A Cultural History of Tai Chi

Working with both Scott Phillips, and a fantastic group of student filmmakers at the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, was an enlightening experience. Teaching filmmaking techniques while negotiating the expansive combination of history, kinesthetics, art, dance, music, and religious ritual that Scott offered to this documentary was one of the most challenging experiences of professional development I’ve had.

Scott’s book, “Possible Origins”, ¬†furthers and clarifies the ideas summarized in the video, and it’s a great way to get deeper into the compelling arguments he makes to recombine the histories of dance, fighting, religious ritual, and art, that were separated through global politics.

Working with an unorthodox scholar, historian, and practicioner of martial arts was a dream for a filmmaker. Scott is a wealth of mind expansive ideas, sounds, and movements, all around the theme of recombining falsely disparate cultural traditions. Having such a compelling subject actively making his own voice, image, and thinking available to our documentary practice was a boon for a film production teacher and  students expecting a semester of repetitious curriculum.

The film, characteristically, is dense with meaning, metaphor, image, and sound and was a struggle to compress into it’s short length. You can feel the compression while watching as you’re compelled to re-watch the film to get a handle on the complex epiphanies. Each repeat screening rewards the viewer with new understandings, the book is no less insightful.

My crew, the Video and Sound production class in the RMCAD Animation Department, who are all credited at the end of the video, were the most engaged group of learner-makers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Thanks to everyone involved.

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