The "Bayou Maharajah" filmmaker has started a Kickstarter campaign to finance the conclusion of a documentary on dance in New Orleans.
Lily Keber is trying to finish her follow-up to Bayou Maharajah, her 2013 James Booker documentary, and she’s looking for Kickstarter help to finance the final steps. The new film, Buckjumping, explores the world of New Orleans’ second line dancing, and that comes with costs. “We need things that sound tedious and boring, but that are super important,” she says. “Things like music licensing, color correction, a sound mix. And getting the film ready to submit to film festivals.”
Keber has worked on Buckjumping for three years on a shoestring budget, and if it isn’t the natural follow-up to Bayou Maharajah, it’s at least connected in her mind. Part of the Booker story, she says, was of a artist with a personal voice struggling inside a capitalist system. “Buckjumping is about dance, but it's really about community building, transmission of culture, resiliency, the importance of Black culture to America and about the ways in which the arts, culture and community can be used as resistance.”
Both films are also about New Orleanians. “It's about the humor, the classiness, the generosity, the savoir faire, the love, the connectedness and the strength of New Orleanians,” Keber says. “I originally came up with the idea of making a film about dance because, on one hand it always gets left out of the equation when people are rattling off what's great about New Orleans. Food, music, architecture get listed, but never dance, and yet dance is such a crucial part of the lived experience here. Every local knows that if people in the club aren't dancing, then the band must be dragging, and so many visitors come here and leave with the joyous memories of dancing to the band, something they would probably never do at home.”
Because dancing doesn’t come with a natural narrative in the way that a life or event does, Keber had to figure out her film’s structure on the fly. “I wanted the film to feel truthful and real to New Orleanians and especially to the people in the film, so I started approaching people, explaining my idea and asking what dance means to them,” she says. “I was surprised to hear how often the discussion turned to spirituality. People's feet being guided by the spirits. The importance of second-lining in your own neighborhood, so you can be close to the spirts of your relatives who have passed. There are many places in the world that view dance as a way of worshipping God with your body. I think that feeling exists here in New Orleans, in a way that it exists nowhere else in North America.”
Any money above the Kickstarter campaign’s $20,000 goal will make it possible for dancers and community members in the film to travel to festival screenings and speak for themselves at screenings and appearances. “Who better to be ambassadors of New Orleans cultures than the actual New Orleans culture bearers?” she asks.