Relatively unknown artist Tim Carey puts his skills to the test when he and the team at The Judson Studios partake in creating the worlds largest stained glass window. Faced with the reality that they have no idea how to achieve such a feat, they enlist in the help of the one man who does – Narcissus Quagliata.
Renowned for his famous technique that uses frit (granulated glass-like mixture used to fuse glass) to layer on stained glass, Quagliata is able to create works that aren’t normally possible using traditional stained glass techniques. Using his method and Carey’s vision, the Judson Studio embarks on a near impossible job to create a stained glass masterpiece.
Holy Frit is an interesting documentary in that it doesn’t act like a documentary but rather a series of shorts. Where most docs follow a similar three act structure to what a film would, director Justin S. Monroe chooses to break the storytelling into a series of short chapters. Each chapter emphasizes a piece of the rising tension as the art team tries to sort out their project.
This does and doesn’t work for the doc. While it’s an interesting way to structure your documentary and gives the story a sense of progression and urgency, there seemed to be a lack of overall focus. At points, the focus shifts from serving as a biography about Carey and the creation of the “Resurrection Window”, to a case study on what it means to create a “masterpiece”. Unfortunately, the focus lies primarily on Carey while it could have used a change of pace and breather from Carey’s manic energy. Tying together Carey and Quagliata’s brief conversations about art philosophy could have easily broken up the frustratingly stressful chapters with thoughtful dialogue.
That being said, Holy Frit is still thoroughly engaging and shines a light on a historic work of art that may not be known among the general public. I personally was not familiar with the “Resurrection Window” and appreciated what I did learn about it and the stained glass world. Adding a bit more thoughtfulness would have given the doc a more serious tone and some breathing room to explore some of the more interesting concepts they presented. Instead, Monroe and team produced a doc that focuses on the creation of a historical work of art rather than some of the more philosophical elements of what the art represents. Not bad, but could have been more.
Reviewed online (screener provided by Melbourne Documentary Film Festival), July 27, 2021. Running time: 119 min.
PRODUCTION: (US) A Tandem Arts production. Producers: Justin S. Monroe, Chris Saito. Executive Producers: David Judson, Justin S. Monroe, Chris Saito. Associate Producer: Kasey Monroe
CREW: Director: Justin S. Monroe. Writers: Justin S. Monroe and Ryan M. Fritzsche. Cinematography: Luc G. Nicknair. Editing: Ryan M. Fritzsche. Music: Yuichiro Oku.