Friday, March 20, 2015

The 2015 Freep Film Festival and A Closer Look at "N'kisi Concorde"

Last night the second annual Freep Film Festival kicked off in Detroit. The event, put on by the Free Press, features several documentaries all with a tie to Detroit. The film screenings will take place throughout Detroit, but mainly at the DIA and The Fillmore.

There are a ton of great films being shown at this festival, with subjects ranging from the Fire Department to Funny or Die to The Black Panthers. You can see a full list of films here. One that caught our eye is a film entitled N’kisi Concorde. It tells the story of two artists in Detroit who might be considered unconventional to some. The one is the man behind Dmytro's Sculpture, also known as Hamtramck's Disneyland, and the other is the man behind the African Bead Museum. It will be shown this Saturday, March 21st at 1:30 p.m. at the Marvin and Betty Danto Lecture Hall at the Detroit Institute of Arts. You can check out the trailer for the documentary below.

We caught up with the creators of the N'kisi Concorde, Nikki Sass and Brittin Richter, to find out more about the film, the duo behind it, and the upcoming screening.
Photo Borrowed from N'kisi Concorde's Facebook Page
HID- What is your role in the making of this film?
Nikki- "I’m the director and editor."
Brittin- "I’m the director of photography and executive producer. I push buttons on cameras and pay for stuff."

HID- What does the name mean?
Brittin- "We wanted both of our artists to be represented by the name. A n’kisi is an African power object that was used to communicate with the dead. They are used to do things like remove negativity, promote positivity and success. Dabls built one in the sculpture garden. Dmytro has a Concorde plane in his backyard. Combining N’kisi and Concorde represented for us our two artists and their vehicles of positivity."

HID- Tell us about the film.
Nikki- "The film follows the constant change happening within Dabls and Dmytro installations over the course of a year. It’s told chronologically with emphasis on the seasons and how they affect their work.

I wanted to focus on Detroit artists who had been making work here for decades, making art directly for the surrounding neighborhood, going back into the late 80s/early 90s up until now. And, in Dmytro’s a case, for whatever reason just hadn't gotten the attention he deserved."

HID- What was your favorite part about making this film?
Nikki- "After being out in the cold shooting, or hearing a great story during an interview and coming home and watching the footage for the first time. There’s a bit of anxiety when you’re recording everything that comes from worrying about technical things - is the sound okay, is there enough light, is there something embarrassing in the background of the shot? When you get back to the studio and actually watch the material you captured and you still get goosebumps or feel a particular piece of wisdom that was communicated - that’s rad. I loved having almost everyone who participated over to our loft to watch it."

HID- You guys have received some pretty awesome recognition for "N’kisi Concorde"! Did actually get to go to the Bahamas International Film Festival along with the other festivals you were recognized by? Do you have plans to enter other festivals?
Brittin- "For sure! The BIFF was actually the first festival we got accepted for and when a fest like that is your world premier you have to go! Leslie Vanderpool is the mastermind behind that festival and showed us an awesome time and we met a lot of really amazing filmmakers there. I went to the Cinema on the Bayou festival in Louisiana recently and saw a bunch of other amazing films about representing your cultural roots in a constantly homogenizing world. We unfortunately didn't make it to the Netherlands for DocFeed but were psyched to have our European premier there none the less."

HID-  How did you get into film making?
Brittin- "Both of my parents actually worked in film during my childhood so I was doomed from the beginning. Nikki and I met working on a kids TV show which was the start of her foray into film world."

HID- What is your favorite project you have ever worked on?
Brittin- "I directed a trippy music video for experimental electronic duo CPU/GOD two years ago which was awesome. I sent a really far out treatment to Andrew Grathwohl (one of the music wizards in the group) that was recorded in apple text to speech robot voice and he was just like “This all sounds great. Do it just like that”. A lot of times when you’re making work for somebody else's project you don’t get a lot of creative freedom and CPU/GOD was just like “This is nuts, do exactly what you want.”"
Nikki- "N'kisi, we've met a lot of friends through making it."

HID- If you could tell someone that has never worked on a film or in the film industry before one thing about what goes into making any sort of film or movie, what would it be?
Brittin- "There are a lot of moving parts to every film production and they all have to work together or the whole thing doesn't work which is frustrating, but it’s also kind of what lends itself to the whole movie magic side of things. Particularly with a documentary like this a lot of the stuff that ended up being important came up very unexpectedly so you have to be patient because holy shit this stuff takes forever."
Nikki- "On larger movies everything is planned by someone, down to the graphics on the cereal box in the background or the time on an actor's watch. There are so many layers of detail. The difference with a lot of documentaries is that it's at times important to embrace the chaos."

HID- What's next for you? Any upcoming projects in the works?
Brittin- "Hopefully after this film this weekend we’re going to scout some locations for a short about a blind, homeless wizard that we’re going to try to shoot this summer. We both moved to Atlanta recently so we’re still kind of getting settled there. I directed a music video for the first time in awhile a few weeks ago so I’m trying to get back into that groove." [The aforementioned music video is for Detroit's own Axe Ripper - Art of Misery. Check it out here.]
Nikki- "I'm pumped about our upcoming short. I finished drawing the storyboards and am starting to build on the look I'd like it to have. We're also working on making our new apartment cool. Later this year I want to direct a music video for a good friend of mine."

HID- Why should people come out to your screening at the Freep Film Festival on Saturday?
Brittin- "People should come out to see the cinematic portrayal of these OG folk art masters. These works are constantly changing and this film is a great way to see all of the subtle changes that happen week by week compressed into a year long waterfall of outsider art."

HID- Anything else you would like to add?
Brittin & Nikki- "Thanks for talking to us about our movie! We’re looking forward to seeing everybody there!"

If you would like to attend the Freep Film Festival's screening of N’kisi Concorde tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance here. For a full list of films being shown at the Freep Film Festival, as well as screening times and ticket sales, click here. The 2015 Freep Film Festival runs through Sunday, March 22nd.


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