Canton High alum combines passions in new short film

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Katrin is a dancer in New York City who moves into an apartment as she recovers from an injury that has put her career on hold. One night, as she listens to the noises from the radiator in her apartment, she hears people talking and kneels down on the floor to peer through a hole in the wall of her bedroom. She sees an older couple passionately dancing to the rhythms and sounds created in their apartment next door by the radiator, the opening and closing of cabinet doors, and the squeaking of a wet rag being rubbed along a counter. Intrigued, she opens the door and leaves her apartment to find the couple and realizes that she is standing in the hallway. Who and where are the people behind the wall?

Bat-Sheva Guez

Bat-Sheva Guez

Behind the Wall, which was written and directed by Bat-Sheva Guez, premiered last weekend at the 2015 Rhode Island International Film Festival. The film explores the lives of its characters and combines Guez’s love of dance and magical realism. At the awards ceremony on August 9, the film was honored with the Panavision Cinematography Award.

Guez graduated from Canton High School in 1999 and went on to earn a degree in filmmaking from Vassar College in 2003. Through her production company, Adventure Pants, she has written, directed and produced a number of videos and short films for the New York City Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. She has received the JT3 Award for Screenwriting and Directing and is a member of Film Fatales, a community of women who support each other in the creation of more films by and about women.

“I’ve been dancing since I was 18,” Guez said recently. “I take classes once a week. Movement is very tangential to what I do.”

She described herself as a filmmaker who is always seeking to meet the challenge of creating something that will elicit a visceral response from viewers. She writes stories that are character-driven and emotional.

Guez’s films include careful attention to detail, beautifully designed sets, and a little bit of magic.

“I really love building worlds,” she said. “It’s very much about the details.”

The world in Behind the Wall comprises Katrin, the old couple, and the crumbling apartment building where the three of them live.

“There’s a young dancer whose career has been cut short by injury, the magic of the house and the next door neighbors facing gentrification,” Guez said. “Where would they go?”

Guez has added another level of interest to the film through the fact that Katrin has no dialogue to speak. The couple talks to her, but when she tries to answer, they answer for her or speak over her. The audience needs to focus on Katrin’s body language to gauge what she is thinking and how she feels toward the couple, the house, and her own future. Guez was inspired by the work of Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of BellvilleThe Illusionist) to make a film in which the protagonist does not speak.

Besides including her love of dance in the film, Guez contributed to the sound choices. “The radiators in my apartment do make a lot of sounds and sometimes keep me up at night,” she said.

According to a press release for the film, Mark Orton, who wrote the score, banged on an oil drum, bowed a waterphone, snapped cello strings until they groaned a percussive response, and shoved bric-a-brac under the hammers of a piano to create the score.

The premiere in Rhode Island has special meaning for Guez. “I’m really excited the premiere is so close to home,” she said. “My parents have never been able to make my premieres. It’s really fun and exciting for my family.”

Her parents, Moshe and Roberta Guez, live in Canton. Besides her parents, fellow CHS Class of 1999 graduates Kelli MacKay, Katerina Tassiopoulos, and Greg Goshgarian, and Class of 2000 grad Miriam Okun celebrated at the festival with Guez.

“Premiering locally is so much fun,” she said, “to be able to share it with people in my life from a long time ago.”

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