On Oct. 11, CU Denver’s Department of Art History in the College of Arts & Media hosted a showing and discussion for “Kairos Dirt & the Errant Vacuum,” the feature-length narrative debut of director and multidisciplinary artist Madsen Minax.
“Kairos Dirt” tracks the unlikely, untimely and deeply necessary relationships that sustain the inhabitants of a lush and rusty Tennessee town populated by precocious teenagers, poet lunch servers, survivalist caregivers and nostalgic morticians. Over the course of the film, viewers come to realize that seemingly disparate characters share histories, desires and visions. Nonlinear and disorienting, the story is tethered by the closeness of Rosie Cutler (Eve Minax) and favorite student T.J. (Henry Robert Love Greene) as they slip into dreamscapes ruled by a genderless, inspirational being—the eponymous Kairos Dirt (Teddy B. Valenta).
Like its split settings, “Kairos Dirt” is at once alienating and affirming, brutal and cozy, ethereal and grounded, raunchy and twee. The film also rewards attention even as it thematizes distraction in the digital age. Characters constantly find themselves preoccupied: TJ doodles into an alternate reality during a school exam, the funeral director (Ben Siler) pines for the town’s bygone days as he prepares bodies for funeral viewing. The film’s most endearingly avuncular figure (Spree Star’s Sully) continually watches multiple tube televisions at once, flicking gleefully from channel to channel in a living room overstuffed with comic books, paint brushes and souvenir mugs. For all its hominess, though, “Kairos Dirt” is filled to the brim with intertextual allusions and references, and its characters similarly exist across multiple dimensions (relationally and literally).
Showing celebrates National Coming Out Day
“Kairos Dirt” delights in interruption, but ultimately it valorizes connection above all else. Its ensemble cast comes to recognize their deep—if frustrated—needs for one another, particularly as they face an uncertain and apocalyptic future. Shown in part to celebrate National Coming Out Day, “Kairos Dirt” takes the queer concept of “chosen family” to heart, offering shared, sacred experience as the basis for community. The film invites its audience to take part in that vision.
Check out CAM Showcase Nov. 7
For a campus that is no stranger to the challenges and opportunities of local, independent filmmaking, “Kairos Dirt” is an important reminder that communal ties are an incredible resource for creativity. Minax’s film is only the latest in a stream of film viewings at CU Denver. The College of Arts & Media’s Nov. 7 Showcase will highlight shorts by students as part of the 40th Annual Denver Film Festival.
Community isn’t just central to the film’s story, but was also crucial for its creation. In a Q&A following the screening in the Tivoli Community Theater, director Minax emphasized the importance of the film’s production in Memphis, Tenn., where he worked with longtime friends and collaborators and also drew upon new, local talent to form the film’s cast and crew. Minax described a multi-day “lock-in” during which he and co-writer Paul William Kruse holed up with movies that provided clear inspiration for the film. “Kairos Dirt” wears its influences—David Lynch, Gregg Araki, John Waters—proudly, and so even its most experimental moments feel affectionate. Due to its communal production, a sense of tenderness holds “Kairos” together, even at its most dizzying.