Photography’s influence on contemporary art and society, and its use in multimedia storytelling, are on display this year at the Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier program, which emphasizes “transmedia” storytelling.
The film festival founded by Robert Redford, which opens today in Park City, Utah, and runs through January 26, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014.
“New Frontier champions films that expand, experiment with, and explode traditional storytelling,” said a statement from the organizers. Participating filmmakers have created interactive photography installations that accompany their films, and have produced documentaries on photographic history and the significance of the medium. One photographer, Michel Comte, is making his directorial debut with a 3-D feature film adaptation of the Puccini opera “Madame Butterfly.”
In his film “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” director Thomas Allen Harris considers the history of African-American photography and its role in African American life and identity.
In addition to the film, Allen Harris is presenting a companion installation, “Digital Diaspora Family Reunion,” “a traveling roadshow that engages local communities to bring forth their family photographs and share them with others, and upload them into a database that re-imagines the social network through family photography and family heirloom photographs,” says Shari Frilot, Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer and curator of the New Frontier exhibition. Images from the project are showing in a New Frontier exhibition.
Another photo-based art installation, “My 52 Tuesdays,” by Artists Sophie Hyde, Sam Haren and Dan Koerner, is a companion piece to the film “52 Tuesdays,” which is in the World Dramatic program at the festival, follows a year in the life of teenage girl and her mother as the latter goes through a gender transition to become a man. The installation is a photo booth, where participants can go in and sign up to create their own yearlong personal documentary through photography. “Every Tuesday you will be sent a question that creates space to reflect on how you make choices, how you’re living your life, and you take a photograph of yourself,” Frilot explains. At the end of the year, participants will have an album of their year.
Photographer Michel Comte’s directorial debut, “The Girl from Nagasaki,” is a feature film adaptation of “Madame Butterfly” set in Nagasaki, Japan. during World War II and its aftermath. The 3-D film follows its main character as she emerges from the ashes of the atomic bomb dropped on the city. “He definitely brings a photographic sensibility [to the film],” Frilot says. “It’s a visually stunning work.”
Another artwork, Doug Aitken’s video installation, The Source, an evolving series of conversations about artmaking in the 21st century, includes photographers Stephen Shore and William Eggleston.
Finally, photographers are likely to be fascinated by artist James Nares’ work “Street.” Using a Phantom Flex HD camera, Nares slows down the frantic pace of a New York City streets to create a video installation that is “very simple and elegant and absolutely mesmerizing,” Frilot says. “You feel like you are watching a photograph of the streets in motion.”