BAM150, Brooklyn Academy of Music Documentary, to Air on THIRTEEN, 4/19
BAM160, Thirteen, PBS, BAM, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Michael Sládek, Plug Ugly Films
To commemorate its sesquicentennial, BAM (Brooklyn Academy Of Music) commissioned BAM150, a feature length documentary conceived by award-winning director Michael Sládek that weaves together the institution's vibrant past, present, and future presenting a rich history that mirrors the evolution of performing arts in 20th century America. This landmark film premiered last year at the Tribeca Film Festival and will air on Friday, April 19 at 10pm on THIRTEEN.
Through verité footage of recent performances, intimate interviews, and an astonishing trove of 150 years' worth of archival film, photography and ephemera, Sládek's film shows that BAM's 150 years were hard earned, and are a testament to the power and stamina of the institution that launched Brooklyn as a cultural mecca-while also serving as a home to such greats as Pina Bausch, Robert Wilson, and Merce Cunningham.
With unprecedented access, the film's crew captured the institution behind-the-scenes, embedding viewers in the artistic process at BAM. Footage of company arrivals, rehearsals, and backstage activity convey the complexity and variety of performances mounted in one season. Robert Wilson's production of The Threepenny Opera, the Baroque opera Atys featuring William Christie's Les Arts Florissants and Paris' Opéra Comique, Beijing Dance Theater's US debut (in Haze), choreographer William For- sythe's I don't believe in outer space, composer Darcy James Argue/visual artist Danijel Zezelj's Brooklyn Babylon, BAM's annual public tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and a gala celebrating The Bridge Project's Richard III are seen from a rare fly-on-the-wall perspective.
Interviews with BAM performers and directors including Mark Morris, Robert Wilson, Peter Brook, Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Isabella Rossellini, Laurie Anderson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, William Forsythe, and Alan Rickman add fascinating and candid first-person anecdotes to the narrative. Other luminaries seen participating in BAM events include film director Wim Wenders, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and more.
To convey BAM's dense history, the BAM150 film crew worked in tandem with BAM archivist Sharon Lehner, sifting through hundreds of hours of performance footage and using the recently published tome BAM: The Complete Works as a reference. Sládek interviewed cultural experts and historians; writer Phillip Lopate and Pulitzer Prize- winning historian/author Mike Wallace shed light on the cultural development of a borough establishing its identity apart from Manhattan in the 19th century. Cultural critic John Rockwell discusses BAM's more recent history, beginning with Harvey Lichtenstein's bold vision for the moribund establishment four decades ago and continuing with the work of his successors-President Karen Brooks Hopkins and Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo-who, amid a now-transformed Brooklyn, are forging the next steps for the revered cultural destination.
The film also underscores the adventurous spirit as well as the social consciousness that drew speakers to the BAM Opera House stage, including Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, Ann Sullivan and Helen Keller, and American presidents of the pre-television age (including a pre-World War II speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt). The research process for BAM150 revealed many archival jewels, including film footage of its original Montague Street building ablaze in 1903.