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‘Trash Dance’ finds odd beauty

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For Andrew Garrison, being a filmmaker is all about telling a story, which is why the director jumped at the chance to direct “Trash Dance.”

The documentary follows Solid Waste Services employees in Austin on their daily routines. Sounds like a normal documentary – but there’s a twist.

Choreographer Allison Orr has always found beauty and grace in garbage trucks and in the men and women who pick up our trash. Orr joins these men and women on their routes and tries to persuade them to collaborate in a unique dance performance.

If you go
WHAT: “Trash Dance”
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Sept. 24
WHERE: KiMo Theatre, 423 W. Central
HOW MUCH: $10 at the door

After months of rehearsal and persuasion, nearly two dozen trash collectors and their trucks come together for the event.

“I was interested in capturing a dancer at work and appreciated that Allison works with nontraditional performers,” Garrison says. “I liked the concept – putting center stage the people who do the work that most of us do not want to do. We don’t think about who picks up our garbage or any of the other essential daily work that makes everything run. Making the invisible visible is one of the great themes of documentary.”

“Trash Dance” has been selected to screen at the ISEA2012 symposium on Sept. 24. Garrison will host a question-and-answer session after the screening.

“I’ve driven through Albuquerque, but that was many years ago,” he explains. “I’m looking forward to seeing how people respond to the human story of the documentary.”

Garrison says filming took place over the course of a year. The final 20 minutes of the film is dedicated to the trash truck performance.

“We had 10 cameras shooting all different angles during the performance,” he says. “We wanted to make sure that the entire performance was captured.”

With that new footage, which was 100 hours, Garrison and crew added it to the 100 hours already shot over the year.

“I hired an editor who pieced it all together and did a great job,” he says. “You get straight to the point of the documentary and start to relate to these workers.”

Garrison is a film professor at the University of Texas at Austin and says he got interested in documentaries after seeing “Harvest of Shame” by Edward R. Murrow.

“It was on TV when I was a kid, and it was about the conditions of migrant workers in America,” he explains. “I had no idea that world existed. I was excited, outraged and impressed. Outraged by the unfairness of what I saw, and excited that a film could give me understanding and make me feel that.”

Garrison says he’s fascinated by stories that come from everyday lives of people who are discovering their own power and voice.

He says growing up in an extended family of talkative, funny, working-class storytellers who could get rapturous over music or food or a painting or a book made him want to tell a story.

“They had great anecdotes about all the different ways they dealt with life, each story polished until it shone. And from these kinds of tales I learned about different ways to deal with what life throws at you,” he says. “These were stories, as all stories finally are, about how to face the world. I also realized you would not know about their passion just by looking at them.”

The film premiered at South by Southwest in March and picked up a special jury award.

Garrison says the film was originally going to be a regional film, but after picking up the audience award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina and AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival in Maryland, he figured that it goes beyond Austin.

“These are stories from everyday people,” he says. “What’s great is each person donated their time to rehearse and get it done. Most of these men and women already had two jobs and they wanted to be part of this.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter at @agomezART.

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