WNC residents Sorokin and Weare's 'Landfall' wins award at Paris Short Film Festival

Originally published in Citizen Times on Apr 2, 2022
Written by Johnny Casey

MARSHALL - Western North Carolina has served as the site for a number of movies, but it's not often that Western North Carolina residents bring home international film festival awards.

Marshall resident Jack Sorokin's "Landfall," an experimental dance film he co-created with Asheville resident Kate Weare, won Best Experimental Short Film at the 2022 Paris Short Film Festival.

Jack Sorokin, self portrait

The Madison County Arts Council will screen the film May 12 at 6 p.m.

The film festival, which ran March 12-18, is an annual event that discovers, supports and develops new talent in filmmaking, providing a platform for emerging and established filmmakers from around the world, according to its website.

"For me and Kate, this was a first experience of applying to film festivals," Sorokin said. "One of the things we learned along the way is that you have to keep exclusivity, so you can't publish the film anywhere online until after the film festivals have shown the movies, because they want the opportunity to show it."

While Sorokin majored in photography at Maryland Institute College of Art, he said he studied film while in college, too, and had dabbled in filmmaking on the commercial level prior to "Landfall."

"I was making little movies or little films in high school, and continued in college," Sorokin said. "Commercially, I've done some advertising, essentially, for local businesses, where they make all different kinds of video projects - for websites and web content."

Weare is a stage choreographer with her Kate Weare Company, a New York-based contemporary dance group founded in 2005. Weare’s dances explore contemporary views of intimacy, both tender and stark, by drawing on our most basic urges to move and decode movement, according to the company's website.

Kate Weare, photo by Patrick MacLeod

"I had moved down to Asheville with my family and I was bringing dancers down from New York for residencies and starting to explore film mostly so that I could continue to think about the movement after they had gone. Then during COVID, when all touring and our normal stream of project work had shut down, I had just been experimenting on film, and also trying to explore a little bit in nature, because it had been 20 years since I'd lived in nature. That's when I realized, 'Hey, if I'm really going to explore this in a serious way, I'm going to need a technical filmmaker.'"

It was through his work as a photographer that Sorokin came into contact with Weare, as he had documented Weare's husband's project according to Sorokin,

"She reached out to me in November 2019 and was like, 'How do you feel about messing around with some video and some dancers in the woods?'" Sorokin said. "She said she had some rudimentary choreography to experiment. I was like, 'I've never worked with dancers on film, but it sounds fun. Who knows? Let's just spend a day out there.'"

Sorokin said the team's first day of filming, which took place on the Warren Wilson College campus, ended up being more of a "trial run."

Then, in August 2020, Weare organized a more intentional gathering and brought two dancers - Thryn Saxon and Nicole Vaughan-Diaz.

"We went down to this property in Mill Spring where there were multiple houses, where amidst COVID we could all live in separate houses, but spend 10 days outside together filming," Sorokin said. "Kate had a choreography framework that was sort of the thesis of what we were doing, in terms of movement. Then it was really just about experimenting with what came up with the land, and where our intuition went. For me, it was a totally new process. I work very analytically. This was very different for me to say, 'OK, I'm just going to follow my gut.'"

Following his intuition paid off in the end for Sorokin and Weare, who also submitted "Landfall" to The Maryland Film Festival and Jacksonville Film Festival.

"I'm a known quantity in the contemporary dance world, and I was really thrilled that we got into an actual film festival that had nothing to do with dance," Weare said. "I feel like for me, it's an opportunity to look past the very specific, insular world of contemporary dance and start exploring not just new concepts, but also new audiences."

The movie's message

For Sorokin, the movie marked his introduction into dance films. According to Weare, though, "Landfall" was her first experience making a dance film, too.

"We really started exploring the body within composition, and let go of the idea that the body had to be dancing, necessarily," Weare said. "I think the most significant thing we accomplished was it was an experimental process for us to come forward and get to know each other as artists. It was also, for me, a way to grapple with how much I had been missing nature and its presence in my life, living in cities.

Weare said she felt the movie was a reflection of her awakened sense of paranoia that she experienced during COVID.

"(The movie spoke about) whether human beings are really meant to survive, and whether we belong here, because we seem to be bent on self-destruction," she said. "The film really puts these two women dancers in nature, but they don't quite fit - there is something alien, as well, happening. It's not like a paean to how we seamlessly blend with nature. I actually think this film is questioning whether we are natural, on some level."

According to Sorokin, he and Weare met for nearly a year to brainstorm the editing process.

In the midst of that editing process too, the pair are working on two additional projects.

"Now, I feel like I want to come back toward what the complexities and ambiguities and movement can offer that are subterranean to language, but sometimes can be as precise as language," Weare said. "I want to also make use of what film does really well, which is narrative. It tells stories."