artist Ayo Janeen Jackson. The program consisted of two anthologies of short films separated by a lunch break, followed by a conversation between Oscar-nominated producer Lisa Cortes and Bessie Award-winning dance critic Eva Yaa Asantewaa, and ending with a reception where film professionals and festival-goers were given a chance to mingle.
In addition to the scheduled films, art and film installations ran throughout the day, including “Untamed Space,” directed by Andre Zachary; “V- Formation,” directed by Ella Cooper; and a short virtual reality film called “Rise Above” by directors Benjamin Ross and Brittany Neff. “Rise Above” had previously premiered during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in addition to being one of the official VR selections at the 2017 SXSW festival.
Other notable entries at the festival included “Black Stains,” which won the Jury Award at the ScreenDance Miami festival in 2018. The short film was directed by Tiffany Rhynard and choreographed by Trent Williams. It featured an all-male cast dancing to disrupt stereotypes of masculinity and race in an urban area. Another film of note was “Son Du Serpent,” directed by Tami Ravid. It focused on a man searching for his wife while torn between modern Africa and his ancestors.
New York-based films in the second half of the program included “Elephant,” directed by Connie Chavez, and “We Live This,” directed by James Burns. “Elephant” was choreographed and performed by Keomi Tarver, who danced naked to a poem by Elisabet Velasquez in protest of catcalling. “We Live This” was a short documentary film that followed the story of four young dancers who performed on the New York subway. The documentary was also an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015.
The festival’s uniting thread of commitment to diversity put a spotlight on dance narratives not often seen in the mainstream. The festival is set to return next year and will continue its depiction of diversity in dance and film.