A Musical Adventure Half a World Away
Interview with Director Michael R Faulkner
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I really wanted to go to Tuva. Well that, and the fact that both beatboxing and xöömei are powerful vocal forms but are not all that well known. When Shodekeh, the beatboxer in the film, met touring Tuvan band, Alash Ensemble (AlashEnsemble.com), they began a dynamic musical collaboration that transcends, borders, cultures, and genres. I wanted to make a film that would share these sounds and rhythms with the world, as a kind of amplifier for the amazing work they are doing.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Watch the film to discover something new to go on an adventure full of incredible music and landscapes. It is a great opportunity to have an experience of the remote and wonderful Republic of Tuva!
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
In SHU-DE! we meet Shodekeh and discover that he is a master and collector of sounds and sound making. He understands and produces all kinds of rhythms with his larynx, mouth, and a microphone. He takes this skill and curiosity half way around the world to the Republic of Tuva, in Siberia where he faces the challenge of sharing and blending his gift with a new culture. As his adventure unfolds he becomes a sort of hero or guide for this important challenge of sussing how to bridge cultures and connect with each other. Amidst the journey he reflects on his experience and how to make the most of his experiences.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
In thinking about how to approach this project, Trey Hudson (DP/Producer) and I set out to combine a verité style documentary following the adventures of Shodekeh as he discovers Tuva and studies Xöömei with beautifully recorded musical collaborations set in nature. Looking back this is exactly what the film is, however, the process of accomplishing that, of getting there evolved a lot along the way. We started out more focused on Shodekeh's personal journey, but as the film develops, it actually becomes more and more about Tuva and the experience of Tuvan culture itself. That was something I did not anticipate.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I like getting feedback in general. People who see the film, especially on the big screen, frequently describe a sense of having gone on an adventure, discovering new places and culture. Some have very personal emotional experiences.The most commonly articulated response at Q & As has been, "How did you get such great sound?" Audiences are excited by the astonishing sounds coming from a place many were not aware existed and by the quality of the recording. All of the music in the film was recorded live on location. Our sound man, Don Barto, Sr. devised a special rig he dubbed the "Alash Array" specifically for this purpose.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
This documentary does not utilize interviews to tell the story. It does not explain in great detail the background of the characters or the situations in the film. It is instead concerned with creating a sense of being present and experiencing things as they unfold. This to me is more like an actual trip somewhere. The unknowns make us want to listen and discover. Sometimes we just have to settle with what we can decipher in the moment. This leaves room for the imagination to be engaged. Not everyone was as enthusiastic about that approach as I was, and so it challenged me to come to a clearer understanding of why editor, Nick Kovacic, and I were making certain choices in the storytelling. And so the feedback I have received has been validating and challenging and helpful to making the best film we could make.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope that exposure here will bring greater awareness of the film to viewers and result in further interest and screenings. I'd like to encourage those interested in the film and soundtrack to sign up on our email list on shu-de.com. We are planning to release BluRays and a soundtrack this year.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Distributors, sales agents, buyers. It would be great to meet a sales agent interested in getting the film into the world at large. I think there is a international market for this music and story.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I hope that as many people as possible can experience the land and music of Tuva. They are world treasures to be cherished.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Shodekeh and the other musicians are able to bridge cultural gaps with music, respect, and collaboration. It demonstrates the power of diversity to unify and elevate us creatively, personally, and collectively. If this is possible for them, what is possible for me, the viewer, to accomplish? What barriers can I bridge, what limits can I push and what discoveries can I make in my life to grow and progress? Also, I think it delves into the role that artists around the world have in creating harmony between nations.
Would you like to add anything else?
Yes, "Shu-De!" pronounced (shoo-day) means "Let's Go!" or "Move On" in Tuvan. Often it will be exclaimed at the end of traditional Tuvan songs. It's very satifying to say and people have a lot of fun with it. I also want to say Thanks for the opportunity to share more about SHU-DE! and thanks to the artists and crew of the film.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Currently we have two documentary films in post production. One is a concert film with noise punk rockers, Dope Body, a band who if obscure, were known by their fans for playing immensely energetic raw live shows - working title "Dope Body: This is the End." Last summer, frontman, Andrew Laumann, announced that they would disband after playing two final shows where they started in Baltimore. The other doc is an inside, humorous look into Baltimore's team based karaoke league, Bmore Karaoke, a league of unusual and wild characters who compete with each other for bragging rights, hometown glory, and the occasional gift card.
Interview: February 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
A Musical Adventure Half a World Away
Length: 85 minutes
Director: Michael R Faulkner
Producer: Michael R Faulkner, Trey Hudson, Nick Midwig, Don Barto, Sr.
Director of Photography: Trey Hudson
Editor: Nick Kovacic
Sound: Don Barto, Sr.
About the writer, director and producer:
Director/Producer Michael R Faulkner is an award winning filmmaker, photographer, and performer based in Baltimore, MD.
Key cast: Kongar-ool Ondar, Shodekeh Alash Ensemble, Tuvan National Orchestra, Ugulza, Annie Lynch, Garth Stevenson, Hazmat Modine, & Sean Quirk.
Looking for sales agents, distributors, journalists
Made in association with: N/A
Where can I see it in the next month?
Currently can be seen on the Film Festival Circuit.
Check shu-de.com for dates. Digital Distribution coming soon.