Animator Brent Green lights up Folk Hall with dark films

Last Wednesday evening, artist Brent Green visited the Folk Hall auditorium to perform for a large crowd of students, faculty and visitors. Green, a filmmaker, musician and storyteller, presented several short films. These films were accompanied by compelling live music and narration by Green and his band.


Last Wednesday evening, artist Brent Green visited the Folk Hall auditorium to perform for a large crowd of students, faculty and visitors. Green, a filmmaker, musician and storyteller, presented several short films. These films were accompanied by compelling live music and narration by Green and his band.

The performance began as the musicians tuned their many instruments, and Green described his full-length movie, Gravity Was Everything Back Then, to the crowd. He has toured in major museums and festivals around the world, including MOMA in New York and the Sundance Film Festival.

The films are surprisingly low budget for their fame; all were made in Green’s hometown in rural Pennsylvania. While he used real actors in Gravity, his short films are made with the painstakingly long process of stop-motion animation, which involves setting up each individual frame, photographing them and piecing them together into the film. Green uses this method to capture the homemade quality of filmmaking that is often lost in digital recording.

In reference to the DIY quality of his work, he encourages students to make their own films. You can make a movie in your backyard, and people will drag you all over the world to show it, Green said.

The first film Green showed, A Hadacol Christmas, retold the story of Santa Claus with a darker, more adult edge. Green’s version of the timeless tale told of Santa as a perpetually sick old inventor who is constantly drinking the heavily alcoholic cough syrup Hadacol.

One of the most striking features of his performance is the live accompaniment, which adds freshness and life to the tired media of film, allows Green constant artistic freedom in narration and engages the audience with the intimacy of live performance. Green’s narration flows in a raw but poetic way, and his stories blend into singing. The band even adds sound effects to parts of the films, such as coal being shoveled into a furnace or the whistling of the wind.

The performance intensified as Green showed his film Paulina Hollers. It began as a story of Paulina and her menace of a son, who is ironically hit by a bus as he attempts to drag a dying rabbit into the road. He is flipped into Hell, and Paulina is left alone with the pain of loss and the fear of death.

Green’s animation is beautiful; the characters are small, skeletal sculptures with bolts holding together their limbs. Paulina wears a dress of wire to suggest a feminine form on her bony structure. The scenery involves a tremendous amount of detail, especially Hell, which swims with strange cutout cartoon creatures.

The last film of the night, Carlin, was an extremely personal retelling of when Green’s Aunt Carlin, a victim of diabetes, moved into his family’s home. Throughout the film, he described the process of her slow decay and eventual death as she refused to take medicine. His aunt’s character had the same skeletal features as Paulina, and Green spliced in medical illustrations and comments written on chalkboards to add variety to the imagery. By filming Carlin in his childhood home, Green adds intensity and deep personal connection to the film.

Despite the dark stories and imagery used in these films, Green’s overall message is always a hopeful one. Each film reached its crescendo with a line such as, We are always forgetting that the sun will shine on most anything, or There is euphoria all around you. These lines of enlightenment are most certainly what make Green’s films so utterly remarkable; he is urging his viewers to see the potential for good in a world that sometimes seems hopeless.

If students weren’t excited enough to see such a renowned performance, painting teacher Mark Soppeland invited them to dinner at Luigi’s to get to know Green and his band. It was a remarkable experience for the 10 or so students to have an opportunity to connect with a famous artist. He and his band members were equally as eager to reach out to the students and tell them about their histories and their current lives as performers.


” #1.2029557:4216863133.JPG:Carlin:Green’s short film, Carlin, is based on the true story of the filmmaker’s aunt’s struggle with diabetes and what she felt before death.:Emily Poor”
“#1.2029576:3090044760.JPG:Film:Green accompanies his films with narration and live music from his band.:Emily Poor”
“#1.2029580:1051251868.JPG:Stop-animation:Green encourages all students to make their own films. He uses stop-motion animation to capture a Homemade quality that he feels is lost in digital. :Emily Poor”