Christaan is an award-winning photographer and director. His constant fascination with capturing unique cultures has led him to his directorial debut, From Heaven is Cali, which documents the relationship between the ‘salsa capital of the world’ of Cali, Colombia and the people who’s lives and hearts depend on it.
Christaan holds a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in photography and his work can be seen gracing the pages of publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone amongst many others. His unique eye has earned him multiple awards including PDN’s Top 30 Emerging Photographers, the American Photography awards as well as Fine Art Book of the Year by American Photographer Magazine. When not traveling, he spends his time living between New York City and Los Angeles.
This film was my first attempt at directing. Usually I’m behind the camera as a stills-photographer, but have always wanted to make the leap into directing film. What started out as a trip to Cali, Colombia for my girlfriend’s birthday (she is originally from Cali and served as the producer for this film), evolved into a photography project exploring the world of salsa culture in the “capital of salsa dancing,” and then eventually morphed into a larger documentary film production.
I feel that directing this documentary was a natural progression from shooting stills, since my images tend to explore different cultures and my interactions with subjects share a common goal of trying to portray people in a natural, open, and enthusiastic way. Also, I felt like in this case, still-photography simply wasn’t multi-dimensional enough to properly portray both the energy and the subtlety that exists within the dance culture (the music, the movement, the voices etc).
The entire process was extremely challenging: it was difficult learning to think in a much more narrative way when compared to stills photography as well as obviously learning about the technical aspects of filming, sound-recording and editing. Also, not being fluent in Spanish, it was very challenging to both direct and navigate many of the post-production elements of this project. It was a very ambitious first film that required me to put most of my savings into production fees and to ask many favors from my generous and talented friends. However challenging the production was, it turned out to be equally as rewarding and I’m very grateful to all of the people I met along the way who helped make this thing come to life!
In the Southwest of Colombia, there is a city where salsa dancing exists in a form that is unique in its boldness and energy, yet pure in its tradition and style. Cali, known as the world’s salsa dancing capital, and its people (referred to as Caleños) own this iconic dancing style. The city has been the muse of many salsa musicians, making it the subject of illustrative songs that tell the story of the “salsa Caleña” style as a symbol of an entire culture. Salsa Caleña is not only danced but consumed with a burst of energy, joy, and sentimentality that brightens the streets of Cali whenever there’s salsa music playing. From professional salsa dancers and musicians to nightclub owners and costume designers, “From Heaven is Cali” (whose title is taken from the famous salsa/Cali anthem “Cali Pachenguero” by Grupo Niche), explores the relationships between this unique art-form and the people whose lives are interwoven into a culture that has become synonymous with the city of Cali.
Tristien Marcellous Winfree is more than grateful to start his film festival circuit run. He’s a local Chicago writer, director, actor, producer, teaching artist, and film maker. He attended The University of Houston-Downtown studying Fine Arts. Mr Winfree has had the privileged to perform and collaborate with theatre companies such as The Alley Theatre, Ensemble Theatre, Pride Film & Plays, Goodman Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Oak Park Festival, Chicago Dramatist, LatinX Theatre Commons, and other companies. Film & Commercial credits include Pain Is The Agent Of Change Short Film, The Healing Begins Documentary, The Tie Bar, Big Break, Teen Prevention, Wind stream Kinetic Energy. Mr Winfree is a huge advocate for mental health awareness. He uses his platform to make change in the world one step at a time. He represented by Lily’s Talent. Stay updated on his website http://www.TristienMWinfree.com and follow him on social media platforms @Tmarcellousw
“Grief arises as a product of a loss that we have experienced. It could stem from a person’s health, relationship, job, and loved ones. We may not be able to describe the wave of emotions, yet we do know that we are not ourselves. In the short film Pain Is The Agent Of Change. Tristien Marcellous Winfree tackles how we look at, unblock, wrestle with, and shed light on the distance and detach from our on own personal pain. The arts can heal us by giving these bits and pieces the attention they deserve and need. There is so much power in talking about it. We should be able to talk about mental health, we should be able to talk childhood trauma, and we should be able to talk about grief, but as a culture we shy away from the uncomfortable conversations. This an opportunity to learn from others who spoke, who fought to be heard, and the need be felt. Each time that we engage in the process using the arts, we give ourselves a break, a breath, and a reprieve from the pain that we face as culture.”
After his wife’s death, a neurotic workaholic must find the will to live again, in order to take care of his son and a teenage punk girl, who suddenly appears on his doorstep.
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