Nelson Kempf


  1. 1.
    Sweetness and Strife
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
    Dream of Life
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
    Family Dollar
In film, a “Dolly Zoom” is a term used to describe the visual effect caused by tracking a camera toward or away from a subject while the camera’s zoom dials the lens in the opposite direction.
It creates a visual distortion wherein the subject remains fixed in the frame while its surroundings stretch and become taxed by the limits of reality. The technique is deployed artistically to juxtapose a subject frozen in a moment of unalloyed reality-- pain, disbelief, grieving-- against the surreal nature of their conditions when they coalesce; relentlessly collapsing back in on the subject.
Family Dollar is a half-hour long sonic dolly zoom. The subject is a young man and his new family trudging through their first years told in vignettes composed of sax, synth, marimba, harp and pedal steel. This orchestra captures the tidal forces at work in our lives. Nels’ quiet, robust vocal emerges; a butterknife sailing in his hand above the bread on the table. With it, he gives us shots of a modest life in which children are born and raised, partners are loved, work is done, sacrifices are made as a world spins underneath and at times without him. Taking his family’s memories and their ideas, replacing them with new ones. It’s a record about the pursuit of dignity in the path of the steamroller of capital. The absurdity of pulling quarters out of the cupholder to buy diapers while an eviction notice billows on the door. All this while a family is held in focus, loving, trying.


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