By Kristin Reiber Harris
Flower Punk, Alison Klayman’s film recently released on The New Yorker documentary site, delights visually and aesthetically with the bonus of illuminating Japanese cultural traditions regarding the natural world. Alison Klayman is a veteran director who has created a body of work frequently focusing on artists. Her debut feature, Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry premiered at Sundance in 2012. There it was awarded a US Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance and was later shortlisted for an Academy Award.
Klayman recently had a conversation with NYWIFT board member Joyce Pierpoline about Flower Punk and her career. Alison clearly enjoyed directing her film project documenting the life and work of Japanese botanical artist Azuma Makoto. The film follows Azuma in his Tokyo studio and beyond. Originally from a small town in Japan, he came to Tokyo with a high school buddy to play in a punk band. His buddy, photographer Shiinoki Shunsuketo, is now his partner in their botanical art business JARDIN des FLEURS. Shiinoki documents Azuma’s work in still, timelapse, and video. Some of their more unusual projects include botanical sculpture sent into space and under the ocean. There appear to be no bounds to the team’s creative energy and desire to experiment.
As Azuma weaves his magic arranging flowers, he talks about his passion for flowers and his philosophy. Cut flowers have a 10 day life span. This makes him feel like he is chasing the game of life. He even finds beauty in the dying out of those flowers. A deeply spiritual man, Azuma was very moved by the devastation of the tsunami in Fukushima. He delivered floral arrangements to local schools and planted sunflowers in the radioactive areas of the disaster. Azuma marveled at nature’s ability to regenerate in those regions contaminated by radioactivity. He clearly has a deep connection to the natural world and great reverence for life; plants in particular. Alison joined Azuma in his home village with his mother and other family members. He said his mother taught him to love flowers, saying they were God’s work and should be picked and displayed.
Lush imagery and a fascinating, articulate artist make this 30-minute documentary a must see film for anyone interested in how human’s actively connect to the natural world and flowers as a form of creative expression.
Watch the full NYWIFT conversation with filmmaker Alison Klayman here:
Welcome to NYWIFT, Toby Perl Freilich! Toby is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and writer, focusing on cultural reporting. Her work explores all sorts of perspectives, from senators to artists, spanning across the world. She co-produced and co-directed Moynihan, a film about the late New York senator, policy expert, and public intellectual. She also directed, produced, and wrote Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment, about one of the world's longest running and most successful experiments in radical, secular communal living. Right now, she is producing and directing I Make Maintenance Art: The Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles about the pioneering ecofeminist and the first Artist in Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. Read about Toby’s inspiring past and future projects here!READ MORE
Finding your tribe is one of life’s greatest pleasures—and losing it is one of the greatest sorrows. In NYWIFT Member Amy Nicholson’s beautifully observed film Happy Campers, working-class Americans gather every summer at a seaside trailer park in Chincoteague, Virginia, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a scrappy, no-frills vacationland, and each other’s company. When a developer buys the land and reimagines the property, the inhabitants of this shabby Shangri-La wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air. Happy Campers just made its world premiere at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Mention for the Grand Jury Prize. Amy spoke to us about her unique process making this film, biggest challenges and triumphs, and the commodification of some of life’s simplest pleasures.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Melisa Ramos! Melisa is a filmmaker and professor from Puerto Rico, bringing 14 years of post-production and motion graphics experience to New York. Her first production, Puerto Rican Voices, a docu-series about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Following Puerto Rican Voices, Melisa continued to share Puerto Rican and Latin American stories. In 2020, she directed and produced From Performers to Spectators, a doc-series showcasing New York City performers during lockdown. She is currently in production on Hoop Warrior, her first feature film. Read all about Melisa’s journey as an editor and artist here!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Aisha Amin! Aisha is an NYC-based writer and director. As a director, her work expands across narrative, documentary, and experimental forms to tell authentic stories built from real experiences. Her past film projects have explored and highlighted overlooked communities particularly in New York City, including formerly incarcerated mothers and communities struggling with the presence of gentrification in their neighborhoods. Amongst her directing, Aisha is an emerging screenwriting and was selected to participate in Cine Qua Non’s 2022 Screenwriting Lab. She is a 2022 recipient of NYFA’s Tomorrowland Grant and a 2021 recipient of the NYFA Women's Fund grant. She was a recipient of the 2019-2020 Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellowship at the Jacob Burns Film Center where she directed two short documentaries. She is also a recipient of The Shed's Open Call Fellowship where she expanded her film practice to installation art. Aisha spoke to us about her favorite styles of storytelling, the intersection of narrative and documentary, and her latest projects.READ MORE