Flatlands Dance Film Festival to screen documentary on flamenco dancer, short films

The Flatlands Dance Film Festival will screen the documentary

The Flatlands Dance Film Festival will screen the documentary “La Chana” about a Spanish flamenco dancer on its opening night, Aug. 30. The festival, in its sixth year, also includes a short film competition on Aug. 31 that garnered more than 700 entries.

Courtesy Flatlands Dance Film Festival

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The upcoming Flatlands Dance Film Festival will screen a documentary about a Spanish flamenco dancer and 16 short films submitted for its film competition.

The film festival – hosted by the University of Illinois dance department and in its sixth year – aims to present impactful dance performances on film and promote the role of dance in the community. It’s grown every year, with 712 films from 69 countries submitted this year for its short film competition, up from about 460 submissions last year. The artists who submitted their work range from new to experienced filmmakers.

The short film “Maids” tells the story of a cleaning lady who gets caught up in a murder mystery she is listening to on the radio.

Courtesy Flatlands Dance Film Festival

“There are some really professionally made, award-winning films,” said Laura Chiaramonte, the festival director and a lecturer in dance. “We’re definitely getting our reputation out. Each year it just keeps getting bigger.”

The festival is Aug. 30-31 at Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. each evening, and tickets are available at the door. Tickets cost $10 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors for each night.

The festival will open with “La Chana,” a documentary about a Spanish flamenco dancer who became an international star, stopped performing at the height of her career and made a comeback in her 60s.

The 2016 film was first released in Europe and released in the U.S. in 2018.

“It’s about her comeback and the struggles of being a woman performer at that time,” Chiaramonte said.

The film supports a different dance genre than featured at previous festivals and showcases a female performer. Chiaramonte said she views the flamenco film as an extension of the focus on tap dancing in spring 2019 performances.

“It’s a nice jumping point from that,” Chiaramonte said. “(La Chana) has this amazing sense of rhythm in her body. Flamenco dancers are really musicians, like tap dancers are, in the way they move their bodies and the way they work with musicians.”

Marianela Nuñez, a dancer with The Royal Ballet in London, performs to the music of Nina Simone in “Nela.”

Courtesy Flatlands Dance Film Festival

The 712 films submitted for the short film competition were narrowed to 100 by Mark Rhodes, the assistant director of the film festival who helps organize the short film competition. A three-person committee then chose 16 films to show at the festival. Chiaramonte said the committee aims for a diverse showing in terms of both forms of dance and the countries of origin of the films.

“They can be anything from ballet to hip-hop to contemporary dance, so people can come in and get a feel for or a connection to at least some of the films,” she said.

In one of the films, titled “Maids,” a maid is cleaning a room while listening to an old-fashioned murder mystery on the radio. She gets caught up in the story she’s hearing and embodies the characters of the radio drama.

“It’s a funny, whimsical reaction,” Chiaramonte said. “She goes through this whole story and the story ends on the radio and it has a commercial. It has this witty, funny sense to it. The choreography of it is well done, and it’s all filmed in one shot that goes in a circle around the room.

“A lot of the films we saw had a seriousness to them, a kind of melancholy. We wanted to find some things that weren’t so heavy.”

While “Maids” shows a contemporary dance work, “Nela” is a theatrical ballet in which Marianela Nuñez, a dancer with The Royal Ballet in London, performs to the music of Nina Simone.

“Never Twenty-One” follows a dancer as he confronts social issues in the short film’s urban setting.

Courtesy Flatlands Dance Film Festival

The short film “Never Twenty One” follows a dancer through an urban setting, dealing with violence and racial discrimination. The dancer wears jeans and a hoodie, and when he removes the hoodie, it reveals words related to those issues written on his skin. The film was shot in the Bronx and Manhattan, and it is both a dance and a social fable.

After the short films screenings, the festival will present an award for the festival winner, as selected by the festival adjudicators, and an audience award for a film selected by the audience.

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