Matana Roberts at Media City Film Festival’s opening night at MOCAD

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Jul 22, 2015 at 1:00 am

I asked Oona Mosna, program director of the Media City Film Festival, about the fest's opening night event, which features performances by saxophonist Matana Roberts and expanded cinema artist Malcolm Le Grice. Mosna's responses to questions about Roberts' work, of which I was mostly clueless (though hey, Pitchfork gave the onetime TV on the Radio collaborator's new album an 8.2), were so excellent and not scripted and better than I could do that I'm just printing them here, lightly edited.

"It's absolutely thrilling for us to be able to host Matana Roberts in Detroit for Media City Film Festival's opening night at MOCAD, on the heels of her performance for the inauguration of the new Whitney Museum, and in advance of a major European tour this fall. This is the third year we've partnered with MOCAD, and each year the partnership seems to grow in its inspiration. I think we wanted to present something that could speak to Detroit: the people here, and its history, at a time when things are changing so rapidly.

"Roberts' new album, Coin Coin Chapter Three, River Run Thee, (Constellation) deals specifically with the theme of American waterways, and what transpired through nautical transportation in the U.S. historically—fitting for a festival that operates on both sides of a major waterway, the Detroit River. Some of the sampled elements on her new solo album also include snippets from Malcolm X's final speech, which was given in Detroit almost exactly 50 years ago.

"Maybe in the same vein that Matana's incredibly versatile practice as musician, composer, visual and moving image artist has been described as "panoramic sound quilting," the festival works hard to connect programming elements presented in Detroit with the many screenings that happen in Windsor, and some of the themes in her work will be echoed in the film programming happening all week long.

"The pairing with the massively influential British artist, Malcolm Le Grice is also significant. His film practice has been heavily inspired by some of the great improvisers of our time, like Ornette Coleman. As a founding member of the legendary Filmaktion group —which pioneered the idea of film as live performance— Le Grice has worked with musicians such as Brian Eno, before they were internationally renowned. Le Grice will be traveling to Detroit from London, in a rare North American appearance, to present two live multi-16mm film projection performances.

Matana Roberts and Malcolm Le Grice perform at MOCAD on Tues., July 28 at 8 p.m.; 4454 Woodward, Detroit;; $5 (free for MOCAD members and Media City pass holders). For more on the Media City events, go to