Friday, July 02, 2010

Little City in Space (1984)

USA, 54 minutes, documentary
Director/photography: Miroslav Janek

Because I grew up in and around Minneapolis, Minnesota, and spent the first half of my life there, and because (full disclosure) I was a member in 1977-1981 of the Post-Void Radio Theater, who play a significant role here, I had some personal interest in tracking down this fairly obscure short documentary from Miroslav Janek. Janek's biggest claim to fame now may be as one of the editors of Powaqqatsi, the second of Godfrey Reggio's trilogy that started with Koyaanisqatsi. I'm glad I finally caught up with it, though I have to wonder how much significance it might have for anyone falling outside of the tiny reach in the late '70s and early '80s of the Minneapolis southside community radio station that it profiles, KFAI-FM (90.3). At the time when I knew the station and had some involvement with it, its broadcast range was something like 10 watts, which isn't much. Nevertheless, this freewheeling documentary, with its interesting mix of color and sepia-toned footage and terrific shots coming whole handfuls at a time, does capture a lot of the spirit and the realities of the station, from the insanely eclectic range of its offerings to the stoic Scandihoovian nature of its participants (even those who speak French, as one such here who lays claim to winter as her favorite season, incidentally justifying her presence in Minnesota, "where people live longer") to the claustrophobic warrens of the old church building in which it was housed and right down to the way voices sounded coming off the air through those microphones. I wish this little gem was twice as long as it is, or even three times as long. It feels like a nifty throwback to a time and an era when people could just throw in and start a radio station and people could grab cameras and make movies about it. But now I'm indulging in the most egregious distortion—I know for a fact, for example, that it actually took nearly a decade of behind-the-scenes labors to get the station off the ground in the first place, never mind what it takes to keep it going. But I like this documentary a lot, for reasons that may or may not transfer beyond myself and a few others who have traveled in Minneapolis.

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