For the first half of the twentieth century, Ellis Island stood as the gateway to America. For some twelve million people, it was their first encounter with the land they hoped to call home.
Directed by acclaimed artist JR, ELLIS tells the story of one such migrant. Starring Robert De Niro, the film winds its way through the crumbling hallways of the abandoned Ellis Island hospital complex, now home to JR’s Unframed art installation. It’s a place that reverberates with the hopes and fears of those who passed through it, the echoes especially resonant today.
Entwined with the narrative is a score composed by Woodkid, performed and co-written by Nils Frahm. The delicate piano motifs of Winter Morning I culminate in a crescendo of strings, while the harmonium swells on the B-side are the foundation for De Niro’s narration: an encomium for those who shaped modern America.
There’s perhaps never been a more fitting time for this story, with all the proceeds going to the Sea Watch initiative, a non-profit charity dedicated to the protection and rescue of civilian refugees.
Following a screening as part of Nils’s Barbican Weekender, the ELLIS score will be out July 8th, the same week as America’s great federal holiday. It will be available as a mini album on CD, vinyl and in digital format containing a 12-page picture booklet.
Nils Frahm: ‘The opportunity to work on JR´s fantastic short film ELLIS came through my good friend Yoann aka Woodkid. We agreed on recording the piano parts in my studio in Berlin and so it happened that JR and Woodkid were guests at Durton studio on a wonderful late summer day in 2015. We managed to record all the crucial elements that day. The music fell in our laps and melted with the images: a wonderful experience. The film has stuck in my head ever since; it moved my heart and changed my soul.