Ole Miss Honors College hosts documentary film makers at convocation

Posted on Mar 9 2017 - 12:33am by Jacqueline Knirnschild, Stephen Gray
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green speaks at Honors Convocation at the Ford Center Wednesday, March 8. (Photo by Cindy Nguyen)

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green speaks at Honors Convocation at the Ford Center Wednesday, March 8. (Photo by Cindy Nguyen)

When award-winning filmmakers Brent and Sam Green are asked permission to screen their films, they decline. They perform every showing in-person with a full band.

The musicians and filmmakers who took the stage at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Spring Honors Convocation Wednesday night appeared more like a group of friends hanging out.

“Live Cinema” featured seven short films with live music and in-person narration by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green and animator Brent Green, whose films have been performed at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Honestly, I would have paid a lot of money to watch this,” Wesley Craft, a freshman public policy major, said. “I feel like I know them.”

The chancellor’s artist-in-residence, Bruce Levingston, played the piano with the ensemble in one performance.  

Each film explored everyday concepts many may take for granted, like being the oldest person in the world, the San Francisco fog or a middle-aged diabetic.

One documentary, “116 Candles,” discussed the phenomenon of holding the world record of the oldest living person in the world. With the death of each record holder, the door to the past is swung shut.

“I was inspired,” freshman public policy major Sophie Kline said after viewing the short film. “I started crying.”

By simultaneously exposing the humorous side and the uncomfortable dark side, “Live Cinema” displays a deeper, imaginative meaning to seemingly ordinary events.  

Every time they perform their films, there is an independent director’s commentary. In between each movie, the band members and filmmakers joked around, told stories of production mishaps and laughed with the audience. The casual conversation appeared improvised.  

Brent Green said one element of the show that is not present in either his or Sam’s previous work is the audience.

“The thing that makes it feel like it’s working is that everyone is hanging out,” Brent Green said.

Musicians Brendan Canty, James Canty, Becky Foon and Kate Ryan alternated between instruments, providing audio that heightened the experience in a way words just cannot accomplish.

Sam Green said sometimes words do not always work as well as sounds when describing a specific feeling. He said he will ask the Cantys to give him audio to portray certain sentiments, such as “something sunny that feels nice,” and the sound they produce will be just right.

Brent Green thinks the most powerful way to communicate today is by combining computer technology, film, music and great writing.

Sam and Brent Green do not consider themselves pioneers of “Live Cinema,” but they are continuing to develop the new field.

“I’d say it’s using older forms of cinema to make something new,” Sam Green said.

The blend of mediums and organic atmosphere allowed “Live Cinema” to capture the attention of the audience.

The consensus among students seemed to be that the performance felt as natural and spontaneous as a conversation.

Michaela Gay said she was especially struck by the originality of the performance as an art major.

“I just kind of watched it in awe of how different it was,” Gay said.