Drip…Drip…Graduation

By: Cam Rustay and Neha Marolia

We would like to accredit the entire film team including: Clayton Smith, Caroline Mossel,  Jennifer Bender, and Lily Cordera

One of my favorite Insomnia Film Festival viewings starred my friend Clayton Smith. His short film can be found here. Memory and forgetting played a role as I thoroughly enjoyed his film as a form of entertainment, or a performance. It wasn’t until the other day that I ran into him that I recognized the parallels between his film and course concepts. First, I would like to draw attention to the title: The Bunk Trumpets: Drip. The onomatopoeia usage of “drip” in the title correlates directly to the concept of water as discussed in class. The symbol of water holds different connotations such as healing, destructions through floods, or even unity. These ideas were also seen in Blood Dazzler. In the short film, though, the word “drip” echoes the idea of a build up. In class, we have mostly been concerned with a physical build up: a storm building strength, continually churning, and eventually wreaking havoc on metropolitan areas; people’s “build up” in preparation for the storm; a government’s “build up,” or lack thereof, to effectively respond to a storm. Clayton, through the short film, shows that a build up can also be an emotionally based one. Four years of preparation for one day’s ceremony, each day being its own “drip” until you finally notice how all the “drips” add up and the “storm” hits. Especially in the context of graduation, this build up can be cathartic, where a student sees all of their hard work pay off, but it can also elicit a more nostalgic/reflective emotional “storm.” This is based on the realization that four years goes by quickly and perhaps each “drip” wasn’t appreciated as much as you would have liked. This emotional break is demonstrated in the film very clearly: Clayton spends the entire film in a rather stoic state up until he puts the graduation gown and cap on, then, in Clayton’s words, the oh “fuck” moment hits. The storm finally hits.

After doing a bit of research on Bunk Trumpets, this portion of the title is referring to Bunk Johnson, who is a prominent jazz trumpeter in New Orleans. The title itself is alluding to Hurricane Katrina and the culture of New Orleans in it of itself. The usage of Trumpets was also clever due to how important music, specifically jazz, is to New Orlean residents. What’s also interesting about Bunk Johnson is that he lost his trumpet and front teeth in a fight, making him unable to exercise his musical art ability. This was an unfortunate fall from grace considering Johnson was thought to be the prominent jazz player in New Orleans. Fortunately, he eventually was fitted with a set of dentures and began playing again. This ties in with Clayton’s film because, after the emotional storm of graduation hits, you can feel very disoriented; you in effect lose your front teeth and can no longer play music (figuratively, of course). Finding a job, going to graduate school, going back home, finding a place to live, keeping in touch with friends, finding new friends, etc. can be a daunting storm in of itself. Similar to after a real hurricane hits, life is turned upside down. Despite this “loss of teeth,” the film title suggests that even though it seems like things will never go back on track, you’ll eventually find your “teeth” again and it will work out.

Referring to the film itself, the foreshadowing and symbolism of water is shown throughout the entirety of the film. First, the glass is seen as overflowing and the sink faucet is dripping, all examples of referring back to the onomatopoeia present in the title.  Afterwards, the radio station states, “Catastrophic breaking of the dam…destroy a school and most of the town.” This specific quote alludes to disaster porn, as mentioned in previous blog posts. The catastrophe in movies at times, is glorified as entertainment to audiences watching the film. A pathos appeal of excitement and thrill is present as places have the potential to be destroyed, as seen in The Day After Tomorrow.  

This idea of “catastrophic breaking” seen in the glass overflowing also connects with Clayton’s stoicism in the film. Even though it’s easy to push the imminent storm by ignoring it, this eventually leads to a break at some point. As we’ve seen through Levees, if you (at the level of individual citizen or government) don’t prepare for the storm and accept that it’s coming, that emotional break alluded to before will be all the more destructive. Tying this in with course concepts, the one way to avoid waste (emotional or physical) after a storm is to be aware, to care. Rather than waste every drip through ignoring it and being surprised by the flood that ensues, preparing yourself for the flood starting at step A all through step Z helps cushion the blow; the higher and stronger the levees, the less water that gets through. It’s important to keep in mind the lesson that Levees gives us, though: no matter how hard a city, or person, tries to build up the levees, water can always find a way underneath. Emotions, just like water, will eventually leak out.

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