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Wine Country Film Festival

When: Sept. 16-21

Where: At various locations throughout Kenwood, including Deerfield Ranch Winery, 10200 Sonomma Hwy., The Kenwood Restaurant, 9900 Sonoma Hwy. and the Orpheus Wines Gallery and Tasting Room and the Cassata Sonoma Wine Room & Theatre, both in the Kenwood Village Center, 8910 Sonoma Hwy,.

Tickets: $10 to $20. Passes are $75 for Sonoma County residents, $100 for out of the county.

Information: wcff.us or 935-3456


With their electrifying interpretations of classical music, it could be said that Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe four-handedly set the keyboard on fire. Literally.

At the end of their new musical video, a wild, 36-minute re-interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” they do ignite the instrument, pounding the keys even as they melt and the Gothic instrument goes up in flames.

Secretly, both were hoping not to get burned by the fire of their own performance.

The pair set out to create a re-interpretation of Stravinsky’s classic ballet that would honor the radicalism and shock value of the piece, which premiered in 1913 to a riotous reception of outrage from the staid Parisian crowd.

“The audience was booing and screaming and they weren’t able to finish the performance because the narrative is so shocking and dramatic,” Anderson said.

But over a century it lost its ability to shake up a hall. People now receive it quietly.

“As we were making the video, we were looking at the spirit of the original music and finding a way to bring that back to life, he said. That’s why we made it so fiery and wet in the end.”

Their film is a dissonant dream of visions from clouds to urban streetscapes. At one point they even dragged the piano into the ocean, wildly playing while knee-deep in crashing surf.

“The Rite of Spring: A Musical Odyssey,” premieres Sept. 19 at the Wine Country Film Festival. Shown under the stars at Deerfield Ranch with a live piano performance by the Billboard-topping piano duo, the film is one of the centerpieces of the 60-film festival, which plays over five days outdoors and within the cave at Deerfield, as well as on screens set up at several tasting rooms in the Kenwood Village center.

Other highlights include a yet-to-be released theatrical film called “The Intern,” a comedy with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, a documentary about Dorothea Lange called “Grab a Hunk of Lightning” created by the photographer’s granddaughter Dyanna Taylor, and “The Poet of Havana” a portrait of the Cuban poet/songwriter Carlos Varela.

“The Rite of Spring” will show on the main screen, a full 36-by-14 foot high professional theatrical screen with a perforated surface so the sound from rear speakers comes through in the right orientation and places, said Steve Ashton, the founder and director of the 29-year-old film festival.

“Because it’s just so perfectly edited and executed and visually conceived, it is a feast for the eyes,” Ashton said of the film, which Anderson and Roe conceived, directed, filmed and performed themselves with limited assistance.

“The ultimate goal was to not to be sensationalistic, but to bring to life the incredible audacity of the music,” said Roe, who is now based in Southern California after spending two years as artist-in-residence at Sonoma State University. “‘The Rite of Spring’ remains one of the most revolutionary and scintillating pieces of music. We wanted to speak to the timeless boldness and innovation of it.”

Written as a ballet for The Ballet Ruse, the piece ends with a shocking ritual Pagan sacrifice of a virgin who literally dances herself to death.

Roe said she and Anderson wanted to put the piece in a more universal context.

“Sacrifice can take on many forms in human existence,” she said. In a way, the piano becomes an object of sacrifice. It presents the kind of materialistic values a consumerist society takes on.”

The “piano” becomes like a central character in the film. It really is an 1878 organ shaped like an upright piano that the pair found for about $2,000 on Craigslist. They are playing the keyboard but the real soundtrack was recorded in a studio.

For the dramatic conclusion, they dragged it into the surf.

“It was very traumatic,” Anderson recalled. “Very early on in that scene the ocean water picked up the piano as we were playing and threw it into the two of us. It ripped off my large toenail.”

For the end they dried it out and then set it up in the desert and lit it on fire.

“It really was a stunning visual piece of design and we did feel bad about destroying the organ, especially given its long history. But we wanted that historical element. In the long run, we figured that organ would be immortalized in film and probably will have more attention than it ever would sitting in the corner of someone’s home covered in cobwebs.”

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5204.