Boulder-based filmmaker Phil Solomon awarded USA grant after finishing American Falls
New York Times chief film critic Manohla Dargis once said Phil Solomon "makes films that look like no others I've seen." When asked to describe his own work, Solomon pensively characterizes it as "something like moving, poetic, musical paintings." While we may never have a consensus on how to classify Solomon's moving images, there's no denying the power of his art. In fact, it recently earned Solomon a hefty grant from United States Artists, a non-profit, artist-advocacy organization.
- Bye-Bye Brakhage - Stan Brakhage's film legacy lingers in Colorado
- Alex Cox, director of Repo Man, joins CU-Boulder's film studies faculty this fall- From the Archives: Experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage rants about bad art
Earlier this month Solomon was in Los Angeles, where he attended a gathering for newly crowned USA fellows. Other members of the 2012 class include Keith Hennessy, a pioneer in gay and AIDS-themed expressionist dance; Nicholas Galanin, a Native American artist who specializes in multimedia; and Adrienne Kennedy, an African American playwright with an appetite for surrealism.
Solomon says the USA fellowships and other grants "make it possible to make the world a better place, even if it's just in small doses." But more than the money, he's proud of being included in such an eclectic, talented lineup. To Solomon, becoming a USA fellow was about being recognized as an artist -- not just a filmmaker. And it's this distinction that reminds him so much of his former adviser and best friend: Colorado film-making legend Stan Brakhage.
"He would have loved this, that I got this award," Solomon says. "This was an artist award. I got this along with painters and poets and dancers and writers. It's really extraordinary, the diversity not only of cultures but artists, too. These are my kind of people."
Brakhage played a big role in luring Solomon to Boulder, where he's been teaching at the University of Colorado since 1991. When Solomon was first dropped off in front of Brakhage's home over twenty years ago (by a young Trey Parker, no less), he remembers a man with a "fantastic Santa Claus laugh who would bear-hug everyone he saw" -- standing there with open arms, seemingly on the brink of entrapping Solomon in yet another of his infamous grizzly embraces.
"It was love at first sight," Solomon recalls. "He embraced me. We became best friends instantly. I was warned he would burn our bridges at one point or another, and it never happened."
In fact, from that point on the two shared a symbiotic relationship that Solomon calls "the most profound thing that ever happened to me." In the early stages of Solomon's career as a filmmaker, Brakhage was a role model, perhaps even an idol. Solomon remembers how he "worshiped his creativity and bravery" -- until they eventually exchanged films and began working together. Once they'd officially teamed up, Solomon says they were "just two guys jamming in Boulder."