This thrilling and playful story of stolen brass and the L.A. deaf community explores new possibilities in cinematic expression through creative sound design, deft editing and stunning photography.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Alison O’Daniel’s superb, adventurous The Tuba Thieves provides a feast of visual and aural delights as it bounces around in time and space, gradually coalescing around a group of friends in the Los Angeles deaf community, and in particular the relationship between drummer Nyke and peripatetic poet Nature Boy. Most of the film’s dialogue is signed, and O’Daniel makes creative use of captions, ambient sound and signed narration to immerse us in the characters’ world.
The filmic journey takes in the first performance of John Cage’s epochal 4’33” by pianist David Tudor in 1952 Woodstock, a beautiful sequence that eloquently conveys the idea behind the piece. The brief flourishing of San Francisco’s Deaf Club as a punk rock venue in 1979 features next, where upcoming bands and their cohort would go wild while middle-aged ladies placidly played cards in their midst. And, yes, there is indeed the titular theft of instruments from various Southern California school marching bands between 2011 and 2013, a mysterious phenomenon that impacts on Nyke’s brother Geovanny.
Even once you’ve tuned in to the associative rhythm of this remarkable film, it continues to surprise and delight from scene to scene thanks to the gorgeous cinemascope photography by Derek Howard and inventive sound design overseen by O’Daniel. Celebrity cameos, a choir of plants, night vision wildlife, sonic booms, ice hockey, narcocorridos, wildfires, mushroom sex—you can never predict which way the movie might turn as it builds into a whimsical and enlightening meditation on sound and silence, signal and noise. — Andrew Langridge
The Tuba Thieves will be screened with open captions. An audio-described session will screen in Auckland at Rialto Cinemas Newmarket, on Sunday 23 July and in Wellington at Deluxe Cinemas, Embassy Theatre, on Tuesday 1 August.
Find out more about our accessbility screenings at our NZIFF Access page HERE.