to screen latest film, Gravel
members working at dawn during the filming of Gravel,
a short film by Steven Bognar. The film will have its local premiere
Picture the shadow
of a biplane rumbling across a grassy field in the late afternoon sun.
To Steve Bognar, documentary filmmaker by day, narrative lyric filmmaker
by night, that image is like the memory, a fleeting notion of something
in constant change.
His short film Gravel, premiering locally Saturday, April
19, at the Little Art Theatre, cultivates a rich landscape of themes that
subtly address the way generations remember their families and their cultural
heritage while navigating through the multi-textured relationships that
exist between them.
Local resident Iris Bieri, currently a student at Earlham College, plays
a young daughter who leaves her urban skateboard life to take a day trip
into the countryside with her mother. The mother, a social workaer played
by Antioch theater director Louise Smith, finds herself compelled by a
sense of romance to visit a former client (played by local resident Bruce
Cromer) on parole. The 16-minute film is a glimpse into the conflicting
bond between the two women, who are at intervals snarling with hate and
full of needy adoration.
One thing with these relationships is the contradictory impulses,
Bognar said. The impulse to be kind is sometimes right next door
to the impulse to be mean.
Delving into the push and pull of this dichotomous relationship, Bognar
said, is partly a result of helping his partner, filmmaker Julia Reichert,
raise her daughter. Much of the emotion in the film hinges on the slightest
curl of the lip or a sideways glance that shows the mothers emotional
discomfort with herself, and the daughters pushing her to go beyond
It was astounding how the actors would create these moments,
he said, it was like a jazz improv, where they would do it one way
and it would be amazing, and then theyd do it again a different
way and that one would be amazing too.
Bieri said she enjoyed learning how to transfer her theater experience
from the stage to the screen.
It was really nice doing something a lot more molecular, she
said. And going to Sundance was awesome, getting to see a lot of
other powerful films and being able to see myself on the big screen.
Though Gravel premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January,
some of the cast still hasnt seen the finished version of the film
to know which takes the editors decided to keep. Smith said she was looking
forward to seeing which scenes they kept.
Steve really crafted the story and script and tried to help us understand
what he wanted, she said.
Smith describes some of the films characters as punk rockers and
said her favorite experience was dressing up like a rock star.
I do have these Mick Jagger/Tina Turner fantasies, she said.
The rocker theme goes well with the grunge feel of the central characters
world of concrete and cement, filmed in Springfield, Dayton and Cincinnati.
They come from a family of working class women who have left their Appalachian
As the daughter remembers how her grandmother (local resident Willa Dallas)
came to the city for factory work, the film turns grainy like gravel.
It is a memory within a memory, which fades and changes as time passes.
The concept is tied to the way a farming heritage is given up for streets
and tall buildings and an urban life.
Even in a fiction film Bognar cannot ignore the potential for social comment.
He is foremost a documentarian.
Two of his documentary films, Personal Belongings and Picture Day,
a short, were featured at the Sundance Film Festival several years ago.
Bognar, however, will continue to devote most of his time to documenting
real life issues.
The time consuming expense of making films brings a filmmaker to choose
projects with great care and discretion. The stories should clearly be
worth telling, and the subjects should have more potential
to be useful, he said.
Gravel will be shown on Saturday, at 1 and 2 p.m., with an
introduction and closing with Bognar, Reichert, who produced the film,
cinematographer Michael King and some of the actors. The film then shows
at the Neon Movies in Dayton on Easter Sunday, at the Nashville and Athens
Film Festivals and in Atlanta in early June.