Lloyd Frost releases films and album this month

Multimedia artist Lloyd Frost is bringing his own brand of “social commentary with a groove” to the eyes and ears of an Ottawa audience this October.

Frost, a musician, filmmaker, and photographer, is screening two new films and releasing his first album, The Sun Is Rising & Other True Stories, this month.

Tracks vary in style from jazz, to folk-inspired, to experimental. Frost enlists several musical guests including opera tenor James O’Farrell who sings on the track “Truth.”

Frost said that while he never meant for the songs to be related, there’s a theme of social and political commentary running through the album.

Frost wrote the title song “In Everyone’s Eyes” during a trip to Cuba. He used the song as the soundtrack to his film of the same name.

Frost said he was inspired after visiting an apartment that had once been occupied by Cuban revolutionary siblings Abel and Haydee Santamaria, and Fidel Castro himself. However, a song originally about their struggle against the Batista government turned into a song about the oppressed atmosphere of Cuba today.

Frost said he saw this oppression in Cuba firsthand. He visited the studio of prominent Cuban artist Pedro Pablo Oliva. Oliva’s painting “The Grandfather” is a depiction of an elderly Fidel Castro sitting in a rocking chair.

The painting is not allowed in art galleries because “this is not how the state wants Fidel Castro depicted,” Frost said.

“No matter how big you are — you say something or you do something that the state doesn’t like, you can really put yourself in a bad place. And that’s a very mild story,” Frost explained.

He said people in Cuba describe their country as “an open prison.”

“In Cuba people have to put up a façade,” he said.

“Unless they are really happy and they agree with the state, they generally have to put up a façade. And the whole premise of the film is the music of ‘In Everyone’s Eyes’ is very upbeat, if you just listen to the melody and not the words, and the film is all bright rich colours, so in a sense. the film puts up a façade,” he explained.

The “big star” of the film is the Modelo Prison on the Isle of Youth where Fidel Castro was kept, and where he later kept his prisoners, Frost said. He traveled there to get footage for the film.

“It’s a pretty grim place,” he said.

Frost’s other film deals with the death of Nathan Cirillo, and the shootings of the French cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo.

Footage of the memorial for Cirillo at the war monument and of the heavily guarded Charlie Hebdo offices after the shootings is accompanied by Frost’s song “The Sun is Rising,” which is also the name of the film, and an instrumental piece he composed called “December 12/8.”

He said filming at the Charlie Hebdo offices was “bizarre” because the area was so quiet and residential.

“The place is very very silent, eerily so,” he said. Frost said the film is about the transition from naiveté to awareness and questioning in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

Frost will screen both his films and release his album at the SAW Gallery on Oct. 24.