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A series of kinetic shorts tells a story

  • Directed By: Shannon Kohlitz - Director In Attendance!

The story is inspired by my grandfather, Ralph Kohlitz. He stands in for millions whose lives took a similar trajectory during the first half of the 20th Century. Those personal tales are worth dramatizing, and in my version, he arrives in America, an infant, from the Weimar Germany stumbling after World War One. From Ellis Island, the family travels to Detroit, where my grandfather grows up, meeting my grandmother in the days before Pearl Harbor. World War Two sends him, like many others, back to ancestral Europe, now as an American soldier.

With my grandmother’s consent (she appears in the opening scene), I took liberties with family history to facilitate the visual narrative. My goal for the dioramas -- the kinetic sets -- was to generate a charming, hand-crafted aesthetic, keeping with the down-to-earth sensibility of the culture German immigrants transplanted into the Upper Midwest. They organized their lives with frugality and modesty. So I sought to preserve that sensibility, while giving it a contemporary expression, through the theme of re-usability: I made the dioramas of discarded, found materials -- cardboard, paper, styrofoam. Set construction was by cutting, pasting, and other typical hand-crafting methods.

I’m an animator and crafter. When friends saw this film, their first question was, “Why video?”

My answer stems from the fact that I wanted to use a new method of fusing video, animation and craft. At the time I made the film, I was in rebellion against stop motion techniques. Not to draw a line in the sand, but stop motion is overused by fine artists and certainly by anyone with some ambition and a still camera. This led me to experiment by placing both sets and the camera itself in motion. I call the method Kinetic Sets. ??

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