“I’m going right to the praying mantis. That’s the boss, not some human!” – Milford Graves
MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS is the first ever feature-length portrait of renowned percussionist Milford Graves, exploring his kaleidoscopic creativity and relentless curiosity.
Graves has performed internationally since 1964, both as a soloist and in ensembles with such legends as Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan and Sonny Sharrock. He is a founding pioneer of avant-garde jazz, and he remains one of the most influential living figures in the evolution of the form.
The film draws the viewer through the artist’s lush garden and ornate home, into the martial arts dojo in his backyard and the laboratory in his basement - all of this just blocks from where he grew up in the housing projects of South Jamaica, Queens.
Graves tells stories of discovery, struggle and survival, ruminates on the essence of 'swing,' activates electronic stethoscopes in his basement lab to process the sound of his heart, and travels to Japan where he performs at a school for children with autism, igniting the student body into an ecstatic display of spontaneous collective energy.
Oscillating from present to past and weaving intimate glimpses of the artist’s complex cosmology with blistering performances from around the globe, MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS is cinema full of fluidity, polyrhythm and intensity, embodying the essence of Graves’ music itself.
"To put it simply, Graves’ world – a coppice between history and immediacy, between aesthetics and science, between heart and intellect – is rendered cinematically, in all its quivering, pulsing, kinetic life. This is filmmaking that helps remind us of the profundity of our most basic senses, and the rhythm that guides and glides with them. It’s like how Robert Creeley said that the dancing is in the dancing. It’s like that. Don’t try to analyze it. Just take it in." - Matt Krefting
"Milford Graves Full Mantis is one of the best jazz documentaries ever assembled. Part of this is due to the decision to skip the parade of talking heads who usually populate such films, but even more stems from the amazing depth of the subject, Milford Graves himself. A shaman and master martial artist, in addition to being one of the planet's most brilliant percussionists, Milford harbors more layers of arcane knowledge than most sentient beings, and this film gets inside many of them. The live clips are unbelievably great, but some of the interview segments are even more mind-blowing. All of which makes for a singular viewing experience." -Byron Coley, The Wire : Adventures In Modern Music
"The new film Milford Graves Full Mantis is as much a visual poem as it is a documentary." -Dave Cantor, Downbeat Magazine
"Much more than a music documentary, MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS is cinema that actually learns from its subject, whose life does not fit easily into a conventional genre like the biopic. Like Graves's music, the film is uncompromisingly original in form, but it teaches us to watch and enjoy it." - Pooja Rangan, author of: Immediations: The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary (2017)
"Milford Graves engages with our universe through contemplation and meditation where we coexist in a garden of timeless nature. Since the early 1960s he has struck a mythic figure in the lineage of New Thing/Free Jazz music and art. A theorist on rhythm defined by inherent emotional impulse (as opposed to a mechanism of strict repetition) he has consistently championed the idea that music is more than an art form to be mastered. In his world, sound is a life force to be in tune with, through regard and respect. With patience and a clear devotion to the beauty of the practice and performance of music, both spirit and earth-conscious, MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS as directed by Jake Meginsky, and co-directed by Neil Young, both experimental musicians from Western Massachusetts, is a portrait of one of the most fascinating lights in the lineage of late 20th century music. It is a sonic-visual ode to the ineffable magic of inspired and gracious living" ---Thurston Moore, London 2018
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A longtime student of the film's subject, director Jake Meginsky began filming Milford Graves and digitizing his personal archive in 2004. MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS emerges out of their 14-year relationship. When co-director Neil Young joined the project in 2015, the film kicked into high gear. In 2017 Meginsky and Young received a filmmaking fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS features never before seen material from Milford's archive, performance footage spanning five decades, unreleased electronic music by Graves, combined with an exclusive and unprecedented look into the brilliant mind of a living master.
We are thrilled to say that the film has already been selected to premiere early in the 1st quarter of the 2018 international film festival circuit. Every dollar you donate will go to directly help us cross the finish line as we complete post-production, begin promotions, and bring MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS alive on screens around the world.
Your donations will support this crucial step in this film's lifecycle, helping us take it to festival audiences where it will be seen by critics, programmers, and gatekeepers of the film community. By contributing, you become a part of the Full Mantis family as we launch this project internationally.
Pre-launch press in The Wire and DownBeat Magazine:
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Risks and challenges
This feature is in the final phases of post-production. While there is no risk in the film being completed, we cannot stop there! - your contributions will go to support the next big steps in bringing MILFORD GRAVES FULL MANTIS to audiences around the world.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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