Director Biography - Leah O'Donnell
LEAH O’DONNELL is a dance/theater artist with an MFA from the University of Michigan. Her choreographic work is immersed in non-linear streams of consciousness and natural landscapes that highlight humanity’s interdependence with the earth. Her work has been presented by Global Women Performing Arts Festival (Busan, Korea), Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra, ACDA Northeast Conference gala, and Michigan Opera Theater among others. She won best choreography at the 2022 Detroit Dance City Festival, was a 2020 Maggie Alessee Choreography Award Finalist, and a 2019 Copperfoot Award recipient. Last summer, she traveled to Ireland as an artist in residence with Greywood Arts (Killeagh Village) and studied Body Weather with Frank van de Ven on Inishbofin, co. Galway. As a performer, Leah's favorite performance credits include the Metropolitan Opera (3 seasons), Across the Universe, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, Beyoncé Knowles, and performing at the Royal Palace of Istanbul.
Review of the Movie “Blue Burrow”
The movie “Blue Burrow” is an experimental work in the true sense of the word. It attempts to create a symbolic and metaphorical world using various visual elements and performance, in which every behavior and object refers to something outside itself. It is a world where every image can be interpreted, and where movements and gestures are related to pre-established concepts, expanding and extending the film to encompass all of these meanings until they converge into a whole. This whole need not necessarily be uniform and can be constructed from various themes and concepts.
Symbolic and metaphorical works succeed when they engage audiences with different ways of thinking. These works are open to multiple interpretations, allowing individuals to derive their own meanings based on the work itself. Such works always avoid limiting the audience's horizon and try not to arrive at definitive conclusions. They become more important when they expand the diverse thematic backgrounds in front of the audience and allow the audience to connect them as they see fit. “Blue Burrow” is not only a bold and fearless experience, but also a work that embodies all of the given values as a symbolic work. It presents its topics for discussion, but does not rush to summarize them. It introduces the issue, but refrains from imposing its own perspective. While creating a tangible space for direct communication with its audience (meaning that we believe in the environment and situation), it avoids precise definition of the subject matter. It takes us into the heart of nature and tells us about the powerful forces flowing within it, but does not force us to accept its view of nature. It simply shows it to us.
The movie opens with a shot of a boat on the shore. We see a paper house, a food dish, and then two women. These women are pulling their blue feet out of the water. What makes us pay extra attention to these images is that the speed of the film is slower than reality (a combination of slow motion and 60fps filming), and the sound band of the film is full of sounds that catch the audience's attention; a quiet and uninterrupted sound band that mixes the sound of the wind and the melody of a wind instrument. The director invites us to participate in this experience where movements, body parts, and eyes take on meaning. In the absence of dialogue and without a storyline that advances through dramatic relationships as in narrative works, we have no choice but to look at people's behavior to understand the film. For example, in a scene where a woman moves on all fours on the beach and carries a piece of charcoal on her back, we can guess that the filmmaker is referring to environmental issues. Given that the filmmaker allows us to describe his work as we wish and given the abstract concepts that the film touches upon, it can be guessed that in this scene, the filmmaker had metaphorical destruction of the environment in mind. In this particular scene, the director of the movie creates an elegy for the environment because humans, exhausted and came on their knees, carry the last remaining pieces of nature with them. Is it in hope of saving it or as a burden on their shoulders?
In another scene, we see three floating water lily leaves, each with a woman's head visible. These women gaze into the distance with ultimate silence and despair. Is this not the fate of humans and nature? Can this reference not be attributed to the destruction of humanity when it is bound to destroy its environment? In another scene, we see a woman struggling in a tour and kicking her arms and legs in the water. In a very important and influential scene, we see a woman sleeping on a floating bed on the sea. The woman wakes up but cannot open her eyes. It is a metaphor for the human condition, as if it is asleep and blind to environmental changes. A person who does not know that by destroying the environment, they will endanger their own life.
The irresistible force and wonder of the film is that it can refer to its intended issues without speaking clearly or risking slogans. It expresses what it intends through imagery and symbols without being straightforward and directly targeting its audience. For this reason, one can see different moments of it repeatedly and still obtain new interpretations of each scene and their combinations.
Leah O'Donnell, the director, knew that the simpler she made her idea, the more effective it would be. Generally, ideas that contain important human themes will be better understood if they are defined as simply as possible. As a result, Leah O'Donnell chose a beach to guide her actors with the elements and tools available in that location. Despite the lack of dialogue and spatial limitations, the actors managed to have a significant impact in the film, and their presence can be remembered even after watching the film. “Blue Burrow” is one of those works that can be thought about for a long time because of its important subject and the expression method is devoid of noise and chaos; in ultimate simplicity, focused on human reactions and behaviors.