A writer observes the making of her friend's movie: watching Moze Mossanen's Canadian dance film, Roxana, come to life.

Location: Ontario, Canada

A Canadian writer, story editor and teacher of film and theology. Looking to integrate spirituality and the arts in a celebration and love of visual and written language.

Monday, August 21, 2006

cast and crew screening!

Almost two years since its first inception, and after much creative energy and tireless work, Roxana has finally been born. The movie had its cast and crew screening in Toronto at the Regent Theatre on Tuesday, August 15th. Friends, families and just plain fans gathered to see how all the months of labour finally bore out. I was thrilled to introduce Moze and Stephen who celebrated and introduced the talent assembled. Moze's sister, Mirella, an accomplished photographer, was at the event, camera in hand. Mirella's work has been exhibited in Toronto and will soon be on view again in Los Angeles and Europe. We Many thanks to Mimi for allowing me to post her images.

When the lights went down, I found myself unexpectedly nervous. It suddenly struck me that we were about to see the movie projected. As in the big screen! Though I had seen several cutting room versions, this aspect of viewing was going to be a first for us all, including Moze. It's a strange anomaly of contemporary film and television production that many large scale projects like this one, operating on a modest budget endorsed by broadcasters and destined for the small screen, nonetheless start by shooting on film, in the same way that filmmakers who are making theatrically distributed films do. The footage is then transferred to video for editing on a video system, where it is then previewed for testing on televisions in edit room suites. And of course, when it is broadcast, it will be seen only on televisions.So what a surprise, therefore, to find ourselves watching the movie in a theatrical venue, on a large screen. Changes had occurred since the last version I saw. The small adjustments a seasoned viewer makes, watching different versions in front of a tv, seemed like larger leaps on such a large screen. I found myself wondering what it must be like for those who actually created the work! I was amazed by how cleanly the emotional lines translated to the big vision from the small screen - a tribute to the masterful editing by Jeff Bessner.

New to me in this version were the sound elements: the scoring and the sound design all matched to picture. Although I had observed a recording session, I was nonetheless astonished by the accomplishments of Alex Pauk and Alexina Louie, as composers, in working with dance in a post-production situation. Normally, film projects using dance work with the music recorded during performance and production - in this case, it was all composed afterward. The gorgeous textures and melodies flowed seamlessly with the dance. The sound design by Alan Geldart was also impressive, with heels clicking down hallways and noisy neighbours all filling out the authenticity of environment.

Watching Roxana unspool on the big screen was a wonderful fulfilment of having watched it grow. I am now incredibly biased, but it seems to me the movie works beautifully to weave the story as visually as possible, relying on dance and music elements to enhance the rich and vivid emotional life that is never far from the surface of these characters. The gorgeous, lush, visual textures created by Moze and Michael Spicer, working of course with incredibly talented people like Rhonda Moscoe and Debra Hanson and their teams, allows for there to be a sense of era very rare to this kind of feature filmmaking for broadcast. In other words, most people shooting for broadcast, think in small screen terms. In this film, it feels as if each frame is saturated with texture and meaning, which then, when it comes down to the small screen, is all the more radiant. In other words, it works! Emotion, story, and visual language are beautifully brought together.

In the end, the sure test of a movie is its audience - and this one seemed excited and pleased. At the patio of the nearby restaurant where people gathered afterward to celebrate, enthusiastic applause broke out as Moze entered. He in turn applauded all those gathered, who indeed represented the vast array of talents who brought Roxana to birth. Mazeltov! to everyone!

The path now is the one to broadcast, expected in January 2007 as part of the last season of CBC's Opening Night variety series. Selected highlights will also appear later on Bravo. The film may make a stop or two along the way at film festivals. Whatever happens, you can read about it here, if not before the fact, then certainly afterward. In the meantime, congratulations to all on a wonderful project - on to the next one!


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