Award: Research & Development Grant
Discipline: Visual Arts
Project Collaborator(s): Wendy Jehlen, artistic director (performance) and producer (film); Juan Carlos Barrera Romero, cinematographer and editor;
Shaw Pong Liu, composer; and Eric Reynaud, composer
In “Conference of the Birds” a 12th century allegorical masterpiece of persian literature by Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar, 30 birds from all over the world go on a journey together to find their divine king – the mythical bird called “Simorgh” who resides on the Qaf Mountain. In summer 2019, eight dancers from across the world will gather for a five-week long creative journey to reinterpret the 1,000 year-old poem as a a 90-minute evening-length dance performance. Alongside the development of the performance, the dancers will hold movement workshops with members of the community, including groups of people with hearing impairments and refugees.
Filmmaker Bijoyini Chatterjee’s R&D grant will support the video documentation of this process as the dancers “learn to be different together and merge their artistic voices through an Islamic text.” By interweaving Attar’s poem with the story of the dancers and the trajectory of the dance performance, Chatterjee’s project will continue a conversation that has been going on for a millenium. Using modern technology and storytelling methods, the film will create a layered narrative – a beloved Sufi poem, the story of dancers interpreting this same text through movement and the filmmaker’s voice and vision that brings it all together.
Conference of the Birds (sample), by Bijoyini Chatterjee and Juan Carlos Barrera Romero. Featuring Wendy Jehlen, Luciane Ramos Silva, Kae Ishimoto, Mohamed “Shika” Yousry, Marcel Gbeffa, Sarvesan Gangen, Yasin Anar, Danang Pamungkas.
About the work sample
“This sample…offers a glimpse into the variety of footage I plan on using. In addition to footage filmed by me and cinematographer Juan Carlos Barrera Romero while the dancers were in residence, I have been directing the dancers to film themselves in their home countries or while they are traveling. Towards the end of the sample, one can see some of the footage filmed by Marcel GBeffa in Botswana, where he teaches and lives part time.”
Bijoyini Chatterjee is a filmmaker, photographer and dancer and is the co-founder of Onirica Productions. Born and brought up in India, she came to the Boston (MA) to study software engineering but a near fatal car accident at the age of 27 served as a catalyst for change. She has been pursuing filmmaking and photography full time since 2008.
Flamenco Syndrome (2018) is Chatterjee’s first feature length documentary. It looks at outsiders who are profoundly transformed by flamenco – a deeply rooted gypsy culture. The film reflects on how to sing the songs of others and in the process reveal one’s essence in a foreign, predominantly gypsy culture that has an incredible attraction.
Currently Chatterjee is working on her second feature length documentary Conference of the Birds (2020) with Juan Carlos Barrera Romero about a group of 8 dancers from 8 different countries who meet in Boston to interpret a 12th century Sufi poem by the same name.
Chatterjee is also working on a documentary “What Happened to our Dreams (working title)” about the portrait of the 60s generation from the counterculture movement that changed the social and cultural landscape of a ghost mining town called Bisbee, AZ.
She lives and works in Bisbee Arizona with her spouse Juan Carlos Barrera Romero and their daughter Adhara Alba.
Banner Image: (left) Still from footage shot for Conference of the Birds. (right) Photo of Bijoyini Chatterjee, by Juan Carlos Barrera Romero