Milford Graves Full Mantis, Dir. Jake Meginsky, USA, 2018, 92 mins, English
Milford Graves Full Mantis is the unconventional first feature-length portrait of percussionist Milford Graves. Drawing the viewer through the domestic spaces of Graves’s bountiful garden, home and basement laboratory located in the New York neighbourhood of South Jamaica, Queens, the film also travels outwards, to tell the story of international performances, including one in Japan at a school for autistic children where music becomes a source of inspirational collective interaction.
Titled in reference to the full mantis martial arts stance – besides his drum practice, Graves invented the martial art form Yara – this biography undertakes an immersive journey through the artist’s properly holistic approach to music and healing. Among his many noteworthy contributions, Graves has studied the human heartbeat, exploring the wide-ranging possibilities for energetic connection between the drums and the body’s natural rhythms.
Renowned for playing since the 1960s both as a soloist and with the likes of Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan and Sonny Sharrock, Graves is credited with liberating the percussion from its traditional timekeeping role. In Milford Graves Full Mantis, Meginsky has made a cinematic work that reflects and indeed embodies the fluidity of its subject’s musical work.