Raleigh News & Observer

Don’t let the name fool you.

El Anatsui, the artist featured in the newest exhibit at the N.C. Museum of Art, might not be a household name like Rembrandt or Rockwell – the museum’s most recent marquee presentations. But the art is no less astonishing.

Museum officials said promoting the El Anatsui exhibit has been challenging, with patrons assuming from the name that the artist is Japanese, or Spanish, or maybe both. Actually, El Anatsui is among the biggest names in contemporary African art, and the exhibit, “When I Last Wrote to You About Africa,” is a fascinating experience.

Chronicling more than four decades of his vast body of work, “Africa” features 61 pieces, including sketches, drawings, sculptures, carved woodwork, wall hangings, ceramics and large-scale floor installations. Many of the larger works incorporate found objects, like the gigantic wall sculptures that stitch together thousands of discarded liquor bottle tops.

For the viewer, the impression often depends on simple proximity. Up close, the gigantic wall hangings look like a mosaic of modern detritus – bottle tops, labels and scrap metal. Step back, though, and the piece becomes a warm and threadbare quilt.

This might be the most surprising element of the El Anatsui exhibit. Terms like abstract sculpture and found object art can suggest the sort of chilly, cerebral aesthetic that sometimes gives modern art a bad name. But El Anatsui’s creations are warm, approachable and disarmingly familiar.

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Raleigh News & Observer

As a classically trained violinist and music scholar, UNC-CH professor Mark Katz might seem an unlikely choice to champion hip-hop and DJ culture in the hallowed halls of academia.

But Katz’ new book, “Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ,” is likely to change a lot of perceptions. The result of five years of intensive research, the book aims to bring the art of the hip-hop DJ – sometimes called turntablism – to students, scholars and anyone else interested in this musical form.

Katz joined the UNC music faculty in 2006 and was recently elected chair of the department; he will begin his five-year term this summer. In addition to the book, Katz teaches several classes related to DJ culture and the use of turntables as musical composition tools. Speaking from his office in Hill Hall – next to a shiny new Technics turntable rig – Katz discussed musical open-mindedness, teaching DJ classes and wandering Tokyo dance clubs at 3 am.

Q: How did the book project get started in the first place?

Well, my Ph.D. dissertation was called “The Phonograph Effect,” and it was about the influence of sound recording on musical life in the early 20th century. Then in 2004 I wrote a book, “Capturing Sound,” that expanded on the topic – about how technology has changed music generally. One of the chapters in that book was about DJ battles, and a friend of mine said, you know, you could really write a whole book on this.

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Raleigh News & Observer

“Bring It On: The Musical,” at the Durham Performing Arts Center through Sunday, is a high-energy stage spectacle with good songs and thrilling gymnastic dance numbers. Also: two dozen hard-body young dancers in tight cheerleading uniforms, and it’s always hard to argue with that.

Based on the franchise of popular teen comedy films, “Bring In On” is a featherweight morality tale set in the treacherous world of competitive high school cheerleading squads.

It goes like this: Truman High School cheerleader Campbell, surely the peppiest teenager since Reese Witherspoon went legally blonde, is entering her senior year as captain of the school’s perennial powerhouse cheerleading squad.

But things go sideways when Campbell is suddenly transferred to crosstown rival Jackson High, a poorer, grittier school with a predictably multiethnic student body. Jackson High doesn’t field a cheerleading squad, but it does have a top-flight hip-hop dance crew led by the formidable dancing queen Danielle.

Will Campbell and Danielle overcome their differences through a love of dance? Will a common enemy emerge to unite them? Will the show end in a spectacular dance-off between Truman High and Jackson High? “Bring It On” is a completely successful evening of professional-grade musical theater. Sure, the story is predictable, but the songs are catchy, the lyrics are clever, the dialogue is snappy and the performances are impressive.

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Film Review: The Raid

May 19, 2012

Raleigh News & Observer

A technically good movie that’s nevertheless hard to recommend, “The Raid: Redemption” takes martial arts ultraviolence to thrilling new heights – or unsettling new depths, depending on your point of view.

It goes like this: Deep in the urban jungle of Jakarta’s darkest slums, Indonesian crime lord Tama Riyandi runs a kind of time-share condo building for the city’s worst criminals. Twenty stories high, Riyandi’s fortress is staffed by extremely hard men with extremely efficient weapons.

After sensibly avoiding the place for years, the police finally organize a raid led by rookie officer Rama, played by Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais. His 20-man squad must break into the criminal stronghold and work their way up, floor by bloody floor.

Following the initial exposition, “The Raid” delivers 80 minutes of relentless and brutal violence featuring, but not limited to: gunfights, fistfights, knife fights, machete fights, torture sequences, exploding heads, exploding refrigerators (don’t ask), stabbings, slashings, bludgeonings, plummetings, suffocations, lacerations, decapitations and a creatively lethal use of fluorescent light tubes.

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Raleigh News & Observer

The 2012 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is already in full swing, bringing more than 100 films, discussions and panels to downtown Durham. The festival, now in its 15th year, kicked off last night with various Opening Night events, including the World Premiere of “Jesse Owens,” directed by Laurens Grant and co-produced by 2012 Full Frame Tribute honoree Stanley Nelson.

The festival runs through Sunday, and you can still get tickets to individual events if you’re willing to brave a line or two. Full Frame typically reserves 10 percent of tickets for purchase (cash only) in the Last Minute Line set up at each screening. For more details, visit www.fullframefest.org.

Among this year’s dozens of screenings, Full Frame is hosting the special “Family Affairs” Thematic Program, curated by filmmaker and North Carolina native Ross McElwee. The program features 10 films that “explore the delicate terrain along the fault line of family.” McElwee’s own films, including the award-winning 1987 classic “Sherman’s March,” are largely autobiographical and often deal with family matters.

Speaking from his adopted home in New England, McElwee discussed Full Frame, the hazards of social media and the importance of Southern hospitality.

Q: The series you’re curating, “Family Affairs,” deals with filmmakers who document their own families. In the program materials, you write that you have experience with this approach and that it tends to “complicate things considerably.”

(Laughs) Yes, that’s an understatement. The main complexity, with a truly autobiographical film that concerns one’s family, is suddenly there is another character in play – the person behind the camera. You get this sense of a very intimate connection between the person doing the filming and the people who are being filmed. It lends a whole other facet that has to be taken into consideration if you’re an audience member.

It’s good that not all nonfiction films are done this way, but I’m glad some of them are, and I’ve tried to collect a few of the more interesting ones for the program.

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