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Director Jake Meginsky makes new Milford Graves documentary

Milford Graves Full Mantis will premiere on 27 January; a Kickstarter campaign has also been launched to help with the costs of post-production

Director Jake Meginsky has made a documentary about US drummer and avant garde pioneer Milford Graves. Meginsky filmed Graves in his back garden martial arts dojo and basement sound laboratory, both housed in the artist’s current home based just a few blocks away from the housing projects of the South Jamaica in the New York suburb of Queens where he grew up. The film also includes never before seen archive material and performance footage spanning five decades, as well as unreleased electronic music from the musician, who has worked with Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan, Sonny Sharrock and John Zorn, among many other artists.

A student of Milford Graves, Meginsky began filming his teacher and digitising his personal archive back in 2004, with his co-director, Massachusetts drummer Neil Young, joining the project in 2015. Milford Graves Full Mantis “enters into and emerges from its subject in a spectral, twining way”, writes The Wire contributor Matt Krefting, who adds that it “takes up the challenge of Graves’s art and, like the many devices he’s used (hands, wind, sticks, brushes, etc) to activate the surfaces of his many instruments (drum heads, vocal cords, the heart-ribcage-flesh apparatus of the chest, etc), it dances upon membranes”.

Milford Graves with butoh dancer Min Tanaka at the School for Autism

The film premieres at IFFR International Film Festival Rotterdam on 27 January as part of its Perspectives, Pan-African Cinema Today (PACT) programme, where Graves will also perform solo. There will be a second showing on 29 January. In the meantime, a Kickstarter campaign has been set up to help with the cost of post-production and future international screenings of the film. You can watch the trailer below.