Wednesday, May 19, 2021

2021 Films: Big Touch

Big Touch by Christopher Tenzis
Los Angeles (Milwaukee Premiere)
Running Time: 3 minutes
Screening Time: TBA

An Afro-Surrealist story about a giant woman and a tiny man who through the power of touch, experience an unexpected transformation.






Director Bio:

Christopher Tenzis is a filmmaker from Chicago, IL where he started as an intern at Kartemquin Films during the completion of Hoop Dreams (Fine Line Features). He studied at the British Film Institute, the London International Film School and The American Film Institute Conservatory. While in Chicago, he received the Build Illinois Filmmakers Grant after the completion of his feature, Some Guys, which premiered at The Chicago Underground Film Festival. He was an editor at Will Vinton Studios on the animated series The PJs (Warner Bros.) and Gary & Mike (UPN) and is currently with Sony Pictures on the HBO MAX animated series, The Boondocks. His own films have played on PBS, SXSW, The London International Film Festival, The Portland Queer Film Festival and his film A Man & His Pants (2001) won the Audience Award at The NW Film & Video Festival. His recent films as editor have been Cactus Blossom (2019), which premiered at AFI Fest and was the recipient of a student DGA Award and Elle (2019) which premiered at the 2020 Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival winning the Grand Prize for New Voices, New Perspectives by Women in Film.

Director Statement:

Anybody who knows me knows that the only subjects that interest me are touch, intimacy and love. Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like "struggle", To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now – and to go on caring even through times that may bring us pain.

I grew up with a family that touched. When there was a shared laugh, it was met with a hand on the arm or leg. When there was miscommunication during an argument, it was met with the same touch. Successes and failures were met equally with a hug. No matter if the other person's emotion was hurt or joy, the same touch applied because touch was a way to communicate empathy, a shortcut to say, "I feel you."

We all carry our suffering with us all the time. Sometimes our painful feelings are so loud that we cannot hear the joyful feelings which we also carry with us all the time. But that circuit can be broken, if temporarily, by another person's touch which reminds us that we are not alone.

Big Touch is an expression of that relief.

Inspired by the hyperrealist artist Ron Mueck, whose sculptures are often of people suspended in internal pain and frequently either gigantic, towering over the viewer, or so small they must be placed on a pedestal to be seen. I asked myself, what if one of Mueck's large and sad people touched a smaller one? Would they feel relief? Further still, what if their size differentiation was actually the physical manifestation of their suffering? What if when they touched, they not only felt relief, but their physical sizes equalized?

In this sense, Big Touch is kindred with the recent Afro-Surrealism movement coming from artists like Boots Riley and Hiro Murai (director of music videos This is America, Black Man in a White World, etc.). From D. Scot Miller’s manifesto, “Afro-Surrealism is about the present. There is no need for tomorrow’s-tongue speculation about the future. Concentration camps, bombed-out cities, famines, and enforced sterilization have already happened. To the Afro-Surrealist, the Tasers are here. The Four Horsemen rode through too long ago to recall.”

This is what makes Big Touch magic. It’s all happened. All that matters now is transformation. 2020 will be remembered as a time of global suffering during which touch became a risk. Big Touch presciently addresses the importance of transformation through empathy, through touch, by having the courage to say, “I feel you.”

Some cool things about the artists involved with the film:

The music is performed by 19-year old Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who was the first artist of color to win the BBC Young Musician Award since the competition's inception in 1978. After his win, he famously performed at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding and was signed by Decca Classics.

The "tiny man" is played by Ray Ejiofor who is a dancer in Los Angeles and co-founder of the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble. He's danced for Katy Perry, Sia, Pharrell Williams, Dua Lipa, Little Boots, 30 Seconds to Mars, Gerard Way, The Acid, Moullinex, Fitz and the Tantrums and Daft Punk. He initially studied at Carnegie Mellon graduating with a BS in Decision Science and Engineering Studies and Technology, then recieved a Masters in Public Health Policy from USC and was a recipient of the Gates Millennium Fellowship.

The lead is Astra Marie. She's gonna be a star. I found her on Instagram (@funkychunkyy), pitched her the premise and she started sobbing, "That's me! You just described me. I have to do this film." We met, I fell in love with her and you will too. This is her first film.


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