Phillip Kaminiak’s dance film Circle will be shown at the 2023 New Jersey International Film Festival on June 4, 2023, in person at 5 p.m. and online for 24 hours as a part of the festival’s Shorts Program #2. Circle is “an analogy between the modern human being, living in mass cities, and the phenomenon of the circle of death.”
The dancers featured in Circle represent army ants who have been separated from the main foraging party; the ants subsequently begin to follow one another in search of community, forming a circle. This circle, also called the “death spiral,” eventually causes the ants to die from exhaustion because of their lack of direction. The city where Circle takes place is where the dancers reside. As the protagonist of the film, the city represents the fast-paced capitalistic life to which people have dedicated their lives.
The editing, choreography, and music composition all brilliantly come together to create the film’s cohesive feel. Choreographed by Qiaoqiao Zhang, the dancers move in synchronization with one another despite being shown in separate shots. This simultaneously demonstrates their current separation and their inevitable unity through death. The dancing itself is sharp and contemporary, not seeming to adhere to the rules of a specific style. The editing, done by Sander Houtkruijer, is incredibly fast-paced yet seamless. The editing also masterly emphasizes the feeling of the death spiral, making the viewer feel like they are being dragged through it. Houtkruijer matched the cuts with the beats of the music and the dancing, allowing the film to feel highly cohesive and powerful. The music composition, done by Raven Bush, is extremely powerful to match the intensity of the dancing and editing.
The shots of dance are interspersed with drone shots of Mexico City, where the film was shot. These shots emphasize the people’s place within such a large city, which doubles as their home and their place of death. Overhead drone shots of cars coasting along the city’s highways further emphasize the ants’ small place within a larger capitalist-driven ecosystem, demonstrating their insignificance in a world they have devoted themselves to. Extreme wide shots of dancing ants on a rooftop continue to highlight the fact workers in a capitalist society are underappreciated and underrecognized in an economy that exploits them. Eventually, they will die from being overworked and exhausted.
The film concludes with group dancers joining in this death spiral, almost like the ultimate sacrifice for capitalism. The dancers move in circles, with one individual in the middle, representing the center of the death spiral. They have moved throughout the city and have joined together one last time in an act of martyrdom. Overhead shots of the dancers are cut between images of actual army ants engaging in a death spiral.
The connection between army ants and capitalist workers is profound – like army ants, people are treated as mindless soldiers within a capitalist system. Their significance is only found in their ability to follow orders and work for an entity; their individualism is subsequently erased. Straying from this system only results in inevitable death, as they are lost without the guidance of capitalism, no matter how demanding and mind-altering that system is.Circle screens at the 2023 New Jersey International Film Festival on Sunday, June 4 as part of Shorts Program #2. The film will be Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 5 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Tickets are available for purchase here.