Jesse Kreitzer unearths the past in Black Canaries

As part of FilmScene’s Filmmaker Spotlight series, filmmakers present their work in person and offer post-screening Q&As. -- photo courtesy of Jesse Kreitzer
As part of FilmScene’s Filmmaker Spotlight series, filmmakers present their work in person and offer post-screening Q&As. — photo courtesy of Jesse Kreitzer

Filmmaker Spotlight: Jesse Kreitzer

FilmScene — Sunday, June 14 at 7 p.m.

Walking in the soot-covered footsteps of gothic pioneer film There Will Be Blood, Black Canaries looks to be a cinematic distillation of realism, turmoil and The American Dream. Set in the 1900’s railroad days of Iowa, the film follow the lives of a family of coal miners after the collapse of a local mine. Inspired by the lives of filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer’s maternal ancestors, a tone of restlessness and stoic malaise resonates in the eyes of his characters. The teaser trailer, haunting and devoid of dialogue (save for the raspy cry of an old field song,) makes you question whether the characters are even actors at all.

Kreitzer went all out for this film (which was his University of Iowa MFA thesis), shooting in the furthest prisms of Iowa. With the ability to synthesize new forms of energy as time passed, it’s become easy for us to disassociate the coal industry from the history of Iowa as a largely agricultural state. The coal mining industry was, however, a once integral part of the economy of the state, providing an affordable energy source to the rapidly growing railroad industry at that time. Kreitzer, it seems, is digging deep down into his roots to play the past out in a dark, passionate portrayal of family, history, misery and victory.

To fit yourself into those pure and righteously blemished shoes of the ancestors of your past is to tremble in the wake of your future. Iowa is the heartland, the crossroads of America. The intrinsic disposition toward hard work and an honest living is quintessential to the infrastructure of the Midwest way of life. In Black Canaries, Kreitzer shows that, for people growing up in the central point of the country, life is more fundamental and sustainable than vanity.

Life as we know it is changing exponentially and it’s up to us a society to know how to deal with it. Days of old were both simpler and more perilous. The insight of modern art cinema, commensurate with our rapidly changing way of life, gives us a way to display our talents without digging ourselves too deep into the mine; just deep enough to understand the truths of our pasts.

Gaining a hefty amount of interest through a Kickstarter campaign, Black Canaries is gaining a vigilant support. Providing historical photographic keepsakes and personally succumbing his to the frayed threads of his ancestry, Kreitzer must really want to show how much it meant, to his people of that time, to be alive.

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