Song of the Cicada

by Richard Robinson

VA

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Song of the Cicadas is a collaborative project between experimental filmmaker Richard Knox Robinson and ECM Musician David Rothenberg.  Combining themes from his first two films, The Beekeepers (Sundance New Frontiers) and Rothstein's First Assignment (Seattle International Film Festival) with Rothenberg's musical work with insects in his new book and CD BUG MUSICSong of the Cicadas is a short experimental documentary that compares the incarceration of political prisoner Tim Blunk (Resistance Conspiracy Case) with a cicada's 17 year life underground in preparation for a rare musical performance.

With the Cicadas east coast emergence this year, the film uses this opportunity to review our relationship to nature.  Are the cicadas a nuisance or should we see their sounds as music?  Is their cacophony to be understood from the perspective of John Cage or is it just noise?  What does our answers to these questions say about how we view the environment?

Comparing the Cicada’s life underground to Tim Blunk’s incarceration, Song of the Cicadas also revisits our views on the American prison system. Interviewing Tim in an historic prison in Virginia, he is asked to compare his experience to that of the Cicada.  As America now has the world’s highest incarceration rate, Tim’s view speaks to millions of silent Americans.  We know as little about prisoners as we do about the Cicada’s long life underground.

Together these themes merge into critique of the documentary process.  Combining a 1935 film The Cicada, with Animal Planet’s ‘documentary’ production of Rothenberg’s and Blunk’s cicada performance in Virginia, Song of the Cicadas looks to the documentary process for answers to this imbalance.  Extending discoveries made in Rothstein’s First AssignmentSong of the Cicadas looks to Animal Planet’s production to show how  ‘documentary truth’ is ‘produced’ to bring to light its construction of reality.  Ending with footage of an FBI’s press conference announcing Blunk’s arrest, Song of the Cicadas asks how such constructions influence our views.

At present all production for Song of the Cicadas is complete as is the vast majority of post-production.  Our funding request is primarily to cover the costs of using archival footage of the FBI’s press conference announcing Tim Blunk and Susan Rosenberg’s arrest.  Our request of $3,300 will enable us to purchase rights to enough archival footage of this event  to maintain the films current composition.  With funds going beyond our request we’d like to transfer the Archival Film, The Cicada to HD  and purchase archival footage of the Sandinista conflict in Nicaragua to illustrate Tim Blunk's narrative.

Thank you for considering our request. 

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