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February 18

Meditations and Improvisations: Robert Fenz and Leo Smith

The HFA is pleased to welcome avant-garde composer and musician Wadada Leo Smith and experimental filmmaker Robert Fenz for a rare live performance of Fenz's celebrated five-part film Meditations on Revolution. Smith's trumpet performance is not a mere accompaniment to Fenz's film but rather an attempt by the artists to create a "space" that grows out of the combination of disciplines, with neither sound nor image subjugated.

Wadada Leo Smith is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and master improvisationalist whose forty-year career has included performances and recordings with legendary musicians Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, Jack Dejohnette and Cecil Taylor. An influential composer and teacher of African American Improvisation at Cal Arts, Smith is also known for his work developing a unique music notation system and compositional theory known as "Ankhrasmation."

Robert Fenz is among the more exciting and original young filmmakers working in and against the avant-garde tradition today. He shoots principally in black and white 16mm. Fenz's films have a rare energy and restless beauty that recalls both the jazz-inspired imagery of New York School photographers such as Roy DeCarava and Aaron Siskin and the landscape films of Fenz's former teacher, Peter Hutton. An inveterate traveler, Fenz has made films in Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and, more recently, India and France. He has also worked as a cinematographer on several films including Chantal Akerman's Là-Bas and From the Other Side. He is currently working on an ambitious film that engages the cinematic legacy of pioneering documentarian and HFA founder, Robert Gardner.

Film notes adapted from text by Jennette Montalvo. Special support provided by the Academy Foundation of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Special Event Tickets $10
Monday February 18 at 7pm


Directed by Robert Fenz, Appearing in Person with Musician Wadada Leo Smith
US 2006/07, 16mm, color, 10 min.

Made while he was shooting Akerman's Là-Bas, Fenz offers a vision of the US – Mexico border as a kinetic and disorienting fault line, an abstract force field suspended between the two nations.

Meditations on Revolution, Parts I – V

Filmed over seven years, the chapters of Meditations on Revolution explore the basic theme of revolution in its purest definition: the radical transformation of a subject from one state to another, and the various forms that transformation can take.

Meditations on Revolution, Part I: Lonely Planet

Directed by Robert Fenz, Appearing in Person
US/Mexico 1997, 16mm, b/w, silent, 12 min.

A cine-poem of languid beauty with powerful observations of Cuban life captured in active street scenes and intimate portraiture. Shot in Central and Old Havanas, without parade or polemics, Fenz finds revolution in the tenacious stealth of a populace trapped by a proud past, in flux towards an unknown future.


Meditations on Revolution, Part II: The Space in Between

Directed by Robert Fenz, Appearing in Person
US/Brazil 1997, 16mm, b/w, silent, 8 min.

Inspired by a meeting with Brasilia architect Oscar Niemeyer, Fenz's vision of a favela neighborhood in Rocinha, Latin America's largest permanent shanty town, is a metaphor for revolution abandoned. Frequent technical problems in-camera remain as chosen moments wherein this invisible community "comes to light" in brilliant wash-outs and fade-ins, illuminating the restless energy of residents in unnervingly improvised living spaces.

Meditations on Revolution, Part III: Soledad

Directed by Robert Fenz, Appearing in Person
US/Mexico 2001, 16mm, b/w, silent, 14 min.

History and its relationship to the present are contemplated through everyday events intertwined with fragments of Mexican tradition.

Meditations on Revolution, Part IV: Greenville, MS

Directed by Robert Fenz, Appearing in Person
US 2003, 16mm, b/w, silent, 29 min.

A study of a boxer in ritual, ceremonious training. The act of training comes to symbolize the revolution a single person can make of his life and an attempt to transform the conditions of those around him; the boxer is a selfprofessed former delinquent who founded a gym for his community's youth.

Meditations on Revolution, Part V: Foreign City

Directed by Robert Fenz, Appearing in Person
US 2003, 16mm, b/w, silent, 32 min.

The final film in the series is the most unique in form and content. Dedicated to (and heavily influenced in tone by the death of) the filmmaker's father, this moody urban piece surveys an expressionistic New York City at dusk and night. At the film's center is aged artist-musician Marion Brown whose proud, fatigued monologue fuses with haunting imagery of an alienating landscape.

audio from evening Listen to this evening's introduction and Q&A.

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