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HOUSE OF TRÉS a film by JEFF PREISS & DIANE MARTEL. 1989. USA. 17 min. A quickfire portrait of the New York City ballroom scene in the ‘80s.

This film screened exclusively for a week and is currently not available online.

In March, we’re showing a series of dance films that celebrate the magic of motion. This week, we’re pleased to present the online premiere of a rare documentary about New York’s Ball and House scenes in the ‘80s. Made by independent New York filmmakers Jeff Preiss and Diane Martel, this lively snapshot brings together footage from clubs and dance lessons alongside interviews with voguers and DJs.

 

Made at a moment when the Ballroom scene was on the cusp of becoming a national news item, House of Trés explores how the evolution of music and dance have always influenced the scene’s energy. As one DJ notes when talking about all the different moves he’s seen on the dancefloor, “All the dances just evolve… You pick up stuff from them and they pick stuff up from you, you put a lot of different skills together, and you just have a great time.”

 

 

“I was against doing things ‘right.’ I was for a kind of permanent amateur status. When Mindy and I started Epoch Films it was important to both of us that we champion the personal, individual voice in filmmaking… and look to ways of being critical of conventional standards.” JEFF PREISS

 

Having already established themselves as inventive filmmakers in the Downtown scene, Martel and Preiss bring a dynamic approach to House of Trés. Their quick edits and off-the-cuff interviews, combined with their use of different film stocks, gives their documentary a refreshingly live quality. It’s not for nothing that The New York Times noted “its outstanding black-and-white photography looks like Maya Deren crossed with [a] music video” when the film was televised as part of PBS’s short-lived arts program Alive from Off Center in 1991.

 

Jeff Preiss has been at the forefront of New York independent filmmaking since the 1980s, when he was the co-director of the Lower East Side film venue Film Charas and a board member of The Collective for Living Cinema. During this time, he also shot Let’s Get Lost (1988), an Oscar-nominated documentary about Chet Baker directed by Bruce Weber. His first narrative feature, Low Down (2014), premiered at Sundance, where it won the Cinematography Award. His most recent project, A Secret World, is his latest collaboration with the MacArthur fellow Josiah McElheny and is set to premiere at MoMA next week. Preiss is also in pre-production on another narrative feature with his regular producing partner Mindy Goldberg. In the years since House of Trés, Diane Martel has become a renowned music video director under the moniker Bucky Chrome. She has directed videos for the likes of DMX, The Killers, Mariah Carey, Wu-Tang Clan, D’Angelo, and more.

 

Special thanks to our contributing editor Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer for this guest-selection.