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'The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller' turns the documentary formula on its head

by Alex Cohen and Lori Galarreta | Take Two

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Buckminster Fuller and Montreal World's Fair Dome. Courtesy Magnum Photos

Documentaries tackle all sorts of different subjects, but most tend to follow a certain recipe:

  • One part narration
  • One part still images
  • Throw in some interview clips and a stirring score

Voila! You're good to go. 

A new documentary turns this formula on its head… which may be no surprise considering its subject. "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller" is a live documentary by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Greene.

It centers on the life and work of an extraordinary architect, designer and inventor, known for such creations as the geodesic domes. 

Actors will perform the documentary LIVE on stage Thursday, November 10, at the Skirball Cultural Center here in Los Angeles with an original score by the band Yo La Tengo.

Since Buckminster Fuller's time, plenty of others have followed in his footsteps. Looking to invent products that would make our lives better and to extend the natural resources available on this planet. 

Alex Cohen spoke with Greene and Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan earlier this week and they spoke about Buckminster Fuller's appeal, forward thinking and putting the live documentary together.

Interview Highlights

Why did this 87-year-old visionary held such a strong appeal for you?

Ira: "He created this thing called the Dymaxion map, which unlike a lot of our politics right now seems to be obsessed with building walls and keeping people out and walling ourselves in, demonstrates graphically how interconnected we all are and the seeming gulf that the pacific ocean separates us from Asia. The Dymaxion map shows that it's not like that at all." 

Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Map.
Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Map. Courtesy Stanford University Libraries and The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller.

 

And that word "Dymaxion" because it applies so much to what Buckminster Fuller did, can one of you break that down for us, what dymaxion meant.

Greene: "Dymaxion was sort of his word and he got it from an advertising guy. It was a combination of dynamic, maximum and tension. Somehow that seemed to encapsulate everything for him and he used that for sort of everything. The dymaxion map, the dymaxion house, the car...so it's a kind of cool word.

How do you honor the geodesic dome musically? What went into this?

Ira: "A lot of times in general...a lot of our work is just instinctual and we're not actually sitting around discussing what emotional notes we want to strike in the geodesic dome but it's just come up with a piece of music and just kind of trust that somehow there's something connecting it even if we can't articulate it..."

"Love Song" at Cornell University. Ithaca Times, 2012.
"Love Song" at Cornell University. Ithaca Times, 2012. Ed Dittenhoefer

The first time that Sam approached you to do a live documentary, what was your reaction?

Ira: "We loved the idea, I mean we're always excited to try something that's new to us and that we don't necessarily understand how it's going to work, just get involved with people that interest us and count on the connection creating something unique so, we jumped at it."

"Love Song" at Cornell University. Ithaca Times, 2012.
"Love Song" at Cornell University. Ithaca Times, 2012. Ed Dittenhoefer

Greene: "Also, I think in the beginning we thought we would do one show with this and weren't really thinking that several years we'd still be traveling around doing it."

To hear the full interview, click on the blue player above.

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