FINISHING UP AND GETTING IT OUT TO THE WORLD
So what's left now? Well, mostly technical stuff that gives it that nice, final "spit and polish" - all those things that turn something rough around the edges into a beautiful work that audiences will flock to in droves. (Our earlier presentations to small, private audiences encourage us because of all the positive feedback we got.)
Paying technicians, of course, requires money. Some very generous grants from MAW helped solve this problem - but yes, we need more as we prepare a version for possible PBS broadcast, send the documentary to festivals as a nearly-completed work-in-progress, and contact interested organizations in the USA and Spain to schedule screenings for 2022 and 2023.
Before leaving this topic, I want to thank all the people that have volunteered or donated to the project, and most especially, the non-profit Media Art Works (MAW) for providing encouragement and significant funding to allow us to create this documentary. Couldn't do it without you!
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HOW WE BEGAN
We started work on this documentary in 2014 with the filming of the graceful dance of a tiny girl, four years old at the time, called la Triana (Triana Jero). Since then, we have proceeded slowly: any time we got money, we shot. When we didn't have money, we stopped shooting and started looking for money!
We have now finished the shooting and basic editing. We shot nine professional singers, three guitar soloists, two internationally touring dancers, two young up and coming dancers, community performers, and interviews with fascinating experts. Though our narrator, we provided background information about occupations (farm work, mining, fishing, etc.) that have fed this art form.
The performances include some of the best stars of traditional flamenco: dancer Antonio el Pipa, singer-cantaor the late Manuel Agujetas ("the" Agujetas), guitarist Diego del Morao, dancer María del Mar Moreno, singer-cantaora la Macanita, and many others including our associate director and narrator, singer-cantaor Antonio de la Malena.
WHAT WE DID IN FALL 2017 & SPRING 2018
In September of 2017, supported by a new grant from MAW (Media Art Works), guitarist Niño Jero el Periquín played us a lively and wonderful solo. In addition, we shot the singer/cantaora Tía Juana la del Pipa - a woman with a wonderful, rich voice and a very strong presentation. For both, we used a location in a vineyard lent to us by Bodega Gonzalez-Byass, maker of fino (and other) wine, a specialty of Jerez. ¡Olé Gonzalez Byass!
Then in the spring of 2018, we shot a great deal of the narration, as well as the performance of two young dancers, demonstrating that traditional flamenco is not a dying art. The dancers were Jairo Amaya, and la Paula - the latter only 13 years old. Both were accompanied by young singers, guitarists, and palmeros. We like youth!
In these and other scenes, we always interview the chief performers and have had our suspicions confirmed: almost all of the best flamencos in Jerez (and, we believe, in the rest of Andalucía) come from farm-working families. If they are too young to have worked in the fields themselves, their parents and grandparents did. Hard work is an important part of the traditional flamenco experience, just as the gitano community is.
WHAT WE DID IN 2019, 2020 and 2021
In April of 2019, once again supported by a grant from the non-profit MAW (Media Art Works) supplemented as usual by the personal funds of our director, Eve A. Ma, we finished shooting the main scenes and performances! This included a pretty wonderful "fin de fiesta," a group number that ends a professional show and mimics the parties for weddings, baptisms and the like that are ubiquitous in the gitano community.
For the "fin de fiesta," Bodega Gonzalez Byass gave us a great location: their Constanza winery in their principal headquarters in Jerez de la Frontera. We shot with 10 flamenco performers (and a nine-person crew). There were three singers, three dancers, two guitarists and two palmeros. It was a very lively, and truly fun, occasion.
As before, we also shot some small scenes with actors, scenes that accompany and help interpret the singing. One that stands out in my mind is when we asked Manuel Moreno, Antonio de la Malena's youngest son, to lie down in a field at dawn. For another, I spent 18 hours traveling to a small town in Murcia (southeastern Spain) to film something that appears in the documentary for all of 10 seconds. But ok, it's a good shot and I'm glad I did it.
It would not be fair or accurate to fail to mention all the narration that Antonio de la Malena had to record. He'd do some and for one reason or another, it wouldn't quite work and he had to record it again...and again...and again. He was a very good sport about it. And of course, covid-19 interrupted us just as we were almost at the end. With the help of our friend, playwright Javier Padilla Gil (and others such as Antonio de la Malena's son, Antonio Moreno Carrasco and his daughter, up-and-coming singer Saira de Malena), we finished all the shooting by mid-2021.