Curator’s picks: ALL ARTS explores trauma through month-long programming

Curator’s picks: ALL ARTS explores trauma through month-long programming

I’m Annika Leybold, and I’m the programmer for ALL ARTS. My job is to find unique content from around the world for you to enjoy.

As a life-long dancer and art history nerd, I feel so lucky to experience art every day at work. I love when I can create parallels between what I’m seeing in New York City and what’s on our air — like the thrilling Latinx contemporary ballet group Ballet Hispánico or British pop star Charli XCX tearing up the stage on “Live from the Artists Den.” My taste ranges from Dada to Gaga, from ancient Byzantine mosaics to the postmodern photography of Graciela Iturbide to Chinese avant-garde composer Du Yun. Art helps me interpret the visual culture that surrounds us and allows me to connect to the layers of history in New York. Above all, art puts me in a state of awe, and I hope to bring that sense to our viewers.

In this new monthly series called “Curator’s Takes,” I’ll tell you what I’m most excited about in our schedule, and explain some of those parallels. Let’s dive into September. This month, we’re exploring trauma and art. How do works of art capture our often complicated responses to trauma? How can art itself be healing?

Hana-bi,” or “Fireworks” in Japanese, is an action movie that subverts all conventions of the genre, and it was a runaway success when it premiered in 1997. It won the Golden Lion award at the Venice International Film Festival and cemented director Takeshi Kitano’s place at the forefront of international cinema. In an artful take on the gangster film archetype, Kitano focuses on his protagonist, Yoshitaka Nishi.

Still from “Hana-bi,” or “Fireworks” in Japanese, is an action movie that subverts all conventions of the genre

Nishi is a policeman who quits his job to be with his dying wife, but he owes money to the mob. His emotions oscillate between total calm or total rage, and his wife is the only person with whom he shows his more tender side. Familial loss from his past, along with the impending death of his wife, makes him a ruthless foe.

“Hana-bi” won the Golden Lion award at the Venice International Film Festival and cemented director Takeshi Kitano’s place at the forefront of international cinema.

We see a glimpse of feeling in his guilt over his police partner’s injury, for which he blames himself. His wheelchair-bound partner makes haunting, almost pointillist paintings using Japanese characters as the “points” that pile on top of each other to create a larger image.

An example of the artwork featured in the film “Hana-bi.”
An example of the artwork featured in the film “Hana-bi.”

A traditional action film would focus on the action and little else. But Kitano makes those scenes vague and secondary — instead, he’s interested in the fallout. Critic Roger Ebert once said this is a movie that silences all the white noise: “Not a frame, not a word, is excess.”

[“Hana-bi” streams on ALL ARTS through Oct. 5.]
Still from "Hana-bi."
Still from “Hana-bi.”

“Lord of the Flies,” the classic 1963 film, based on the novel by the same name, is airing as part of our Peter Brook/New York Festival, which runs all night on Sept. 29. The film imagines a group of British schoolboys who are left to fend for themselves after a plane crashes on a deserted island. At first, the boys work together to survive, but when help doesn’t come, they struggle to figure out their path. Tensions over resources, ethics and leadership begin to cause conflict.

Though controversial when it first premiered for its depiction of violence among children, the allegory of a society in chaos has resonated with generations of audiences (and generations of high schoolers assigned the book in English class!).

[“Lord of the Flies” airs on the ALL ARTS broadcast channel and app on Sept. 29 and then streams through Oct. 2.]
Still from the classic 1963 film “Lord of the Flies.”

Two films from the WNET archive show more alternative responses to trauma, and chronicle how New Yorkers came together in the aftermath of September 11th. They’re part of a 24-hour commemoration of 9/11 on ALL ARTS, which culminates in the 8 p.m. premiere of a new, original production that shows how music can help people process pain. It’s called “Rescue, Recovery & Healing: The 9/11 Memorial Glade Dedication & Tribute,” and features“Choir! Choir! Choir!” and special guest Rufus Wainwright.

“In Our City: New Yorkers Remember September 11th” includes celebrities and everyday New Yorkers reciting writings inspired by their experiences. Some share poetry that they wrote about the day, while others read classic works from the likes of W. H. Auden and Walt Whitman. It’s a moving ode to the city and to the power of words.

Still from “In Our City: New Yorkers Remember Sept. 11”

“America in Healing at the Riverside Church” is a multi-faith service, interspersed with music and dance performances, that shows how we might make meaning and come together after trauma. It embodies the sublime meeting place of spirituality and art, with artists including Matthew Rushing from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, violinist Joshua Bell and singer Dawn Upshaw.

[“In Our City: New Yorkers Remember September 11th” and “America in Healing at the Riverside Church” air on the ALL ARTS broadcast channel and app on Sept. 11 and will be available to stream through Sept. 11, 2022.]

Curator’s Picks is a monthly column adding insight and context to our programming selection. Check back in early October for the next installment.