Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Tribeca ’16: Contemporary Color
is surprising the intolerant forces of political correctness have not attacked color
guard competitions yet. After all, the precision drill teams invariably employ
representational rifles. Kids and guns—that ought to be good for a few days of
moral outrage on CNN. Color guard has been justly spared so far. After all, it
has long been the art and sport of high school underdogs. Yet, they found a
maybe-not-so unlikely champion in David Byrne, who organized a ground-breaking
collaboration between of-the-moment recording artists and ten top color guard
teams. The Ross Brothers (Bill and Turner) documented their concert
performances in Contemporary Color, which screens during the
2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
Brooklyn’s Barclay Center is no Madison Square Garden, but it is still a
relatively noteworthy venue. For the ten color guard squads selected, the Byrne
conceived and produced “Contemporary Color” revue would be the triumphant
conclusion to their performing careers. With college looming for the seniors,
this represents the final time many friends will march and twirl together. The
Ross Brothers take that bittersweet theme and run with it.
tempus fugit leitmotif is most pronounced in the Connecticut-based Alter Ego’s collaboration
with composer Nico Mulhy and Ira Glass, whose interviews with the color
guarders supply a revealing interior monologue throughout their performance.
Frankly, it is surprisingly moving. From a dramatic perspective, it comes far
too early in the film, but it serves as a sort of shortcut for the Rosses to
establish the color guard personality types, within a performance framework.
credit, the sibling documentarians capture a sense of inclusive and democratic
nature of color guard. It seems like the entire spectrum of race, class,
gender, orientation, and body shape are welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately,
their ability to convey the scope and grandeur of the routines is rather
spotty. It is rather perverse to suggest, but they might have checked out video
tape of North Korea’s ostentatious propaganda pageants to see how they are
filmed. Lord knows those cameramen have to get it right, or else.
It is always cool to see young people bring such passion and dedication
to their art and craft. It will remind jazz fans of what a great loss the late,
lamented IAJE conference truly was. However, they will also notice the talented
musicians of the Contemporary Color Band get short shrift and practically zero
screen time, even though they seamlessly back-up disparate headliners, such as
Nelly Furtado, Saint Vincent, Lucius, Dev Hynes, and of course Byrne himself.
That is a musician’s life, isn’t it? Still, Contemporary
Color is definitely recommended as sympathetic showcase of a vital but misunderstood
form of Americana culture. It screens again today (4/16), Wednesday (4/20), and
Thursday (4/21), during this year’s Tribeca.
Labels: Documentary, Tribeca '16