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Ditmas Park bros and Sufjan Stevens collaborate on rodeo film

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What is hairier than evening rush-hour on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway? How about getting up close with a raging 2,000-pound bull.

Indie rock superstar Sufjan Stevens will present his latest project “Round-Up,” a movie filmed at one of the oldest rodeos in the country with an accompanying live score, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Jan. 20–22. The work follows his similar 2007 piece for the Fort Greene cultural institution “The BQE,” which featured footage of Interstate 278.

Ditmas Park filmmakers Alex and Aaron Craig collaborated with Stevens on the project. The brothers said they put an artistic twist on the footage of bucking bulls and broncos they filmed at the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon by showing it in slow motion and setting it to a modern classical score. The result is a dreamlike and surprisingly beautiful look at one of America’s oldest competitive sports. It is also a very candid one, said Aaron Craig.

“Most people see events like these from afar,” he said. “They see the men getting thrown around on horses and bulls and think they’re very manly, which they are. We wanted to show a real human perspective by showing them up close. You see the stress and worry they have before they’re about to get tossed around.”

The Craig siblings said they were able to achieve this by gaining unprecedented access to the Pendleton Round-Up, getting up-close and personal with some of the riders and other people behind the scenes of the 105-year-old rodeo. The only hitch was that they had to look the part.

“We weren’t allowed to wear anything but Western clothing when we were there,” Aaron Craig said. “Our first stop was a store so we could get some jeans and cowboy hats that we had to wear the whole time we were filming.”

Initially conceived as a five-minute video, “Round-Up” turned into a much larger endeavor once the Craigs and Stevens worked through the 60 hours of footage they had captured. The film is now feature-length, with a score that will be played live by Stevens and classical quartet Yarn/Wire at each screening.

“Sufjan was really involved every step of the way,” said Aaron Craig. “When we showed him an hour-long cut, he said, ‘Now that you know all the footage, start from scratch and do it all over again.’ He was right, too. We did know the footage better and I think it turned out better the second time around.”

“Round-Up” plays at Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAM Harvey Theater [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org] Jan. 20–25 at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $30.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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