By Jessi Smith
Anticipation is building rapidly in the final days leading up to the fourth annual Ringling International Arts Festival, which kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 10 and continues through the weekend in venues throughout the John and Mable Ringling Estate. The first-time inclusion of film to RIAF’s lineup ensures that this year’s festival will be more exciting and accessible than ever before, and with tickets to film screenings priced at just $10, seats are filling up quickly.
In previous years, film was excluded from the festival, which focused solely on the performing arts of dance, music and theatre. This year, however, RIAF will bridge the gap between the stage and the screen by featuring four films — three of which are thematically centered on the art of dance.
Park Avenue Armory Event: A Merce Cunningham Dance Co. Film is one of the three documentary films featured at this year’s festival. The 90-minute film showcases the historic final performances from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Legacy Tour, a year-long international tour that celebrated the vibrant life and work of the late choreographer from whom the company derives its name.
Shortly after Cunningham passed away at 90 years old in 2009, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company embarked on a farewell tour that concluded in 2011 with six monumental, sold-out concerts at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.
These iconic concerts were immortalized by 18 different cameras that recorded the dancers performing on the three stages in the massive armory space. Due to this attention to detail, the final film cut (curated by former dancer, Robert Winston) provides viewers with the sense of actually being present for those historical performances.
Paired with the Park Avenue Armory Event screening is The Labyrinth Within, a 30-minute psychological drama/dance film by Swedish director, dancer and choreographer, Pontus Lidberg.
Lidberg, who dances in the film, is joined by New York Ballet principal, Wendy Whelan, and dancer, Giovanni Bucchieri, in a series of pas de deux that explore themes of jealousy and lust in a dark and complicated love triangle between a husband, his wife and her secret lover — who may or may not be imaginary.
“The story is a theme that’s very interesting to me, this fine line of our imagined reality, which doesn’t have to be elaborate fantasy, just missed interpretations colored by our past. We tend to forget that how we perceive things is not objective,” Lidberg said of The Labyrinth Within in a Sept. 21 article featured in Arts Sarasota.
Unlike the stage performances at this year’s RIAF, each film will only be screened once during the festival and thus tickets are in particularly high demand. In fact, in the case of RIAF 2012’s third dance-related film, Carmen and Geoffrey, tickets have already sold out.
The fourth and final film to be screened at the Ringling International Arts Festival, Joseph Brodsky: In the Prison of Latitudes, departs from the dance theme and turns its lens on one of the most controversial and influential writers of the 21st century, Joseph Brodsky.
Brodsky, who was born in Soviet Russia in 1940, was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972 for his “pornographic and anti-Soviet” poetry. After settling in the United States, Brodsky would later go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1987 and be appointed United States Poet Laureate in 1991, prior to his untimely death at 55 years old.
Utah-based filmmaker, Jan Andrews, compiled footage shot in Brodsky’s hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia. In the documentary, she combined this footage with audio recordings of the poet reading his own work and interviews with his contemporaries and the academics who study his life and poetry. The result is a visually and emotionally-engaging film that not only pays homage to the biographical details of Brodsky’s complicated life, but provides insight into the inspiration for his work and his social legacy.
“[I decided to make the film] right after 9/11 when the Patriot Act was going into effect, which I find alarming in a country that embraces freedom. Brodsky’s story — his arrest and expulsion from Soviet Russia, a country that felt threatened by his poetry —seemed so timely and revelatory of what our country should avoid,” Andrews said in an exclusive interview with RIAF last month.
Joseph Brodsky: In the Prison of Latitudes screens at RIAF on Friday, Oct. 12 at 2pm in the Historic Asolo Theatre. Park Avenue Armory Event and The Labyrinth Within screen on Saturday, Oct. 13 at 5pm in the Mertz Theatre.
Tickets for Joseph Brodsky: In the Prison of Latitudes and the double-screening of Park Avenue Armory Event and The Labyrinth Within are still on sale this week for just $10. To get your tickets, visit the online box office or call 941-360-7399.