Fine Arts Teacher Robert Hanson’s Film Featured in Brooklyn Film Festival
Joanne Miceli

Robert Hanson, Blair’s instructor of digital media and film, was honored recently when his film “Kingdom of Archers” was selected for inclusion in the 2020 Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF), New York City’s longest running international-competitive film festival. This year’s BFF, presented virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, features more than 140 films chosen from 2,590 submissions from 92 countries. All festival films, including Mr. Hanson’s documentary, are viewable for free from May 29 through June 7 on the BFF website, and viewers have the opportunity to vote for their favorites.

“Kingdom of Archers,” a world premiere in the feature documentary category, explores the rich cultural tradition of archery in Bhutan, focusing on how the sport is changing amid the rapid Westernization, industrialization and globalization the country is experiencing. Mr. Hanson, the film’s producer and director, as well as a former competitive archer, traces his inspiration for creating it to his work with a nonprofit organization in 2008, prior to the Beijing Olympics.

“The nonprofit sponsored Bhutan’s Olympic archery team, which, at that point, consisted of just one archer and a coach,” he explained. “I became interested in Bhutan, where archery is the national sport, and learned that the traditional game of archery there is vastly different than what I knew archery to be. I wanted to explore that tradition in a documentary film format.”

The seed was planted, but it wasn’t until five years later that Mr. Hanson began actively working on the project. A meeting at Stanford University with the Prince of Bhutan in early 2014 “got the ball rolling” in earnest, and he then took two trips to the South Asia kingdom, spending just over a month in total in Bhutan with cinematographer Zebediah Smith. 

“With close to 100 hours of footage from the two trips, the major challenge was figuring out how to present the story and boiling everything down into a cohesive film,” Mr. Hanson said of the intensive work that followed. “All told, I’ve spent seven years on the project. Even though I was not actively working on it much of that time, it was constantly on my mind.”

The 77-minute “Kingdom of Archers” is Mr. Hanson’s first feature-length film, and this is the first time he has made a major festival run for a film he has produced. He is thrilled that his work is premiering at the BFF. “Even though I won’t have the chance to see the film on the big screen or interact in-person with my audiences due to the festival’s virtual format, the online platform will allow many more people to see the film who otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance,” he said. He is especially glad that members of the Blair community will have the opportunity to screen his film, and, he added, “I would certainly appreciate their votes in the competition!”

To register for the festival and view this year’s films, click here.

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