By Brian Brooks
Combine rock ’n’ roll and synchronized dance routines involving flags, rifles and sabers and you get Contemporary Color, a new documentary by Bill and Turner Ross. The feature captures an event organized by legendary Talking Heads musician David Byrne at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which celebrates the art of Color Guard. Byrne, who holds an Oscar for his score to 1987’s The Last Emperor, also served as producer on Contemporary Color.
“I stumbled upon it when a team somewhere…used some music I had written. I said, no charge but just send me a video of what you do,” said Byrne at Deadline’s Tribeca Film Festival studio.
“I was kind of curious. Months passed and they sent me a DVD of the world champions, and I thought, ‘What the hell is this stuff and why haven’t I heard of it?’ Their performances are done to music and I thought…I know some musicians.”
Byrne tapped fellow performers Saint Vincent, Nelly Furtado, Ad-Rock and Ira Glass to collaborate on original pieces with the 10 Color Guard teams from around the U.S. and Canada. He also reached out to the the Ross Brothers about a possible film. “At first we didn’t know what to think of it,” said Turner Ross. “But it’s an incredible world unto itself. It was an ecosystem we could explore.” The original performances are at the forefront of Contemporary Color, though the film captures the emotions backstage as well. “It’s so moving,” added Byrne. “They’re sheltered in a way from issues of gender, body language and race. This is a place where they’re the heroes and are welcome. It really means a lot to them.”
The film premiered on Thursday followed by a Q&A with Byrne, Bill Ross and Turner Ross. Contemporary Color also plays on Saturday at 4PM at the Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 9. There are more screening dates as well.