VOICES OF THE SPIRIT: A VISUAL POEM
Pat Jasper, Director of Folklife + Traditional Arts
Angel Quesada, Folklife + Traditional Arts Manager
This past year the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) Folklife + Traditional Arts program worked with Folklore Films to capture the magic of Voices of the Spirit V. Over five years this special concert has presented the diverse, devotional music traditions of the region’s varied faith communities. In 2015, this extraordinary collaboration not only documented the performances, but engaged the individual participants in describing the compelling role that “the spirit” plays in their lives and sacred practices. Interviews were conducted cooperatively in the homes or places of worship of each group. Teaming up with Folklore Films extended and expanded the work of the Folklife + Traditional Arts program by adding a huge dose of cultural sensitivity and ethnographic poetry to the total project.
Folklore Films is an entity that has been working in and around the city to promote stories that enlighten and humanize through the paradigm of film. Often, traditional documentary film moves chronologically following the subject from point A to point B. Folklore Films approaches their subjects in an evocative and non-linear way, creating visual textures and placing the viewer inside the world of the subject. Marlon Hall, the artistic director of Folklore Films, likens the short and sweet renditions they create to visual poetry.
In addition to Hall, Folklore Films includes producer Danielle Fanfair and technical assistant Shelly Travis. In a discussion of their work, the Folklore Films team says: "In a city whose commerce is driven by natural resources, many of which are not renewable, we have discovered that the last renewable resource is The Human Story. No other resource in the city adds value and values like a good story. Good stories inspire more good stories that inspire a healthy culture. This is the power of folklore."
Check out a snippet of the footage shot by Marlon and edited for this blog by HAA’s own Angel Quesada. In these clips, we get an even more intimate sense of two of the groups involved in 2015’s Voices of the Spirit: Chinelos Familia Lopez and the gospel singing Cortez Family. In their own words, working with Folklore Films helped the Folklife program broaden its focus and communicate its process by going beyond the performance to share and understand these groups.