An excerpt from a 30-minute film by Lisa DeLillo with poetry by expatriate Burmese writer Kyi May Kaung. There’s also a second excerpt on YouTube, which includes a prose intro on Burmese politics and censorship, but I preferred this selection for its striking scenes of puppets and dancers miming puppets.
The full-length film was made in 2001, and DeLillo’s website quotes a review by Art Jones from Shout magazine:
To get at what’s real, “Tongues” focuses on that which can’t be subjugated. Social indictments sprout from the small, personal anecdotes of student leaders. The savaging of national character unfolds in the words of noted poet Kyi May Kaung, now a producer with Radio Free Asia. The horrors of “freedom lost” find voice in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and repeated recipient of Burmese house arrest. Yet most irrepressible are “Tongues” images of Burmese rivers. The water providing life is the same water choked with the blood of civilian casualties, water that DiLillo uses as a constant mirror of all the regime would like hidden.
Lucille Clifton in a 1990 public reading, worth watching not just for the excellent reading but for the lengthy introduction as well.
“An experimental video based on a Marianne Moore poem,” says Erik Carlson. The voice is that of the poet. I think the video really gets inside the modernist worldview, so to me it’s a good match.
The poem should be public domain now, I believe, so here’s the text:
through black jade.
Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps
adjusting the ash-heaps;
opening and shutting itself like
The barnacles which encrust the side
of the wave, cannot hide
there for the submerged shafts of the
split like spun
glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness
into the crevices —
in and out, illuminating
of bodies. The water drives a wedge
of iron throught the iron edge
of the cliff; whereupon the stars,
bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green
lilies, and submarine
toadstools, slide each on the other.
marks of abuse are present on this
defiant edifice —
all the physical features of
cident — lack
of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and
hatchet strokes, these things stand
out on it; the chasm-side is
evidence has proved that it can live
on what can not revive
its youth. The sea grows old in it.
Goethe’s poem of gothic horror has haunted me most of my life. As a child I found the poem in a collection of books at an estate auction. I read it over and over, fascinated by this idea of the fairy realm as dark and ugly, something sinister that we should fear – not the glamour and sparkle of modern fairy tales. A warning about things that haunt old woods and black forests.
The bits and pieces, techniques and layers used to create this film are many. Dozens of forms of manipulation have been brought together, from animation to live action, from drawings to rotoscoping. This is my homage to Starewicz, Svankmajer, and the Quays – their dark dreams have inspired my nightmares, have given birth to a generation who see the eyes in the forest and know that all that is fairy is not light.
“A North and South Indian classical dancer collaborate to evoke love, loss, and the slippery relationships between self, friend, and lover, in this contemporary abhinaya (emotional expression) piece loosely inspired by a poem by the 17th century Telegu poet, Ksetrayya,” says the blurb on the Vimeo page. Since I’ve featured a number of other dance pieces here, I thought I’d add this one to the mix. The poem quote goes by rather quickly in the video, so here it is again:
I wore myself out watching the road.
Counting the moons, I grieved,
Holding back a love I could not hold.
Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken by 95 million people in the state of Andhra Pradesh and adjacent areas of south India. Kshetrayya, a prolific composer and poet, is credited with the composition of some 4000 devotional (bhakti) poems to Krishna.
He perfected the padam format that is still being used today. His padams are sung in dance (Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi) and music recitals. A unique feature of his padams is the practice of singing the anupallavi first then the pallavi (second verse followed by first verse). Most of the padams are of the theme of longing for the coming of the lord Krishna.