The Academy Award-nominated short subject documentary film A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION is executive produced by Academy Award nominee and Emmy Winner Ava DuVernay and recently premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and is now streaming fromThe New York Times Op-Docs.
Kris Bowers, a virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer tracks his family’s lineage. He is one of Hollywood’s rising young composers. At 29, he scored the Oscar-winning film Green Book (2018), and this year he premiered a new violin concerto, For a Younger Self, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. For all that success, though, he says that as a Black composer, “I’ve been wondering whether or not I’m supposed to be in the spaces that I’m in.” Horace Bowers tells his grandson, “Never think that you’re not supposed to be there.”
In the 13-minute film A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION, Bowers traces the process of breaking into new spaces through generations of sacrifice that came before him, focusing on the story of his grandfather Horace Bowers. As a young man, he left his home in the Jim Crow South, eventually ending up in Los Angeles. Encountering discrimination at every turn, he and his wife, Alice, nevertheless made a life as business owners. Today, their legacy lives on through their family and community in South Los Angeles, where a stretch of Central Avenue was recently designated Bowers Retail Square, in case any question remained about whether it’s a place they belong.
Directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur Ben Proudfoot and Emmy-winning composer Kris Bowers (Green Book, When They See Us, Bridgerton). The film was produced by Proudfoot’s Los Feliz-based Breakwater Studios.
DuVernay and Bowers discuss the film in a pre-recorded conversation. “I was blown away,” DuVernay tells Bowers about her response to his intimate film, which she also called “a balm for these times.” DuVernay says the film captured “an intimacy within the sphere of Black masculinity that is so rare to see, that crosses the generational divide in a way that is rarely seen” and, later, that “it feels like I’m watching an exchange within my own family. I feel like Black people who have borne witness and participated in that exchange, it will feel beautifully familiar. And for folks who feel like that exchange is foreign or does not exist, it will be instructive. But more than anything, it is a record of a great man.”
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS
Kristopher Bowers is an American composer and pianist who has composed scores for films, video games, television, and documentaries including, Green Book, Madden NFL, Dear White People, and Kobe Bryant’s Muse. He has recorded, performed, and collaborated with the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, and José James. He won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 2011 and a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition in 2017 for The Snowy Day. Bowers worked on the score of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix mini-series When They See Us as well as the current Netflix hit Bridgerton.
Ben Proudfoot (born 1990) is a Nova Scotia-born filmmaker and founder of Breakwater Studios, an emerging leader in the short documentary space. A former sleight of hand magician, Ben has pioneered alternative models of short documentary financing and distribution including noteworthy and award-winning collaborations with The New York Times, Charles Schwab, Annapurna Pictures, and the LA Phil, earning him a spot on the 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 list. In addition to his work as an entrepreneur, Ben is an award-winning artist and filmmaker, having directed over fifty noteworthy original short documentaries. Ben’s work as a director has been selected by HotDocs, Sundance, Tribeca, and Telluride.
Check out the trailer