J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, May 31, 2013

DWF ’13: Kumpania Flamenco Los Angeles

Maybe there’s yet still hope for Los Angeles.  The city is home to a small but vibrant flamenco scene.  Of course, nobody is making much money—quite the contrary.  The musicians, vocalists, and dancers all simply share a passion for the music.  Katina Dunn documents their musical camaraderie in Kumpanía Flamenco Los Angeles (trailer here), which screens this afternoon during the “Sweet Sixteen” edition of Dances With Films.

Flamenco originated in the tightly knit Roma community of Seventeenth Century Spain.  Musicians and dancers from other cultures have been drawn to the music, but according to one vocalist, only Spaniards can sing Flamenco with the right accent.  Yes, he happens to be a Spanish expat.  Regardless of authenticity issues, the Los Angeles Flamenco community is distinctly diverse.  Many local Hispanic musicians have adopted the music as their own, including Joey Heredia, a professional drummer comfortable crossing stylistic lines, whose impressive credits include work with Tania Maria, Poncho Sanchez, and Diane Reeves.

Japanese artists are also well represented in KFLA.  Kyoto native Jose Tanaka is not just a leading guitarrista and composer, but clearly serves as a leader holding the community together.  However, if one star truly emerges from the film, it would have to be Bailaora (dancer) Mizuho Sato.  A striking performer with flawless technique, her sequences will hold viewers spellbound.  She also provides real insight into the Flamenco aesthetic, especially when explaining how the demur nature of the presentation is part of what makes it all smolder.

Dunn nicely conveys the scene’s vibe and gives interested viewers an easy starting point to check out the assembled artists live—namely, the Fountain Theatre.  Her selective but clever use of archival footage adds fitting context as well.  She does right by the music, which is the most important thing.

While not reaching the lofty heights of Fernando Trueba’s Calle 54 (the true gold standard of music performance docs), KFLA is still quite a dynamic and engaging film.  At just a whisker over an hour, it will leave most viewers wanting more.  Appealing to the eyes and ears, Kumpanía Flamenco Los Angeles is recommended for general audiences when it screens this afternoon (5/31) as part of the 2013 edition of Dances With Films, in Hollywood, California.

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