photo by Johanna Austin
photo by Johanna Austin

Review: Trans(m)it: An International Film Festival

by Alex Strine for The Dance Journal

If you saw my preview of the online component to Trans(m)it: An International Film Festival, you may recall my complete awe at the fact that such a program even existed. This is a collaborative put together by people who communicate almost entirely online, and yet have built both performances and now this unique festival. The full Trans(m)it program featured films from five continents and ten countries. Not bad for three people with only a bit of broadband between them.

First we were treated to an excellent online program, which I’m told will be re-opened again this coming week, so if you missed it you have a chance to catch it again. Second was the live screening of the “Best Of” program screened at the Iron Factory.

If you have never been to the Iron Factory, I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for upcoming programs. The Iron Factory is a hole-in-the-wall of a venue, hidden away in what’s little more than an alley off of Front Street in Kensington. It’s the top floor of an old iron factory, and your first reaction upon entering is likely to be confusion as to why anyone would want to stage anything there. But you’ll come to find it’s an intimate space, and the old feel of the building, complete with chipped paint and exposed brick, gives a warm, homegrown atmosphere to the whole affair. This was my first time at the Iron Factory, and it has my interest piqued for future performances (I’m especially curious to hear what live music sounds like in there).

The films in the “Best Of” program were perhaps the most eclectic selection of the whole festival, being a strong mix of narrative, experimental, and performance pieces. Everything on display here epitomized its style in the best possible way. The experimental films were very experimental, while the more narrative films pushed the boundaries of movement based stories.

Some of the films, like Kayla Parker’s Heaven is a Place, were incredibly complex and demanded a high level of engagement to understand what is being said. Heaven is a long and sprawling piece comprised of multiple sections following a diverse cast of characters in Plymouth, England. Other films like Blake Horn’s In Between are incredibly emotional and will pull you in by connecting you with their character’s actions.

Dollar by The Lady Hoofers is a great film I’ve reviewed at length previously, but it bears noting that it gets stronger after repeat viewings. The theme of social classes among women was clear, and the tap dancing was superb. Dollar may have been the only tap dancing film of the whole festival, so its appearance here was a welcome change of pace and energy.

My preview of the festival highlighted Christa Boarini and Alexander Gabrielli’s Evoke as a standout, and it shines even in the tough competition of the “Best of” program. Nicola Hepp’s Songs of the Underworld may be my other favorite because it showed a simple concept executed solely through movement and the most subtle use of costume. It’s less designed than something like Evoke, which presents its idea in a way that leaves little room for open interpretation. Underworld too leaves a clear and lasting impression, but has a freewheeling approach to telling its narrative.

Project Trans(m)it is preparing another phase of their long term project at the end of summer, and I for one will be keeping track of their progress. Combining art and technology is still mostly unexplored territory, but so far Trans(m)it seems to know where they’re going.

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