Filmmaker’s Name:  Joel Schlemowitz
Film Title:  Louis Armstrong Obon
Film TRT:  14 min.
Genre(s):  Documentary

In 50 words or less, what is your film about?
A short documentary portrait of Japanese jazz musicians Yoshio and Keiko Toyama, seen through their annual visit to the grave of Louis Armstrong at Flushing Cemetery in Queens, NY, shot in digital video and super-8 film.
Screenings: Japan Cuts 2015

What inspired you to make this particular film?  
I met Yoshio in connection with researching another film on the 78rpm record. He had just come back from his pilgrimage to the Louis Armstrong grave, and I was struck by the thought of someone going halfway around the world once a year to pay homage at the resting place of a source of artistic inspiration. I filed away the thought of filming this the following year, and this film was the result.

What’s the best experience you had making this film?  What’s the worst?  Why?
There were no bad experiences making this film (if you don’t count the lab bills and grant rejections). The interview was conducted in Japanese through an interpreter and even with the delay in translation just hearing Yoshio and Keiko speak, without knowing exactly what was said, I could tell that there was something wonderful was occurring at the time.

In your opinion, what’s the best film ever made?  The worst?  Why?
The worst film is any film that is made out of an insincere wish to please programmers, curators, and audiences by just pandering through the use of shopworn tropes and cookie cutter notions. Even a bad film is a great film if it has a soul.

RE: a short bio… Tell us about your start in filmmaking.  Who are your heroes?  Did you get your start as an actor? A screenwriter? A grip?
Joel Schlemowitz is an experimental filmmaker based in Brooklyn who works in 16mm film, shadowplay, and stereographic media. He has recently completed his first feature film “78rpm,” an experimental documentary about the gramophone. His short works have been shown at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and Tribeca Film Festival and have received awards from the Chicago Underground Film Festival, The Dallas Video Festival, and elsewhere. Shows of installation artworks include Anthology Film Archives, and Microscope Gallery. He teaches experimental filmmaking at The New School and is Resident Film Programmer and Arcane Media Specialist at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

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