Waiting for the Fall as Lily Topples the World
Director Jeremy Workman holds his breath with a domino artist
By Shane Pfender,
5:30PM, Tue. Mar. 16, 2021
What is it like to be in a room where one young woman is spending hundreds of hours building domino art? “Very, very, very tense,” Jeremy Workman says, referring to the setting of his new SXSW-selected documentary, Lily Topples the World.
The film follows the life and art of Lily Hevesh, AKA Hevesh5, a YouTube star from the suburbs of New England. You’ve probably seen her videos before: thousands of dominos arranged with military precision, toppling by the thousands in mandalic spirals and Rube Goldberg-esque sequences.
Hevesh, a mostly reserved and college student, operates the most subscribed and watched domino art YouTube channel. She runs in a cohort of dedicated, young, mostly male domino artists. She’s been making videos since she was a child. Workman, who shoots, directs, and edits all of his films, narrows his focus not just on Hevesh’s ingenious structures but on how she carefully moves among her work and the long, meditative durations of building before the pieces come crashing down. “I probably shot 500 to 600 hours... maybe more.”
Workman promised himself on set that he would not knock any dominoes over for the duration of filming. But what is it like when something like this does go wrong? He struggled to describe the feeling of bearing witness to disaster. “Such a shock... Michael Jordan missing a dunk at the buzzer... my God, what just happened?... We filmed the unicorn.”
The film’s subject seems an unlikely pivot for the filmmaker. In "Carbee's Barbies" he documented the life of outsider artist and recluse Al Carbee, whose idiosyncratic sculptures heavily feature Barbie dolls: meanwhile SXSW 2018 selection The World Before Your Feet followed Matt Green, the man who decided to walk every street in every borough of New York. Workman doesn’t draw a distinction between the young YouTube star and his previous subjects. “She does qualify as an outsider artist," he said. "She's self taught, she's doing her own thing, she figured this out on her own.”
Beyond the satisfying toppling montages, the documentary captures a contemporary artist navigating the early stages of a lifelong creative pursuit. Lily Topples the World envisions how an artistic practice can thrive today. Hevesh’s energy and her constant invention, not only in domino art but in filmmaking, design, and system creation is the work of a young master. But she doesn’t overthink it, As she says, “Have fun, because dominoes are awesome."
Lily Topples the World
Documentary Feature Competition
Kevin Curtin, April 18, 2021
Shane Pfender, April 7, 2021
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