Year: 2017
Director(s): Bill Ross, Turner Ross
Writer(s): n/a
Region of Origin: US

Rating: PG-13
Color, 97 mins

Synopsis: Celebrates a special concert spearheaded by luminary David Byrne. (Source)

What happens when a trailblazer like David Byrne (Talking Heads) discovers an insular art form and falls in love with it? You get Contemporary Color, a massive concert event that blended color guard performance with original music from some of rock’s biggest heavyweights. Taking place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in 2015, the event was a true celebration of discipline, music and the passion of an overlooked art form. Lucky for us, the entire thing was captured by filmmakers Turner and Bill Ross, resulting in an exuberant cinematic experience that leaps straight off the screen. Whether you come for the music or the performance aspect, this joyful doc exceeds expectations at every turn.

Using the event’s activities as a framing device, The Rosses have captured a night to remember, taking us both on and off stage, and circling an ecstatic crowd of performers and attendees. The Barclays’ large setting provides both scope and intimate scale, forming a larger-than-life tapestry stitched together by synchronized dance and some powerful tunes. Artist performances range from Byrne himself, Nico Muhly, Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent, Devonte Hynes, Zola Jesus, a few of the Beastie Boys, and tons more, and each of these musicians is paired with a specific color guard team. As for the dance crews, they range from high school to college-level, so there’s nice mix of technicality and production value, with every group sharing the same kind of passion, precision and excitement.

Though color guard performances are typically seen at sporting half-time events, getting to see them singled out proves to be a real eye-opener. The Rosses deliver the requisite amount of glitter, confetti, swinging rifles and swirling flags, but the focus is put equally on the bonds and dreams of each teams’ members and their supporters (in some cases family), which is infectious enough to spread to the musicians who have been touched by their journey. Rather than deliver straight performances from each pairing, the Rosses intercut each number with staged moments of surreal whimsy, backstage antics and even a few confessional voice overs. It all amounts to a stimulating barrage of sight and sound, emotional from start to finish, and never once feeling repetitious.

Contemporary Color zips by with a brisk pace and enlightening tone of hope and celebration. Immaculately constructed, the Rosses have matched each team’s nuance to create a tribute for one of sports’ most overlooked art forms. The film also never stays in one place for too long, making for a one-of-a-kind experience that delivers and then some. This one’s definitely worth a viewing, especially if you love the eccentric caliber of musicians involved, or want a great palette cleaner to all of the dour, expositional documentaries out there.

SG