‘This Time This Place’— Documentary Chappelle debuts


As New York audiences returned to theaters this past weekend, the first show on the schedule was the premiere of a new documentary set in Yellow Springs.

Produced and directed by Yellow Springs filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, and co-produced by local comedian Dave Chappelle’s Pilot Boy Productions, the film takes a behind-the-scenes look at the rural outdoor comedy shows presented by Chappelle’s last summer. at the Wirrig family lodge just north of the village.

Still listed as “Untitled” until its preview screening on Saturday, June 19 at Radio City Music Hall, the film held the prestigious closing night of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. A room that would have been crowded with nearly 6,000 customers attended the unveiling of the work now titled “Dave Chappelle: This Time This Place”.

In a phone interview on Monday, following what the Oscar-winning couple described as a ‘whirlwind’ weekend in New York City, Reichert and Bognar said they were eagerly awaiting local residents to see the film in which the city plays a role. A general exit plan, however, has not been announced.

“It’s up to Dave’s people,” Bognar said.

The title “This Time This Place” refers to the direction Reichert said he gave his film crew to put together footage.

“It’s about this place and this time,” she told the young filmmakers, all associated with the film department at Wright State University, where Reichert is a professor emeritus and Bognar is an alumnus and alumnus. faculty. “This is Yellow Springs, not the country as a whole, not Dayton down the road.”

And the concept of “this time” was also focused, Bognar added, explaining that their intention was to capture a specific moment, not to make a historic statement.

The moment turned out to be historic, however, as it took place amid the shutdown of the coronavirus pandemic as well as protests over the police murder of George Floyd and other black Americans. Locally, as the film begins in June 2020, most normal activities were suspended indefinitely as local youth stepped forward to lead what has become a weekly series of marches and rallies to protest police violence against black people. .

Bognar said the filmmakers were deeply inspired “by the courage [the young people] showed to go down 68, to speak the truth to power.

The impetus for the start of the documentary project, however, was the pandemic and its effect on live performances, especially comedy shows, as they represent Chappelle’s world.

The idea was Chappelle’s, they said. A News request to Chappelle’s manager for an interview or a comment from the comedian was not answered, although the manager did forward a photo from the red carpet on Saturday night.

Chappelle came to them on June 5, Reichert and Bognar recalled.

Chappelle noted that he had recently won the Mark Twain Award for American Comedy and that Reichert and Bognar had just won an Oscar for their documentary “American Factory”, concluding, “We are neighbors. We have to work together.

He told them he had an idea to put on a comedy show at a local area.

The lockdown had been in place for almost three months at that time. “Comedians have to appear in front of the audience,” Reichert said, Chappelle told them. He said he got permission from the governor’s office that morning, if certain protocols were followed, and was ready to go ahead and try his idea.

“I think it should be documented,” Reichert told them.

Bognar said the idea was “compelling,” although the couple expected a calm summer after a busy winter and spring that included an awards season honoring “American Factory” and the release of a new movie, “9 to 5: The History of a Movement.

“We love Dave, and we’ve loved Dave for a long time,” Bognar said.

Reichert said their next natural question was when.

“Tomorrow” was Chappelle’s response.

Need a team, quickly the filmmakers contacted their Wright State network.

That first night on the Wirrig Pavilion stage, in front of an audience of about 65 guests, “Dave had a very powerful speech about George Floyd,” Bognar detailed. This weekend’s footage then became the short “8:46,” which was shared widely on social media after Netflix posted it to YouTube. The headline referred to the initially reported time, eight minutes and 46 seconds, during which Minneapolis cop Daryl Chauvin held his knee to Floyd’s neck, causing his death.

Extend the shows

The filmmakers continued to shoot as the outdoor shows continued through the summer and into the fall, as Chappelle hosted a roster of well-known artists in the rural setting of Meredith Road. Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Trevor Noah, CK Louis, Bob Saget, Tiffany Haddish and regulars Donnell Rawlings, Michelle Wolf and Mo Amer were among the comedians who performed. Musical guests included Common, John Mayer, Erykah Badu and Questlove.

More than 50 shows took place before the end of the season in late September, a week earlier than expected, after an unidentified person associated with the performances was reportedly exposed to COVID-19.

Ongoing performances were allowed through a temporary waiver from the Miami Township Board of Zoning Appeals, or BZA, after the township’s zoning inspector informed owners they had to request such a waiver in order to host an activity. commercial on land zoned for agriculture use.

The hearing in which the application was considered and then approved would be included in the documentary.

Chappelle most recently hosted a dozen more shows at the pavilion over three weeks from May 26 to June 12, with tickets at $ 450 for a pair. But the adventure has apparently come to an end. Although the original zoning waiver, which set an end date of October 4, 2020, was amended at another BZA hearing to extend until early August of this year, the terms of the modification no longer applies. Specifically, the request stated that the reason for the shows was to provide a venue to perform while the traditional indoor venues remained closed. The reopening of cinemas across the country erases this need.

Film making

“We didn’t foresee what was going to happen,” Bognar said of the events that unfolded throughout the summer of 2020. The goal of the filmmakers was to document what happened. Although Chappelle was a co-producer, Reichert and Bognar had control of the direction, Bognar said.

“We set the style and the tone. We shaped the movie the way we wanted.

When asked if this was their first documentary initiated by the subject of the film, Bognar pointed to other projects, including “Sparkle,” which focused on Sheri “Sparkle” Williams, a long-time dancer. date from the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, commissioned by DCDC; and “Making Morningstar” with the Cincinnati Opera.

“We love to make films about people who take their art, their profession, their work very seriously,” said Bognar. The film Chappelle gave them the opportunity to enter the world of comedy, he said.

“The real gift for us was to be part of the culture,” he added.

One quality that ties all of their films together, Reichert said, is an attempt to “dig deep” and show the humanity of their subjects. “We’re not trying to take it any further,” she said, noting that “The Last Truck” was about closing a single factory; “American Factory” features a Chinese businessman who opens a glass factory in southwest Ohio; and “Home Lion”, which focused on several families whose children were being treated for cancer at the same facility.

Finishing the new film in time for its Tribeca Film Festival debut “has been a huge effort,” Bognar said, adding that they had “never made a great movie like this in a year.”

The couple worked there until the Sunday before its premiere.

Incorporating it into the Tribeca Festival was also Chappelle’s idea, as was its screening at Radio City Music Hall, which had been closed for 15 months until it reopened for the premiere.

“Let’s go big,” was Chappelle’s advice, said Bognar, describing the comedian as a “visionary”.

“Dave sometimes sees a turn before most of us even see a turn coming,” said Bognar.

When the Tribeca board of directors accepted the film and scheduled it to close the film festival, “We were thrilled,” Bognar said.

The experience, then, of attending the screening was “something just out of this world,” he added. “The feeling in this room. We have never experienced anything like it. The laugh – you could feel it in your chest. The premiere of the film The Juneteenth was also significant for the couple.

The approximately 6,000-seat hall was the largest space they screened a movie in, they said. The Schuster Center in Dayton, with 2,300 seats, was previously perhaps the largest, added Reichert.

She suggested that the energy of Saturday night was heightened by the excitement of being in a theater setting again.

“There was so much hunger to go out. Everyone in the room was so happy. People were kissing.

Media reports from the evening, noting that customers had to show proof of vaccination to enter, also echoed the positive response felt by Reichert and Bognar. A variety of media weighed in on the event, with many marking the reopening of the theater as an important moment in the life of the city.

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