Juxtaposing movements

Darren Johnson

Darren Johnson  

Director Darren Johnson on his documentary on Ananya Dance Theatre

“In Our Bodies Live Our Stories” a documentary, which captures excerpts from Ananya Dance Theatre’s performances over many years, against candid conversations of their journey and philosophy, was shown at the India Habitat Centre as a part of Aavejak Avaaz festival recently. The film embodies the joy, struggle, and resilience of women from global communities of colour, articulating social justice through a distinctive language of Contemporary Indian Dance. Here director Darren Johnson talks about common grounds in filmmaking and dance, creative use of space and time in editing and making a dance film.


What intrigued you to make dance films?

I was into intellectual cinema f filmmakers like Bergman and one day my teacher took me to a dance class and asked me to observe. That inspired me a lot. After college, I started going to dances and making short films.

How did the form of documentary evolve in that journey?

The form was evolving organically as I started editing it. Initially, it was very poetic but a lot of people who are not associated with dance cannot have any idea about the performances unless they know about the performers and the dance. So I have gone into the history and the making of the group through interviews.

What are the common grounds in dance and filmmaking?

I don't dance so that is a foreign language for me to understand and to pick up. I think it is the motion. For me, it was a challenge to move the camera with the movement of the body.

How was the shooting process?

We used to shoot with a couple of cameras. It is challenging to shoot such stuff as while you are watching it, you are watching it in a wide angle where everything is in focus but taking the whole thing and putting that into a box is a difficult thing. The magic of cinema comes when you go close to the mudra and the facial expressions as you cannot see that while you are sitting in the audience.

Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov said it is possible to manipulate space and time by editing. That was quite evident in the film...

When you are putting things together and getting closer to the final thing, you start realising the form. For me, the editing process is an organic process and that builds on itself. Sometimes a shot from a different performance is layered to the other and sometimes it has the straight cut instead of the dissolve.

You do not use the usual tropes and convention of documentary filmmaking?

The first cut, which had a few performance footages and talking heads, was very well received by the audience and the local community as it was in traditional documentary form but I specifically didn't want to do that. People may not like what I am experimenting and it can become a harmful process but I do not want to fall into the mainstream trap.

What is your understanding of the arts?

It is expressing yourself and understanding your world in your way and helping others to do the same.

How was it to work with female artistes and making film on their understanding of arts?

I did not want to impose my perspective and I tried to understand more through their perspective.


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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 9:28:21 AM |

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