Filmmaker Noah Berlow, a native of Palmerton, along with director Katina Dunn and cinematographer Avi Cohen of Los Angeles are savoring their Award for Best Documentary at the Memphis International Film Festival for their film, "Kumpania Flamenco Los Angeles" presented on April 24 in Memphis, TN.
"Kumpania" is a Romanes word meaning a group of Roma (the proper name for a nomadic European people sometimes called "Gypsies") traveling or living together. The mysterious pull of this old Spanish gypsy art of music and dance on a group of contemporary performers in Los Angeles is the essence of the feature-length documentary film "Kumpania."
Despite being mostly ignored by mainstream audiences, these artists love flamenco and are devoted to keeping it alive in the city. The film spotlights these artists, from a wide swath of ethnic backgrounds as vibrant as the city of LA and the art they embody.
"Once Avi Cohen, our cinematographer, showed me Noah's work on Sully Erna's 'Journey to Avalon' last year, I knew he was the right talent for 'Kumpania,'" said Director Dunn. "I waited months for him to finish another job. I wanted to approach flamenco in a new way for a new audience. Noah's editing revealed aspects of nirvana videos in the film – a wild energy, playfulness and an anti-establishment attitude."
"Another gift of Noah's is his 'ear' for music. We cut a couple scenes to flamenco rhythms with Cristina Lucio, a 'bailaora' (flamenco dancer) and co-producer, sitting with us clapping out the 'palos,' or beats," she continues. "With Avi as cinematographer and Noah as editor/producer, I had two of the best music video guys in the business on this project."
The Best Documentary Award in Memphis comes on the heels of the film receiving the Audience Award at the Buffalo Film Festival earlier in the month, and screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Dubuque, Iowa.
"Kumpania" will have its European premiere at the Madrid International Film Festival on June 6, where it is nominated for Best Documentary Feature. To watch a trailer of "Kumpania" go to http://kumpaniamovie.com.
Friends of Berlow eagerly anticipated the release of legendary guitar player, Slash's new album "Apocalyptic Love" on May 22.
The album includes a 30-minute documentary bonus disk, "The Making of Apocalyptic Love," which Berlow produced, directed, and edited with his L.A. colleague, Dan Catullo, of City Drive Entertainment Group.
Since August, 2011, Berlow has been following Slash behind the scenes as he recorded and performed with his own solo band with lead singer Myles Kennedy. Berlow also directed, produced and edited all seven episodes for Slash's "Slash in the Studio" web series for Ray Ban's Never Hide Films which can be seen on YouTube.*
Berlow was recommend to become documentarian for Slash, former lead guitar player of Guns'n Roses, last year after Berlow produced and edited a behind the scenes feature length documentary on Godsmack front man, Sully Erna, entitled "Journey to Avalon" which was shown repeatedly on VH-1's Palladia TV last May through February. After the documentary aired, sales for Erna's "Avalon" jumped a record 2,300 percent as the album rose to number two on Amazon. A follow up program which Berlow also produced and edited will feature Sully Erna in concert with a live performance of "Avalon" in Boston. It is slated to air nationwide on Paladia TV in June.
"I have been thrilled that an artist of Slash's stature sought me out and was willing to give me complete creative control over these projects. The biggest challenge for me during production was to be a 'fly on the wall' during Slash's recording sessions, while allowing the band to write and record freely without feeling the pressure of being on camera," said Berlow. "But I think we achieved our goal. Slash has to be one of the most humble artists in the business, and it was such a pleasure to experience the creation of his new record from their earliest pre-production rehearsals."
What's next on Berlow's docket?
In July, Berlow will be flying to Amsterdam to work on producing/editing a documentary on the "Handful of Ash" project with the Dutch nonprofit group, Hivos (The Humanist Institute for Cooperation).
Berlow graduated from Palmerton Area High School in 2000 and Ithaca College in 2004, with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Cinema and Photography from the Roy H. Park School of Communication. He is the son of Bernie and Sarina Berlow of Palmerton and currently resides near Universal Studios in Los Angeles, CA.