This is the first in a projected series of City Odes directed, shot and edited by Sheldon Chau, in collaboration with poet Lilian Mehrel (herself also an award-winning filmmaker), actor Achiaa Prempeh, who helped inspire the text, and composer John Corlis. Here’s the description:
A woman looks for her place in New York City as she contemplates the meaning of the word, “home.”
The City Odes Project is a passion project in which my composer and I will collaborate with a poet and an actor to create a humanist, emotional, and visual story amidst the backdrop of a particularly city. “In Between Words” is the first of many to come, and kicks off this series in the city I currently reside in – New York City. The narrative was birthed out of an eagerness to collaborate with Achiaa, my actress, who now lives in New York and is originally from Ghana. In speaking with her, I decided to pursue a story about someone searching for home; a woman who is figuring out if NYC is the place for her, who is coming to terms that she is 5,000 miles away from her original home in West Africa, and thus easing out tensions with her mother, who of course wants her to return. The final result here features the work of Lilian Mehrel – a fellow filmmaker and classmate of mine back at NYU Grad Film school – who captures these feelings through her words, and my frequent collaborator John Corlis – an LA-based musician and composer – who complements the poetry with his mixture of piano and strings.
Please, enjoy this short poetry video and my ode to New York City.
Go to Vimeo for the complete credits and text.
Australian filmmaker Jutta Pryor (film and sound production) collaborated with Romanian American poet Claudia Serea (text and voice). There’s also a version without the titling, but I think this one’s better for savoring the poem’s unusual vocabulary: the etymology of “moth,” plus some of the more bizarre names of actual moth species.
To me, though, the most impressive thing about this filmpoem is its successful use of pretty literal imagery—footage of a moth—without in any way seeming to reduce or pin down the text. If anything, I think it leaves it more open. Why this succeeds, when so many similar efforts by lesser filmmakers fail, I’m not entirely sure. I love how the camera seems to adopt a moth’s erratic flight toward the end.
Snippets of interview are interspersed with poems in this wonderful portrait by Morgan Potts of the poet and educator Tyree Daye, who appears equally at home in the classroom and the North Carolina landscape. The poems are from his collection River Hymns, winner of the 2017 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. Though this may resemble a book trailer, it’s actually a public television spot, aired on PBS station UNCTV back in February.
the founder and Executive Producer of Visible Poetry Project. Michelle is currently based in Brooklyn, NY, where she writes screenplays, essays, and poetry. She directs and produces both short and long-form films and web series. She graduated from Columbia University, where she studied English.
“Threshold” is the opening poem in Vuong’s debut collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds, which has won the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, among other honors.