2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: KUSAMA – INFINITY

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Harrie Verstappen

KUSAMA – INFINITY
Heather Lenz presents a thoughtful look at the life and art of the celebrated queen of polka dots.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

In 1958, a fledgling yet fierce young Japanese artist moved to New York City after writing to Georgia O’Keeffe to express admiration and seek guidance on how to break into the New York art scene. Miraculously, O’Keeffe wrote back, and an emboldened Yayoi Kusama left behind what she considered the conformist culture of Japan to assert herself in the Big Apple. Inspired by the 1960s American political and social revolution, Kusama’s avant-garde innovations garnered notoriety but little fame or success as she pioneered audacious and unprecedented soft sculptures, staged nude Vietnam protests, and fashioned dazzling polka-dot creations.

Encountering both racism and sexism in a realm dominated by men whose work often directly pilfered her concepts, she eventually returned to Tokyo and voluntarily retired to a mental institution. Only in the last couple of decades has the rest of the world caught up to Kusama’s radical vision. A documentary many years in the making, KUSAMA – INFINITY lovingly finds a form that captures the ineffable power of her work and embodies the elusive, yet magnetic voice of this genius only now, at 88, receiving her due.

Some Background:
Director/Screenwriter/Producer:

  • Heather Lenz

    This marks Lenz’s first Sundance credit. Her previous work was nominated for a Student Academy Award, and also includes film and television projects for PBS, The History Channel, and Food Network.

Producers:

  • Karen Johnson

    Johnson’s previous work has often focused on female filmmakers and subjects, most notably the Toronto International Film Festival doc DOUBLE DARE. This is also her first project at Sundance.

  • Dan Braun

    Braun is a co-founder/co-president of Submarine Entertainment. He is also an executive producer for 2018 Sundance Doc Premieres title BAD REPUTATION and Special Events series WILD WILD COUNTY. While these are his first Sundance producing credits, he has been involved with countless film sales at the festival in the past.

  • David Koh
    Past Sundance docs:

    MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT (2012, executive producer)
    BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (2011, co-producer)
    JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD (2010, producer)

    Koh is a partner at Submarine Entertainment, as well as part of executive producer Stanley Buchtal’s Dakota Group.

Co-Producers:

  • Anna Godas

    Godas is a founder and CEO of London-based sales company and distributor Dogwoof. She is also an executive producer of 2018 World Cinema Documentary Competition title WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST.

  • Parco Co’s Gaku Kaneko and Ryosuke Oka

    This is the first Sundance credit for both execs from the entertainment division of the long-running Japanese company, known for its youth-focused department store chain.

Associate Producer/Editor:

  • Shinpei Takeda

    This also marks the first Sundance credit for the Mexico/Germany-based Japanese visual artist and filmmaker, whose work focuses on history and memory.

Associate Producers:

  • Robert Profusek

    The Condé Nast exec previously co-produced Sundance narrative feature HOLY ROLLERS (2010), but this is his first documentary project at the festival.

  • Reina Higashitani, Norichika Okada, Eriko Ueno, and Lorraine Khan

    This marks their first Sundance project.

Executive Producers:

  • Stanley Buchthal
    Past Sundance docs:

    WATCHERS OF THE SKY (2014)
    MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT
    BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (producer)
    JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD (producer)

    Dakota Group founder Buchtal was also an executive producer of Sundance narrative feature alum SPANKING THE MONKEY (1994).

  • Simone Haggiag

    This marks Haggiag’s first Sundance credit. He recently worked with Submarine, Dogwoof, and Buchtal as an executive producer of the similarly artist-focused doc BURDEN.

  • Josh Braun
    Past Sundance docs:

    IVORY TOWER (2014, producer)
    PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (2011)

    Together with his twin Dan, Braun is co-founder and co-president of Submarine Entertainment. He is also an executive producer for 2018 Special Events series WILD WILD COUNTRY. As one of the most sought after sales agents in the US, Braun represents numerous titles at the festival each year.

  • Hajime Inoue

    This is the first Sundance credit for the Parco Co executive.

Editors:

  • Keita Ideno

    This is also the first Sundance film for Ideno.

  • Carl Pfirman
    Past Sundance docs:

    A SMALL ACT (2010)

Consulting Editor:

  • Kate Amend
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE CASE AGAINST 8 (2014)
    THE BETRAYAL (NERAKHOON) (2009)
    TIBET IN SONG (2009)
    THIN (2006)
    THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET (2006)
    SOME NUDITY REQUIRED (1998)
    ASYLUM (1992)
    LEGENDS (1991)
    METAMORPHOSIS: MAN INTO WOMAN (1990)

    The acclaimed editor most recently cut the Netflix series THE KEEPERS.

Why You Should Watch:
Lenz uniquely conveys the voice of the singular artist, capturing her status as an outsider through a wide-ranging reflection on her extraordinary body of work and revealing how art has served as Kusama’s way of coping with her personal history and mental health issues.

More Info:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Sundance’s Meet the Artist

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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