Boulder-based filmmaker Phil Solomon awarded USA grant after finishing American Falls

But of all Solomon's artistic undertakings, none has been as strenuous nor time-consuming as his most recent achievement, American Falls, which Solomon describes as a "critical and poetic condensation of American history." Between its inception and completion, American Falls took twelve years to produce. It was originally commissioned by the Corcoran Galley of Art in Washington, D.C., and shown as an installation piece at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens this past October.

Solomon says the initial inspiration for American Falls came from a visit to D.C., where he noticed the vast number of memorials. But he also cites the influence of Frederic Church and his painting Niagara. Much of Solomon's artwork relies heavily on attribution, and American Falls is no different. Images from D.W. Griffith's America can be spotted, as can scenes from the original King King, North By Northwest and There Will Be Blood, among others.

The technicalities of American Falls are also quite extensive. As a triptych piece, the film is shown using three HD projectors. It has a complex 5.1 surround-sound design engineered by Seattle-based Wrick Wolff, who also composed many of the electronic keyboard passages that can be heard throughout the work. The movie is nearly an hour long, and its construction relied on a painstaking photochemical process; several of Solomon's former students assisted him with the production.

Triptych American Falls.jpg
Phil Solomon
A triptych from American Falls
American Falls triptych.jpg
Phil Solomon
A triptych from American Falls.
"Some people describe them as elegiac," he says of his movies. "They're kind of melancholy. They're very dreamlike. In dreams you don't really have hard cuts. It seems like dreams dissolve, from what I can tell. I want my films to imitate thought, feeling and the parts of the mind that are not just the storytelling mind -- the parts right before you go to sleep or when you first wake up."

But winning that $50,000 fellowship was no dream.

Between a decade-long project he's still paying for and the financial bind endemic to the life of an artist-teacher in general, Solomon says the USA fellowship grant "could not have come at a more perfect time." The grant money will be spent in a holistic fashion, he adds, but most of it will go towards work and research, which he hasn't always been able to fully immerse himself in while teaching.

"It's very hard to do your own work during the school year because there are so many distractions," Solomon explains. "It's wonderful to be liberated from that and to just be able to devote my imagination and concentration to working on new material. It's kind of a wonderful coincidence of events that have happened."

A still frame from American Falls.jpg
Phil Solomon
A still frame from American Falls

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