News, Views, Updates and More about the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
FLEFF 2011 Checkpoint Not to be Missed:
Saturday, April 16
Siren of the Tropics
Silent Film/Live Music/Performance
Fe Nunn and Friends, jazz
Cynthia Henderson, performance
A Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival Original Commission
Use your FLEFF pass for admission, or $9.50 for general admission, $8 for students and seniors. Plan to arrive early, as seating is limited.
About the Film
Siren of the Tropics [La sirène des tropiques] ( Henri Étiévant, Mario Nalpas, Portugal, 1927; 86 , min.) The dazzling, extraordinary, riveting, singer and dancer Josephine Baker stars in this film, the first to feature an African American woman as a star. Baker was born in St. Louis but spent most of her life in France. Marquis Sévéro, a rich, lazy Parisian, wants to divorce his wife so that he can marry his own goddaughter Denise. But Denise herself loves André Berval, an engineer employed by the marquis. Filled with jealousy, the marquis sends André to the Antilles, to prospect some land he has just acquired. He promises André that he can marry Denise if he is successful in the tropics, but he then writes to Alvarez, his manager at the site, asking him to prevent André from ever returning to France. The brutal Alvarez forms an instant hatred for André when the engineer breaks up Alvarez's attempt to rape Papitou, a beautiful native girl. Papitou becomes devoted to André, and protects him against Alvarez's schemes. But she faces a crisis herself when she learns that André plans to marry Denise.
About Cynthia Henderson
Cynthia Henderson is an associate professor with Ithaca College’s Department of Theatre Arts. A professional performer for a number of years in the United States, Europe, and Africa, her Ithaca credits include Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hangar Theatre, and Lily in Crumbs from the Table of Joy and Callie in Stop Kiss, both at the Kitchen Theatre. Her New York City credits include A Wrinkle in Time at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts, and Dorothy Dandridge: An Evening of Song and Remembrance, Brother’s Keeper, and It’s Only a Play off Broadway. Her European credits include leading roles in Dreamgirls, Into the Woods, Children of a Lesser God, and Little Shop of Horrors. She was acknowledged by the European Tournament of Plays with a best supporting actress in a musical award for her role in Little Shop of Horrors. African credits include Charlayne in Pretty Fire and a production of For Colored Girls, which she directed. Television credits include a starring role in UPN’s Ghost Stories, as well as numerous commercial and industrial credits. She is also the recipient of a Fulbright award.
About Fe Nunn and Friends
Fe Nunn is a songwriter and composer who lives in Ithaca, New York. He has written music for television and radio commercials, as well as for film. As a pianist, he specializes in jazz and avant-garde musical forms. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, during the powerhouse jazz era there in the 1960s, where he regularly heard John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, and Roland Kirk perform live at the Blue Moon. He wrote the score for the All of Us Project, an initiative to involve the entire community in children’s education. With Jeff Claus and Baruch Whitehead, he helped to launch the Community Unity Music Education Program, a new form of music school. His CDs include We Can Make It (1999) and Precious Moments (2004). He currently teaches media literacy and television production at Boynton Middle School. He and Mike Vitucci, guitarist, have played together for over 25 years. His band, Fe Nunn and Friends, has worked with silent film and live music events, most notably the Within Our Gates project, recently featured in the archival journal Moving Image as an innovative project combining archival research, African American silent film, and live music.
Sound Support: Calf Audio
Producing and Lighting: Insights International
Writer and Researcher: Patricia R. Zimmerman, with Cynthia Henderson and Ann Michel
Funding for this performance of silent film/live music is generously provided by the Park Foundation and Ithaca College.
FLEFF: A Different Environment www.ithaca.edu/fleff
Monday, April 4, 2011
FLEFF boasts some signature events. Well, maybe not for everyone, but they are the ones that are original commissions. And ones that make us feel priveleged to be programmers.
And one of the biggest treats of FLEFF is writing, producing, inventing spoken word, live music and silent film. And collaborating with long-time FLEFFistas.
NOT TO BE MISSED: Siren of the Tropics (France, 1927), starring the dazzling, incredible, black superstar Josephine Baker. With live music by Fe Nunn and Friends and performance by Cynthia Henderson. If this year is like past FLEFF's, our original commissions of live music for silent film almost always sell-out.
So our advice is simple: get to Cinemapolis early, at least 30 minutes before the screening, get in line, grab some food, and talk cinema to whoever you end up next to.
Enter Cynthia Henderson and Fe Nunn
This year, we're excited to be collaborating again with long-time FLEFFistas Cynthia Henderson and Fe Nunn. Cynthia is an equity actress on the Ithaca College Theater Arts faculty. She has a long resume of experience in television, film, Broadway, off -Broadway, Europe, Africa.
Fe Nunn is a jazz pianist with a quartet he's played with for decades called Fe Nunn and Friends. Fe is the longest-running FLEFF silent film/live music collaborator--we started working with him in 2004 on a project exploring African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux's WITHIN OUR GATES.
Cynthia and Fe are some of the best people to work with: they relish the give and take of collaboration, they love to be in a group and brainjam ideas, and they are NOT afraid to tell Annie, Phil, Tom and I when one of our ideas is, well, less than brilliant. We always look forward to rehearsals with them, because we never know where we are going to end up. But we always know it will be somewhere much, much better than we had thought while pounding out emails and writing scripts and thinking abstractly about what music goes with what.
Meet Josephine Baker
This year, we're all collaborating yet again on a very very special project: live music and spoken word/performance for Siren of the Tropics (France, 1927) the first film starring an African American woman.
And that woman was Josephine Baker (she appeared in a previous posting by Tom Shevory, who was lucky enough to speak with her direct from Paris:) )
Josephine Baker was Madonna before Madonna, Beyonce before Beyonce, and one of the most important singers and dancers of the 20th century. But as an African American, she faced racism and hardship. She moved to France. And it was there she became the first black superstar during the age of Paris Noir, in the 1920s.
Here's a sneak preview of part of the spoken word script for Cynthia Henderson, just to give you a taste. But it's NOTHING, trust me, it's NOTHING, without Cynthia's acting moxy and brilliance and Fe Nunn's jazz riffs. You just HAVE to come to the performance--ONE TIME ONLY, Sat, April 16, 7 p.m., Cinemapolis:
Read the Sneak Peak of the Prologue we wrote for the performance ( Patricia Zimmermann and Cynthia Henderson)
So, here’s the deal.
Here we are at the CHECKPOINT.
You and Me.
You and Me and Josephine.
At the checkpoint.
So I do indeed know you. Oh yeah, I know you. I know what you’re thinking.
You’re asking, what’s a checkpoint?
Josephine will tell you.
Checkpoints: crossing over to a different place.
A place you didn’t know.
A place not on one side or the other
but on the checkpoint where it is both and neither.
A checkpoint is a check-in-- and check-out.
Josephine knows. Josephine is a CHECKPOINT.
She was one of the highest paid entertainers in theatrical history.
She was nude. She was clothed.
She was the other and she was the center.
She was fetish and she was fact.
She was a checkpoint.
At Josephine’s funeral, a fan shouted “elle est morte. Elle est immortelle.”
She is dead. She is Immortal.
Elle est morte. Elle est immortale. She is dead. She is immortal.
Covering her funeral in 1975, attended by 7,000, Nice Matin reporter Arlette Sayac observed:
“Josephine didn’t have the petty faults they know about,
the stinginess, the rudeness and sniping.
Her faults were on a grand scale—megalomania, unbridled egotism and wild squandering—faults that are beyond the imagination of le petit bourgeois.
So they only say the good things about Josephine. To them, she was a goddess.”
Check, checkup, checkmate, checkpoint, checked, spot check, checkered, checking, boiling point, border point, match point, point, pointer, pointing, flashpoints—principles of operation and crossings to somewhere else.
Josephine Baker was a checkpoint.
She checked in. She checked out. She crossed over. Checkmate.
Josephine broke all the rules.
Checkpoint. I said, CHECKPOINT. Josephine Baker says CHECKPOINT. Josephine says, cross over to another place that is never one place.
Picasso said, YES, PICASSO SAID “Josephine Baker is the Nefertiti of now.”
Friday, April 1, 2011
FLEFF scored a major coup today, when we received word from her agent, that actor, dancer, and celebrity Josephine Baker would be attending this year's FLEFF. "I've had a long-running interest in FLEFF," declared Ms. Baker, "especially in terms of the festival's expanded definition of 'environment.'"
Ms. Baker was apparently at first quite intrigued that an environmental film festival would screen her classic silent film "Siren of the Tropics." But, upon reflection, she noted that it makes sense "in light of UNESCO's definition of sustainability," which includes references to human rights, gender politics, social justice, and cultural diversity.
She also expressed admiration for the acting skills of Cynthia Henderson ("One of my favorites,") and the jazz performances of Fe Nunn and Friends. "Can't wait to see it," she said. "Death itself could not keep me from this event."
Ms. Baker was not at first certain that she would be able to attend, given her busy schedule, but thought, "April 1st was a perfect day to make the announcement."
Please join Ms. Baker for a screening of Siren of the Tropics, at Cinemapolis, Saturday, April 16, 7:00 p.m., w/ live music performed by Fe Nunn and Friends, and spoken word performed by Cynthia Henderson.