Dance Camera West Film Festival Meets the Moment


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When Dance Camera West (DCW) launched two decades ago, the idea of a festival dedicated to the global genre of dance film was an inventive one. Dominated by straightforward, if surprising, documentary and static, if sophisticated, documentation bringing the best of these films together helped solidify and elevate the creative potential of the medium. Twenty years on, interdisciplinary collaboration, process-based experimentation, accessible technology, and reimagined boundaries are the qualities of the cultural moment — and DCW is still here for it.

The 2022 iteration happens at two Los Angeles venues and online across two weekends beginning March 24, screening the 75 films selected from over 400 submissions (a festival record) in a series of curated feature and shorts programs — the 20th anniversary is the perfect time to take stock of what has changed, and what has stayed steady.

“The leadership has been a series of committed women who also had changing lives of their own to navigate,” says Festival Director Kelly Hargraves — an original founder who went on hiatus and has since returned, and is committed to DCW being a vehicle for inclusivity, collaboration, and material financial support. As she tells L.A. Weekly, “We do this for the artists.”

One big thing that has changed is that according to Hargraves, DCW is seeing far more American and specifically Los Angeles films than ever before. It’s a little counterintuitive; one might think a local festival would grow to become global but, in fact, it’s been the opposite. “One big factor is that we increased our local funding program, and within that we focused on BIPOC and underrepresented artists,” says Hargraves. “The genre used to be mainly rich white European men, and that’s changing, partly because the world is changing and partly by our intention.”

Hargraves works with a selection and awards committee and a cohort of mentors (Cara Hagan, Robin Gee, Roma Flowers and Yolanda Guadarrama) in the development and funding fellowship program who hail from around the country. All women, diverse in ethnicity, age and experience, they are professors, artists and festival directors themselves, and they are forward-looking about representation in the ranks of the creators of these films as well as in the stories those films tell. At this year’s festival, the six films produced by the recipients of the DCW Finishing Fund for Underrepresented Filmmakers (funded by the National Endowment for the Arts) will finally meet their audience.

Truthfully, there are myriad ways in which dance film has the potential for inclusiveness — for example, with specific regard to age, injury and other kinds of physical challenges. “You can create an impossible world of movement in film,” says Hargraves. “It’s very different from a stage performance,” and that opens up a whole universe of ways for dancers and other artists and craftspeople to participate in the vision. “It’s truly a surrealist art form,” she says, “and yes, there are some fantastic documentaries, but there’s a lot more of that poetic cinema, of making room for improv and discovery in a way that’s not typically what filmmaking is.”

Dance Camera West Official Trailer:

 

The festival opens on Thursday, March 24 at 2220 Arts & Archives with the premiere of the documentary “Ink & Linda,” chronicling the unique intergenerational collaboration between L.A. street artist Inksap and “grand dame of improv,” Linda Lack; followed by an International Shorts program with works from Canada, U.S., Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Iran, Ireland, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, United Kingdom. All films are Los Angeles premieres, with many world and North American premieres.

Friday, March 25 features the “Undanced Dances Through Prison Walls During a Pandemic,” directed by Suchi Bronfman and Tom Tsai, six dances written inside Norco Prison during the Covid lockdown, by 12 formerly incarcerated and “free world” dance artists conversing on dance and choreography in carceral spaces; again followed by an international shorts program.

Saturday, March 26 highlights include an afternoon of documentaries and stage adaptations, including a family friendly program, and in the evening the world premiere screenings of the DCW Finishing Fund films — works by Letxia Cordova, Marquisa Gardner, Irishia Hubbard, Alyssa Junious, Austyn Rich, and RouRou Ye. March 27 is the all-day streaming program; and Thursday, March 31 to Saturday, April 2, Théâtre Raymond Kabbaz screens curated programs and festival award-winners.

Across the 75 films, about 25 of which as finalists and winners will go on to the touring and Ovid TV screening distribution network, Hargraves is most excited about the depth of creative intersections and conversations. “There’s a true exchange,” she recognizes. “From the very consciously high art,” to the exploration of more disruptive, expansive, DIY visions. “It’s all about the artists.”

Tickets: $15/night; $75/weekend; $100 full two-weekend pass. For more information on the artists, programs and events, visit dancecamerawest.org.

Dance Camera West 2022

LA Weekly