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LETTERS: a collaboration between filmmaker Mimi Chakarova and pianist/composer Kris Davis

Friday, April 5, 20248:00 pm
$25 advance$30 doors$20 Student/Senior (w/ ID, Senior 65+)doors 7pm

LETTERS grew out of the idea to create a film from the intimate letters that an immigrant sends home. These letters bridge distance and tell truths that are often hard to explain in person. The music Kris Davis and her ensemble have composed for the silent film supports its emotional arc by framing and interacting with the images and narratives.

The visual letters describe the United States, a country that has been filmmaker Mimi Chakarova‘s home since her family left Bulgaria when she was 13 and Davis’ home since she left Canada at age 21. To that end, all the people filmed for this project are people whose stories often go untold. Ultimately, LETTERS is a collaborative attempt between Mimi and Kris to understand the streets we walk, the news we read, and the world we experience as women, artists, and immigrants.

The silent film takes on the letters of the English alphabet and explores the many words that start with these letters and sounds. Just as children first learn words—”A is for apple, B is for bicycle…”—LETTERS form a visual narrative with a collection of vignettes. With a total of 14 stories, some letters are grouped to address larger themes. Each musician performing has composed a piece to accompany one of the vignettes in the film. The first such grouping is the story of a young woman who became the first black female firefighter in one of the most populous counties in California. What does it take to be the first in a field that’s predominately male and white? And how many other women in other professions are paving the way to this day? Another vignette in the film is about kindness. We see a blind man relying on others. Simple tasks like crossing a street or eating a meal are assisted by strangers who instinctively step in. K is for kindness… kinship… kindred.

How have our constant and insistent interactions with technology and persistent connectivity made us oblivious to our surroundings and real time? A frantically edited vignette displays the disconnect and loneliness of human beings engaged with their phones and other devices. Other people surround us, yet we are alone in a space lit by the glow of screens.

Kris and Mimi are both working artists and mothers and wanted to include a vignette that shows the impossible balancing act of working while raising children in the United States.

The individual letters offer a steady guide, a thread through the film. Beyond the natural and linear progression of the alphabet, there is another unifying component in Letters: the dance form. Through movement and gesture, street dancers tell their own stories of resilience and struggle. They become emotional narrators full of expression and strength. The film ends on a collaborative dance that goes through stages of grief and trauma, slowly transforming to jubilation and zeal. Z is for zest… zeal… zenith…

LETTERS grew out of the idea to create a silent film from the intimate letters that an immigrant sends home.

Kris Davis piano
Jen Shyu vocals
Roni Eytan harmonica
Doyeon Kim gayageum
Edmar Colón saxophone
Lim Yang bass
Francisco Mela drums

This is a premiere and new work. Each player will contribute a short composition in connection with the silent film LETTERS.

A livestream will be available free of charge at 8pm on the day of the performance and archived for future viewing. Watch below or on YouTube.


Canadian-American and Grammy award-winning pianist and composer Kris Davis was described by The New York Times as a beacon for “deciding where to hear jazz (in New York) on a given night.”Davis has released 23 recordings as a leader or co-leader and collaborated with artists such as Terri Lyne Carrington, Dave Holland, John Zorn, Craig Taborn, Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey, Julian Lage and Esperanza Spalding. She was named a 2021 Doris Duke Artist alongside Wayne Shorter and Danilo Perez, Pianist of the Year by DownBeat magazine in 2022 and 2020, and Pianist and Composer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2021. Davis is the Associate Program Director of Creative Development at the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice and the founder of Pyroclastic Records. Davis is a Steinway Artist.
Bulgarian-American photographer and filmmaker Mimi Chakarova received her education in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and in visual studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Covering global issues, her work has appeared in National Geo- graphic, the New York Times, and on CBS, CNN, and the BBC, among others. Her film The Price of Sex, a feature-length documentary on the trafficking of women, was awarded the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York. Other honors include the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting, the Dorothea Lange Fellowship for outstanding work in documentary photography, the Magnum Photos Inge Morath Award, and a People’s Voice Webby. Mimi Charakova has also directed, shot, and produced other documenta- ries, completed by her own production company, A Moment in Time Pro- ductions. She is the founder and creative director of Still I Rise Films, a documentary series about resilience and rising above the odds. In 2021, she set up a fellowship program for women filmmakers and visual artists. She has taught visual storytelling at the Uni- versity of California, Berkeley as well as reporting classes at Stanford University.

Thank you to The Shifting Foundation for its generous support in the making of the film LETTERS.

LETTERS: a collaboration between filmmaker Mimi Chakarova and pianist/composer Kris Davis

Friday, April 5, 20248:00 pm
$25 advance$30 doors$20 Student/Senior (w/ ID, Senior 65+)doors 7pm

LETTERS grew out of the idea to create a film from the intimate letters that an immigrant sends home. These letters bridge distance and tell truths that are often hard to explain in person. The music Kris Davis and her ensemble have composed for the silent film supports its emotional arc by framing and interacting with the images and narratives.

The visual letters describe the United States, a country that has been filmmaker Mimi Chakarova‘s home since her family left Bulgaria when she was 13 and Davis’ home since she left Canada at age 21. To that end, all the people filmed for this project are people whose stories often go untold. Ultimately, LETTERS is a collaborative attempt between Mimi and Kris to understand the streets we walk, the news we read, and the world we experience as women, artists, and immigrants.

The silent film takes on the letters of the English alphabet and explores the many words that start with these letters and sounds. Just as children first learn words—”A is for apple, B is for bicycle…”—LETTERS form a visual narrative with a collection of vignettes. With a total of 14 stories, some letters are grouped to address larger themes. Each musician performing has composed a piece to accompany one of the vignettes in the film. The first such grouping is the story of a young woman who became the first black female firefighter in one of the most populous counties in California. What does it take to be the first in a field that’s predominately male and white? And how many other women in other professions are paving the way to this day? Another vignette in the film is about kindness. We see a blind man relying on others. Simple tasks like crossing a street or eating a meal are assisted by strangers who instinctively step in. K is for kindness… kinship… kindred.

How have our constant and insistent interactions with technology and persistent connectivity made us oblivious to our surroundings and real time? A frantically edited vignette displays the disconnect and loneliness of human beings engaged with their phones and other devices. Other people surround us, yet we are alone in a space lit by the glow of screens.

Kris and Mimi are both working artists and mothers and wanted to include a vignette that shows the impossible balancing act of working while raising children in the United States.

The individual letters offer a steady guide, a thread through the film. Beyond the natural and linear progression of the alphabet, there is another unifying component in Letters: the dance form. Through movement and gesture, street dancers tell their own stories of resilience and struggle. They become emotional narrators full of expression and strength. The film ends on a collaborative dance that goes through stages of grief and trauma, slowly transforming to jubilation and zeal. Z is for zest… zeal… zenith…

LETTERS grew out of the idea to create a silent film from the intimate letters that an immigrant sends home.

Kris Davis piano
Jen Shyu vocals
Roni Eytan harmonica
Doyeon Kim gayageum
Edmar Colón saxophone
Lim Yang bass
Francisco Mela drums

This is a premiere and new work. Each player will contribute a short composition in connection with the silent film LETTERS.

A livestream will be available free of charge at 8pm on the day of the performance and archived for future viewing. Watch below or on YouTube.


Canadian-American and Grammy award-winning pianist and composer Kris Davis was described by The New York Times as a beacon for “deciding where to hear jazz (in New York) on a given night.”Davis has released 23 recordings as a leader or co-leader and collaborated with artists such as Terri Lyne Carrington, Dave Holland, John Zorn, Craig Taborn, Ingrid Laubrock, Tyshawn Sorey, Julian Lage and Esperanza Spalding. She was named a 2021 Doris Duke Artist alongside Wayne Shorter and Danilo Perez, Pianist of the Year by DownBeat magazine in 2022 and 2020, and Pianist and Composer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2021. Davis is the Associate Program Director of Creative Development at the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice and the founder of Pyroclastic Records. Davis is a Steinway Artist.
Bulgarian-American photographer and filmmaker Mimi Chakarova received her education in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and in visual studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Covering global issues, her work has appeared in National Geo- graphic, the New York Times, and on CBS, CNN, and the BBC, among others. Her film The Price of Sex, a feature-length documentary on the trafficking of women, was awarded the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York. Other honors include the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting, the Dorothea Lange Fellowship for outstanding work in documentary photography, the Magnum Photos Inge Morath Award, and a People’s Voice Webby. Mimi Charakova has also directed, shot, and produced other documenta- ries, completed by her own production company, A Moment in Time Pro- ductions. She is the founder and creative director of Still I Rise Films, a documentary series about resilience and rising above the odds. In 2021, she set up a fellowship program for women filmmakers and visual artists. She has taught visual storytelling at the Uni- versity of California, Berkeley as well as reporting classes at Stanford University.

Thank you to The Shifting Foundation for its generous support in the making of the film LETTERS.