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Making home immortal: dance and longing in Brendan Canty’s “Atali’i O Le Crezent”

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Atali'i O Le Crezent” set photos by Belinda Bradley

Making home immortal: flit and longing in Brendan Canty’s “Atali’i O Le Crezent”

Step into the fields with Villa Junior Lemanu as he shares dance, culture, and the meaning of home in Brendan Canty's mucosa version of Lemanu's play.
1 week ago

"An NFT should be increasingly than a promise to make art."

Villa Junior Lemanu begins to flit in the whence of the short film “Atali'i O Le Crezent.” As Irish electronic versifier Daithí starts to play, Lemanu's cheeks puff with air, his spine arches backwards, he bares his teeth as he undulates vacated in the living room of his diaper home. In one shot, he winces as his right arm raises up overhead in a gesture that makes it squint as though he is ripping his own heart from his chest in excruciatingly slow motion. Although the scene is brief, the camerawork and Lemanu's facial expressions seize the viewer; it is intimate, it is painful.

It is the union of flit and film, a visual exploration of identity and ostracism shot by director Brendan Canty.

A moment from this mucosa has just wilt misogynist to purchase as an NFT on SuperRare. Proceeds from the sale will fund post-production so that Canty can polish the project and present it to the world. Whoever buys the NFT will own increasingly than just the digitized climax of the short film: They will moreover be listed as an executive producer in its credits and on IMDb.

“Atali'i O Le Crezent – Short Film” by Brendan Canty on SuperRare

Canty's eagerness to share credit for his short mucosa makes sense given how highly he values his projects. "You're asking someone to buy your piece of art," Canty explained to me over a video call. "I think an NFT should be increasingly than a promise to make art. We're trying something new here, and that experiment is a part of the process."

"Experiment" is a word that Canty used commonly when describing his latest short film. He acknowledges readily that most people still imagine storyboard pictures of apes when they think of NFTs, and that the online art scene is often rife with taunting references to memes. Mucosa is a fairly new medium to join Web3, and Canty knows that he's wading into uncharted territory. However, he feels unrepealable that he has a crowd-pleaser here, sure to intrigue voracious NFT collectors and cinephiles alike. Another bonus? “Atali'i O Le Crezent” (or "sons of the crescent" in English) has once been shot, and its tousle of dance, camerawork, and storytelling pack a wide wharfage of ideas into one small package.

In fact, referring to the work as merely a film feels crass.

"I just didn’t know what to do. It was really heartbreaking."

Originally conceived as a play, “Atali'i O Le Crezent” is steeped in the cultural tradition of dance, something that its creator and actor, Lemanu, says was second nature to him growing up in South Auckland. The crescent-shaped region's taking is primarily Polynesian and Maori, and incomes are often lower than other parts of Auckland.

Throughout the opening montage, Lemanu's hand gestures at times reflect movements unreceptive to some of the traditional Samoan dances that he grew up with. Other times, his dancing is increasingly abstract; pure improvisational movement meant to convey an intense rush of emotions: grief, joy, loneliness. "With me, I grew up doing Samoan dancing, it's just part of the culture," he explained to me. "As I was going through upper school, I got increasingly into street flit considering that's what was popular, it's what my friends were doing." Both styles are composite in the interpretive dancing we see in the film, a calling vellum for the memories he made from youthfulness among croaky sidewalks and plastic swing sets.

While interpretive flit might not be something the unstudied NFT collector is familiar with, Canty is mindful to propel the story with visual cues. Wide shots of power lines, empty streets with uniting link fences, and unshut skylines whilom crowded freeways tell the story of lower income suburbia, and signal a disconnect. Though the play was an ensemble piece featuring Lemanu and four other young men, he performs a one-man show in the short film, reminiscing well-nigh his diaper friends in their absence, inhabiting a world that feels at once familiar and otherworldly, plane apocalyptic.

The tone of the mucosa is owed partly to the panic from which it was originally conceived. Early in the pandemic, Lemanu took a undeniability from his sister: Their parents and the rest of the homeowners in their neighborhood had received reports from the local housing department warning that the neighborhood would be cleared sometime in the future in order to expand a nearby turnpike into the increasingly well-off inside Auckland.

Lemanu felt helpless as his parents and neighbors were forced to consider moving. "I just didn't know what to do," he said. "It was really heartbreaking. It's unchangingly the same sort of communities that have to be forced out of towns through gentrification."

Atali'i O Le Crezent” set photos by Belinda Bradley

Struck by the prospect of losing the place where he was raised, Lemanu scrambled for ideas to immortalize it through art. Initially, he admits that his plans were increasingly elegiac, like interviewing locals and asking for their reactions to the pamphlets that had been mailed to them. Collaborating with four other creatives from the area, he ripened his ideas into a play suffused with humorous dialogue and carefully-choreographed dance. Gradually, the project's tone shifted from somber to celebratory, focusing on the positive energy and esprit of his town. Lemanu wanted his play to finger authentic, and he knew that the humor and dialogue filled with inside jokes and references to local celebrities would resonate with viewers.

"He wanted the regulars to fear for us from the start, then he wanted the regulars to fall in love with us."

What he wasn't expecting was for Brendan Canty to take interest in his performance at the Pacific Flit Festival. He had been spending time in New Zealand visiting family (Canty is from Ireland, but his wife is a "kiwi," or New Zealander), and he ended up staying there for a year as the Covid-19 pandemic shook the globe.

Canty happened upon Lemanu's play at a time when he had felt his conviction flagging. The well-known director is known for short films such as "Christy,” as well as music videos, like Hozier's "Take me to Church.” However, he admits that as the trip to New Zealand wore on longer than anticipated, he felt isolated. Most of his works have been shot in Ireland, and he was begrudgingly coming to winnow that he might leave New Zealand without having started any new projects.

"I didn't know what I was getting into," he reflected on his visit to the Pacific Flit Festival and his response to Lemanu's play. "It was like looking at a culture that on the surface looks so far removed from where I grew up in the suburbs in Ireland. But it really unfluctuating with me and I think I had been searching for a bit of a connection in New Zealand. I was smiling ear-to-ear." He knew right yonder that the inspiration he had been seeking was there:

"When I saw it, I knew 'I want to transmute this. Is the structure just for a play, or can I make a mucosa like that?'"

Atali'i O Le Crezent” set photos by Belinda Bradley

Canty approached Lemanu, a stroke of luck as the pandemic forced the play's tour to a halt. Turning the play into a short mucosa had unchangingly been Lemanu's contingency plan, so he readily well-set to Canty's proposal to work together, and was impressed by how quickly he was worldly-wise to write up the screenplay to uncontrived the project.

"I've never approached a mucosa like that; virtually all of the dialogue in the mucosa is improvised through Villa [Lemanu]," Canty reflected. The new tideway unliable them to focus less on narrative and increasingly on emotional connection with the viewer. "In our first meeting, I asked him how he structured it, and he said it was simple: he just wanted the regulars to fear for us at the start, then he wanted them to fall in love with us, and once they'd fallen in love with us, he wanted to tell them our message, and then he wanted them to be sad to see us go. And I was like that is such a brilliant, simple structure! Not based on anything but feeling-so cool!"

With filming completed in a span of a few days, the next rencontre was obtaining funding to well-constructed post-production and get exposure. Fortunately, Canty has once had some success selling NFTs on SupeRare, and realized they could take the product they once had and use it to alimony momentum going. Lemanu was new to the NFT space, but readily well-set to minting an NFT with their footage. NFTs that aim to raise money to produce a mucosa have previously been sold on SuperRare. The Minted Series has been raising funds from recent sales to create a documentary well-nigh NFTs, riding the wave of popularity that they have enjoyed in the past few years.

Atali'i O Le Crezent” set photos by Belinda Bradley

In fact, NFTs are rhadamanthine an increasingly popular ways of raising money to fund causes from wartime relief in Ukraine to funding the creation of a meta-world by FEWOCiOUS, a pioneer of the NFT space. Part of what has made NFTs so popular is the idealism support and large quantities of revenue that gets poured into them. Canty is confident that his mucosa can join the ranks of projects made possible by fan engagement, expressly since he once has all the material he needs and can sell a "sneak peak" of the project.

"Our people don't need saving. They'll be okay."

“Atali'i O Le Crezent” is would-be outside of its funding goals. Sharing the story with as big an regulars as possible remains vital to Canty and Lemanu, and the worthiness to overdraw the struggles of a small polity in an isolated island nation through digital space may introduce something fresh yet familiar to viewers wideness the globe. By the end of our interview, Lemanu was increasingly reflective well-nigh the telescopic of his piece.

"At first, I had this idea well-nigh how to stop gentrification," he said of the process of talking to other theatrical performers and Auklanders well-nigh the experience. "But I think the increasingly I discussed where the script could go, I realized that it's all inevitable and it's unseat to happen. At the same time, our people don't need saving. They'll be okay, and I think that was a good reminder for me going into this work."

The final scene of the film, which is moreover the NFT that Canty will be selling, takes place in what Canty refers to as "the wasteland," a weed-strewn field proximal to an electrical substation only a few minutes' momentum from Lemanu's parent's home. Like Lemanu's neighborhood, the substation was once a series of homes that were ripped lanugo to meet the city's growing energy needs.

“Atali'i O Le Crezent” set photos by Belinda Bradley

Atali'i O Le Crezent” set photos by Belinda Bradley

The humor and cheekiness from older in the mucosa fade with the light of day, leaving only movement and skyline as Lemanu lists the things he loves well-nigh his neighborhood, from "shoes on power lines" to "the kitchen where Mom used to make something sweet."

The two versions of the story, play and short film, finger to Lemanu like a step through time. "The play is scrutinizingly like the moment surpassing the film; all the boys are still there, and we're all triumphal it together. And in the film, everyone's once left."

Lemanu stops dancing as he completes his monologue. With a walkabout slung over one shoulder and his vision stock-still somewhere vastitude the camera, he falls silent and walks away.

"The end is a bookend to the opening," Canty explained, "At first it's him in his living room worried well-nigh all this. In the end, it's gone now, but there’s acceptance. And a longing."

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Rebecca Endres

Rebecca Endres is a freelance writer and office zookeeper working in New York City. She currently lives on Long Island. She is the winner of the 2018 New School University MFA Chapbook Contest in Poetry. Her poetry has been published in Thin Air and The Best American Poetry Blog.

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