One of the most prestigious documentary film festivals in Italy, Bellaria Film Festival just ended its 39th edition on September 26, 2021. Among the award-winning films was the documentary The Titan Suite. Directed by interdisciplinary artist Medicine Madison, the film won the Luis Bacalov Audience Award for Best Soundtrack.
Medicine Madison has so far excelled in photography through theatrical self-portraits and street photography, and in painting, with projects such as “A Primitive Nature” or “Astrology, Illuminated”, but with “The Titan Suite” she is expanding her activity to the field of cinematography.
Bellaria Film Festival is one of the first Italian festivals dedicated to independent cinema. Held annually in Bellaria-Igea Marina in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, the festival was coordinated by renowned Italian film critics such as Enrico Ghezzi, Morando Morandini and Gianni Volpi. The diversity of genres and the fusion of different film lengths and formats is part of the characteristic values that the festival encourages.
The documentary Suita Titan (“The Titan Suite”), named after the latest album of Romanian jazzman Mihai Iordache, is placed exactly in this interdisciplinarity. The biographical film mixes jazz-funk sonorities with stylized images and a unique chromatic palette, in the circumference of the Titan neighborhood in Bucharest. “A sentimental archeology of a childhood spent in the ’70s and the ‘80s,” says the summary of the documentary, which evokes that era with poetic finesse through the voices of the composer’s mother and friends in his hometown.
”At the Bellaria Film Festival, Medicine Madison, the director, and Mihai Iordache, the music composer, who were present at the awards ceremony, reaped the fruits of a long-term collaboration. “I’ve been dealing with my father’s visual identity for many years,” says Medicine Madison, an interdisciplinary artist and art director at Fiver House Records. “She did her first album covers for me when she was still in school, and I didn’t have the record label yet”, adds Mihai Iordache for Artevezi.
The film, rooted in their shared passion for music, was supposed to be a simple crowdfunding video. “When it came to the crowdfunding campaign for the album The Titan Suite, my father wanted his friends to say a few words about those times, because they are the subject of this concept album. But when I saw what people were saying, I thought it would be a shame to cut from the movie. It looked like a historical document. Its first version was a little shorter, but for the festivals I kept the full interviews.” (Medicine Madison, artist).
It is about the years of relative “opening” of Romanian communism, when translations of universal literature had reappeared, the first episodes of the American detective series Mannix were broadcast on television, and in front of the Muzica store in Bucharest one could buy Indian smuggled LPs with rock music from the West.
The documentary shows sequences from the concert of the jazz group Iordache where the album was recorded, as well as interviews with the musician’s mother and his friends from school and high school. The film is a visual and narrative addition to the “Titan Suite”album, while the music accompanies the images of the neighborhood and the captivating stories on the screen.
Recorded live in 2017 during the Artist in Residence concert series at ARCUB, Bucharest, the album was officially released in January 2019. The album fulfills a project that Mihai Iordache has been thinking about for some time. “Jazz pianist Lucian Ban was then the coordinator of jazz concerts at ARCUB. He said he really wanted me to come up with new material, because that was the idea of the concert series. I had some little sketches of tunes about Titan. As Lucian wanted me to write for more wind instruments, and because the financial conditions allowed it, I decided to work seriously on this project I had been thinking about for several years and to record the concert for a possible album ”(Mihai Iordache, jazzman).
With 8 anecdotal titles that evoke life from the more relaxed period of communism in the ’70s, the album embodies its typical ambiance, while the documentary illustrates the stories of the evolution of each one of the protagonists and of the neighborhood itself. It evokes a sunny childhood, as in “Sunday Morning” (track 7), while “New concrete rises today towards the sun” (track 1). “The Titan in my album is a kind of paradise-like Titan, before we realized the political situation. It’s a record about my childhood, not the horrors of communism. It’s very autobiographical.” (Mihai Iordache).
Both “Titan Suites”, the musical one as well as the documentary one, put us in the context of communist Romania, through the presence of emblematic events, such as President Nixon’s visit to Bucharest (August 2, 1969).
The documentary does not neglect the historical importance of the times it evokes. Its mixture between gravity and emotional value awakens one’s sympathy for the protagonists’ adventures and invites one to relive personal experiences with the narrators. “‘Titan Suite’ is not the story you find in history books, but the very sincere accounts of some people who lived the experience of those times.” (Medicine Madison, artist, for Artevezi).
In the documentary Titan Suite, the events are accentuated by the sounds of music and film sequences with colors that reproduce those of the products sold at the time. “In everything that was in the shops, there was no real red. There were only uncertain colors. The colors [from the documentary] were also used in the graphics of the CD ”(Medicine Madison, artist).
The documentary filters the events alluded to in the titles of the songs through the minds of the musician and his circle of friends. The song “Nixon la Potcoava”, a childhood memory, evokes the stopping of the motorcade in front of the apartment complex called Potcoava (The Horseshoe) in the Titan neighborhood and the moment when President Nixon got off the limousine, at the corner of the neighborhood park; the president gave chocolate to little Mihai and the other children who had been given flags to acclaim him.
Mihai Iordache confesses that “to someone who simply listens to the album, and hasn’t lived in Romania or is not of my generation, the titles can sound quite cryptic. In a way, the film is also a key for understanding the album.”
The Luis Bacalov Prize, crafted by Anna Finelli at the Annafietta workshop from Ravenna (Italy) using an authentic Byzantine technique, was awarded to the artist Medicine Madison for this documentary.
An interdisciplinary artist, Medicine Madison, the director of the documentary The Titan Suite, works within the fields of photography and painting, as well as design. Passionate about classical music, Medicine Madison expanded her artistic universe and began studying classical violin in 2016 at the age of 24. “An important part of the way I am able to understand musicians, one of the main reasons I can work with them, is the fact that I study the violin,” the artist tells us.
While, according to her, Mihai Iordache’s personality is better suited to colors, the artist prefers black and white photography. “Sometimes I use colors, but I prefer very refined colors, colors of semi-precious stones, which are not bright. The most colorful area of my activity are paintings. I only dress in black ”(Medicine Madison, artist).
If you haven’t had the opportunity to get to the Bellaria Film Festival, a walk through the IOR park in the Titan neighborhood (Bucharest) is recommended, immediately after watching the documentary Suita Titan (right here), with the album blasting in your earphones.