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French Cows Running on Brooklyn Rooftops

What to do in Brooklyn on a warm Spring evening? Rooftop Films… After a few refreshing shorts, my friends and I were blown away watching Emmanuel Gras’ Bovine.  I come from a French farm, but I had never seen cows from that close.  The film showcases stunning visuals of the French countryside, and genuinely gives you an understanding of life from a cow’s point of view.  If you can be patient, sitting through each scenes, you will start inventing stories, trying to justify what just happened and what is actually happening!

I find the simplicity of the storytelling in Bovine very engaging.  The soundscape thorough the film is realistic.  We are almost uncomfortably propelled close to the big animals, and after a few ruminations, we realize it doesn’t get gross and become comfortable simply contemplating.

The filmmaker who was in attendance, for the first screening out of French territory, did the whole Q&A without a translator, and was very moving sharing his process.  We learned that the sound was reconstructed in post production to obtain the effect desired, and that about 100 hours were shot to cover the subject.  Again, in the life of a cow, patience is of the essence.

The film is announced as a documentary, but you are not told what to think with the use of a voice-over.  On the contrary, your mind is left free to wonder.  We find ourselves laughing, very much empathizing with the bovines.  Even though the events are minimal, there is a narrative arc and each scenes gives us an opportunity to enter this captivating world.  For me it is experimental because it challenges the boundaries of filmmaking.

The breed of cow witnessed is called “Charollaise” and is farmed for its meat.  The filmmaker didn’t make the documentary for animal right issues, but certainly is against intensive farming.  The evening was wrapped up with Rooftop Films founder Mark Elijah Rosenberg inviting us for a drink in the center courtyard of the venue, which is a real maze.  Definitely cool and unexpected.  I loved it.

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Flo Ankah
Actress | Director | Songstress
A French New Yorker at heart, Flo Ankah works as an actress, director and voice-over talent (Listen Up Philip, Loving the Silent Tears, Edith Piaf Alive). Her voice is in commercials and feature films for prominent directors. As the songstress 'Floanne,' she performs at Joe's Pub, Symphony Space, MoMA and Feinstein's/54 Below.