LOS ANGELES — On June 24th, LA-based composer/violinist Bryan Senti will release “Manu,” a new album from Naïve Records. “Manu” combines Senti's neo-classical compositions with the indigenous Latin American folk of his ancestors, marking the first time the composer has explored his roots musically.
Senti has been working with Guggenheim Award-winning experimental filmmaker Alexandra Cuesta on a visual album that corresponds with each track on the album, and recently released Humo, the first of these videos. The project was shot entirely on 16mm film through the Andean highlands, Ecuadorian coast and parts of the Amazon. The music and visuals create a cinematic poem, recasting images to the meditative journey of “Manu.”
“This film is part of the larger album-length film for the album ‘Manu,’” Cuesta explains. “The entire shoot took place in the diverse geographies of the Ecuadorian territory: coast, highlands and Amazon. The driving concept for the film was to create a textural piece using the filmic material as a visual and intimate response to the landscape. ‘Manu’ is an album that meditates on memory and identity, thus, I approached the film through that same lens, searching for an inherent sensation or feeling that rises from the image and within the liminal space in-between images. Ultimately meditating on the idea of a memory with a memory, the experience became about recording and inhabiting something that is distant but also familiar, something that is from the past but also of the present, something intimate yet also all encompassing.”
Humo was shot on 16mm black & white reversal film using a Bolex camera with a :28 wind and prime lenses. It was filmed in the southern highlands of Ecuador, in an indigenous agricultural town called Susudel and its surrounding areas. The young woman that appears in the film is Nathaly, who lives in a small community outside of Susudel called Corraleja. It rained during the entire week of the shoot and there was constant fog. Cuesta says the most challenging aspect of the production was the rapid-changing weather, a condition prevalent in this part of the world.
“Shooting on the equator is a struggle because of the harshness of the light,” she explains, “so the only time to film is during soft light, which is in the morning or in the afternoon.”
The director says that despite the production’s difficulties, the experience of making the film was both magical and life changing.
“Shooting in harsh conditions mirrored the practice of using film in that both experiences defy control, and precisely by relinquishing that false sense of control, one gives room for the sublime to appear,” says Cuesta. “The image seen in reality, and even the image of the mind, will always differ from the filmic image which appears on the film strip. Seeing it exposed for the first time proves time and time again the transcendent.”