I love a film that leaves a lasting impression. Maybe it’s because I love 3-D, maybe it’s because I’m a dancer, maybe it’s because it was so special, probably all of the above, that Wim Wenders’ Pina got lodged in my cerebrum. Not only was the film a gorgeous tribute to the legendary and recently departed choreographer, it was a love letter to all the brilliant artists that placed their creativity in her hands.
Today, the 2012 Academy Award nominations were released and among them, the contenders for Best Documentary Feature, of which Pina is one. The film was originally submitted to the Foreign Language Film category but was not accepted. Both director Wim Wenders and producer Gian-Pero Ringel stand to win Oscars for Pina.
I have written about the experience of viewing Pina before. For me, it was a revelation. The crowded theater, the sighs of wonderment from the audience and the teary faces on the way out were a sight to behold. It was a film, yes, but it was also the ultimate dance performance. His shots of Pina’s The Rite Of Spring will stay with me forever. Wenders succeeded in providing, at once, the perfect vantage points for a dance production. One second we were right next to the dancers, able to see the sweat on their faces and the material of their costumes. The next moment we saw the stage from afar, the surging, convulsing mass of performers moving as one.
Prior to seeing the film, I had no idea the great affinity the Israeli audience harbors for Pina. Night after night, the film was sold out. Friends of mine who had never expressed interest in dance suddenly couldn’t stop talking about the intensity of the film, of Pina’s choreography. It was clear that there had been a lot of people who were touched by Pina Bausch. Though she was an enigmatic person in real life, Pina managed to deeply move people with her work, as far as Tel Aviv.
The greatest success of the film is the continuation of this feeling. I have never set foot in Wuppertal, where Pina worked for her entire career as a choreographer, and yet I now have a sense of what it was like to spend time in her studio.
In making the film, Wenders asked each dancer to present their favorite section that they danced in Pina’s work. In this way, Wenders introduced each one of Pina’s dancers. Not only did he give us a chance to know them, he gave them a way to say goodbye to their former master. With so much pain at having lost their leader, Wenders offered an outlet for their gratitude and their grief.
Though I have not seen the other films in this Oscar category, I am crossing my fingers and toes for Pina, even though I believe the victory of this film is clear, award or no award.