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Runtime: 12 min
Director: Derek Coté
Placement: Award of Excellence, Best Music (Derek Coté)
Competition: June, 2018
Synopsis: Bardo examines a static state of existence between death and rebirth. The Soviet village of Pyramiden – a cultural utopia abandoned high above the Arctic Circle – once represented the resilience, will, and the ability of man to overcome his environment but has since slipped into a cold slumber with the evacuation of its population. Still apparent is evidence of the resourcefulness and camaraderie required to exist and function in isolation. Now frozen in a state of stillness, Pyramiden offers a simultaneous look backward and forward. Like a time capsule, Pyramiden relinquishes secrets of a past era while questioning an uncertain future.
Notable artifacts include the world’s northernmost Red October grand piano, which rests quietly in the theater of the Culture Palace. Its out-of-tune voice is resuscitated for the soundtrack of this film.
FILMMAKER Q&A – Derek Coté, Director/ Composer
OR: What was the inspiration for your film?
DC: I visited the town of Pyramiden in 2012 and was taken by its ghostly beauty. I returned in 2014 with a mission to create a document of rare and disappearing experience. I am drawn to the documentary format. But as an artist, I am also interested in “disjointing” the genre. The lonely Red October grand piano was the true inspiration, however. I couldn’t wait to be alone with it – even though I don’t play.
OR: When did you conceive the idea for your film and how long did it take before it was realized?
DC: I conceived of the idea immediately after returning from Svalbard in 2012. It took 2 years to secure funding, make all the arrangements, permits, etc. It took another 6 months after that to edit and arrange the work.
OR: What was the most challenging aspect of working in a short film format?
DC: Sometimes a story is so rich that it becomes a struggle to edit down to 12 minutes. On the other hand, sometimes 20 minutes is too long. Knowing when to stop and how to edit out superfluous scenes is key.
OR: What was the most challenging aspect of your production?
DC: Definitely shooting. Pyramiden is an abandoned village North of the Arctic Circle. Not only is weather a factor but so are Polar Bears. In addition to carrying around two cameras, a tripod, and a 36″ slide, I also had to carry a rifle for protection and keep my head on a swivel.
OR: Do you have any advice for first-time filmmakers?
DC: Be patient. Save a lot of money.