AFF Review: ‘Kite’ and score both soar

AFF Review: ‘Kite’ and score both soar
Both movie and score explore love and loss in "Kite," a short film by Michael Fallavollita. (Courtesy Photo)

By Denise Dunbar |

One striking feature of the Alexandria Film Festival is the breadth of experience many participants bring to the event. For instance, Michael Fallavollita, who directed “Kite” for this year’s AFF, previously worked with Hollywood icon Stephen Spielberg on several of his best-known movies, including “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List.” Fallavollita was an assistant film editor on both of those classics.

“Kite” is part of the creative “Homegrown: American Stories in Music and Film” project commissioned by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. Six directors, including Fallavollita, were chosen to create movies to accompany existing pieces of American symphonic music.

The original plan was for the ASO to play these pieces of music live as the commissioned films were being shown. The COVID-19 pandemic derailed those plans, like so many others in 2020, and the live performances are now slated for the 2021 festival.

The “Homegrown” movies are nonetheless effective with recorded symphonic music as the only sound in the films. A bonus to “Kite” is the Q&A afterward, in which ASO Music Director James Ross interviews Fallavollita.

“Kite” is a bit different from the other five “Homegrown” entries in that Fallavollita reworked an existing film, “Tale of the Kite,” from its original 30 minutes to fit the 10-minute symphonic piece “Blue Cathedral,” by Jennifer Higdon.

Higdon wrote “Blue Cathedral” as a tribute to her brother, who had died after a brief illness. Deep familial love and loss is a theme of “Kite” as well. Movie and score mesh beautifully, as both soar and fall in sync, even though different losses informed “Blue Cathedral” and “Tale of the Kite.”