Review: ‘Contemporary Color’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

Contemporary Color
(USA, 96 min.)
Dir. Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross
Programme: Special Presentations (International Premiere)


The Ross Brothers are at it again. These American documentary auteurs come to HotDocs with their third feature, Contemporary Color, an arena-sized concert film devoted to the esoteric art of high school colour guard dance routines. Colour guard is the visual interpretation of music through the use of dance, flags and prop rifles. David Byrne, who produced the film, famously got a call from a high school to use one of his songs for their color guard routine, and the request piqued his interest. The documentary shows a concert that Byrne organised, inspired by this call, featuring several of North America’s hottest musical acts, including Nelly Furtado and St. Vincent. The purpose of the concert: to arrange new material to accompany the colour guard troupes.

“America has changed,” Byrne preaches to the crowd during his number accompanying Quebec’s Les Eclipse team. The Ross Brothers are the perfect team to document this progressive event, touting their chic style: hazy, Instagram-ready cinematography, perfect boutique font choices, and an old fashioned Depression-era jazz score. After a while, the lack of substance in the premise shows through but the scope of the show is still impressive and fun to watch. Bonus CanCon: the film features colour guard teams from Quebec and Kitchener-Waterloo, and was also filmed partially at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.

Contemporary Color screens:
-Monday, May 2 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema at 6:30 PM
-Wednesday, May 4 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 4:15 PM
-Sunday, May 8 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema at 1:00 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.

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