Julien Prévieux, Patterns of Life, film still, 2015 Credit: Courtesy of Jousse Entreprise Gallery (Paris)

Mana Contemporary Chicago will create something new in 2017: a film festival about dance that also expands commonly held interpretations of what “dance” means. Presented in collaboration with Chicago Dancemakers Forum and Montom Arts, the first annual Body + Camera Film Festival will celebrate “the intersection between the moving body and the moving image” and welcome emerging and established artists “with contemporary, experimental projects that push traditional mediums to their edge.” The festival is accepting entries now through February 20, 2017.

Molly Feingold, director of programming and partnerships at Mana, says the idea for the festival stemmed from a couple of one-night showings of dance films produced by Montom Arts: choreographer, dancer, and filmmaker Monica Thomas’s ongoing project that explores the intersection between dance and video.

“But it didn’t make sense for us to focus only on dance films; there are plenty of dance film festivals happening,” Feingold notes. “Because Mana works with all art forms, and Chicago Dancemakers Forum is always pushing the idea of ‘What is dance?” we wanted to broaden it—to make it more applicable to a lot of the work that artists are doing right now, across mediums and across disciplines.” Above all, she says, “we’re finding that the politics of the body are super relevant to our time.”

Monica Thomas, <i>Bound</i>, film still, 2014
Monica Thomas, Bound, film still, 2014Credit: Courtesy of Jousse Entreprise Gallery (Paris)

The festival submission guidelines are purposefully loose and “open to broad interpretation,” Feingold explains. Suggested categories include, but are not limited to, contemporary dance and performance film, installation, interactive technology, interactive live performance, animation, nondance choreography, and documentary.

“The artist’s interpretation is the most important thing,” Feingold emphasizes. “Not that we don’t want to create guidelines, but the artists are the ones that are making the work, and that’s really important to them: that they have the freedom to move within their own interpretation.”

“The moving body and the moving image are the two concrete parts of what we’re looking for,” she continues, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean the choreography couldn’t happen outside of a body—that it couldn’t be choreography of machinery or choreography of images.” She points to Meet the Era: A Chicago Footwork Documentary, Jan Bartoszek’s Emmy-nominated short dance film Arch of Repose, and Julien Prévieux’s recent show at the Julius Caesar Gallery (particularly, “the dialogue with and around the body that he engages in his video work”) as examples of the types of work Mana hopes to attract for the festival.

Julien Prévieux, <i>Patterns of Life</i>, film still, 2015
Julien Prévieux, Patterns of Life, film still, 2015Credit: Courtesy of Jousse Entreprise Gallery (Paris)

Another important distinction of this festival is that there is no age limit. In inviting artists younger than the age of 18 to submit their work, Feingold anticipates a special “student” section of the program, in addition to sections that might focus on interactive technology, like virtual-reality dance films, or live performances within the film itself. “It’s important to us that we have a live component: that we have talks and panels and live performance as well,” Feingold says. “We hope to make this program unique and interesting, for both the participating artists and the attendees.”

The festival also differs from most other film festivals in that it is neither competitive nor awards-based. Instead, according to Feingold, a panel of artists from contemporary art and dance backgrounds will conduct an initial review of the submissions, and the final curation of the festival will be based on the panelists’ notes and feedback. The submissions will dictate how the program is presented, and not the other way around.

Moreover, Feingold sees the festival as an opportunity: for conversations to arise within and with the films, and for the works to be seen collectively as well as independently.

“We’re looking for artistic risk and rigor,” she adds, “so ‘best’ is not really something we’re looking for. We’re looking for new voices. We’re looking for diverse voices. We’re looking for exciting work.”

Body + Camera Film Festival Premieres 5/21-5/22/17, Mana Contemporary Chicago, 2333 S. Throop, 312-850-0555, manacontemporarychicago.com/body-camera-film-festival.