Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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December 26, 2010 , , , ,

BAYOU MAHARAJAH is a debut feature-length documentary by Lily Keber.

James Booker

Lily Keber says that “BAYOU MAHARAJAH” is film about the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker (1939 -1983). Described as the “best black gay one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced”, he was a child prodigy, classically trained on piano, raised on church organ and New Orleans’ street music tradition. Booker’s medleys pushed the limits of what is possible in music. He effortlessly mixed whatever came to his head and made it sound like it was written that way. His techniques have been studied by professionals for 3 decades, yet it continues to baffle pianists around the globe.

But despite the beauty and innovative techniques of his music, there was a very dark and lonely side to Booker. A homosexual African American in a society not ready to give equal rights to either, he was isolated by his sexuality, his race, his intellect and his inability to fully relate to the immediate world around his. He would sell out the biggest concert halls and music festivals in Europe, yet return to his hometown to audiences of just a few drunks, none of whom wanted to hear the messages of his music. He died alone in a Charity Hospital, the same pauper hospital where he was born. Booker’s life is a lesson in how wide the range of human emotion can stretch.

Bayou Maharajah is a portrait of an extraordinary  and overlooked music genius. The film will be illustrated with never before seen concert footage, rare personal photos, exclusive interviews and will be filled with vibrant sound tracks of his life’s work. Lily Keber hopes to explore Booker’s early days as a sideman, his solo career in New Orleans and abroad and the ‘spiders on the keys’ complexity of his music.

Lily has completed principal photography and is in early post production phase. Simultaneously, she is fund raising  to cover her editing expenses.

Lily Keber

I first heard him on a juke box and could not believe I never heard of him before or that there was no film about him. I started the project not knowing a whole lot about him. What is harder is the fact, that I am not a musician and so it is has been a steep learning curve.

Currently, I’m slogging through transcriptions, doing boring stuff like syncing audio and figuring out how to tell this complicated story. My kickstarter fundraiser to cover editing expenses is going through the end of this year. I anticipate to have a rough cut by April 2011 and final film by the end of 2011.

There’s not a whole lot of video footage of him but Lily has acquired a lot of really great still images of Booker. She wants to avoid the traditional “Ken Burns crossfade” but does not know a whole lot about animation or After Effects. She would like Being Made and Real Talkies readers to suggest possible still photo animation ideas. Here are a few suggestions for starters:

Isabel Seiffert posted three videos on her vimeo account about photos she animated for a documentary. She might be someone you could contact for suggestions and ideas.

Vincent Boudier a motion graphics artist did this video for a commercial project but seems to be a good resource to get in touch with.

This was posted by Hulton Archive and they have done some interesting things with still images which might be inspiring.

Congratulations to Lily on meeting her kickstarter goal and raising some money to begin the post production phase. According to Lily, everyone remembers Booker in a completely different way. Some think he is a lunatic, yet others remember him as an amazing music genius. If he was easy to figure out,  she would have probably given up on this project long back. While Lily is busy reviewing, logging and analyzing her footage and understanding the ambiguities about Booker, Real Talkies requests its readers to share innovative ways to animate Booker’s still images and suggests similar resources and help Lily Keber make a memorable film about James Booker.


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