How Adult Themes Can Be Elevated Through Stop Motion Animation: An Interview With Josephine Lohoar Self


By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many ways filmmakers have incorporated themes of grief, love and loss in their films. In The Fabric of You, writer and director Josephine Lohoar Self uses stop motion animation, to create emotional connections through memories. The film is set in the Bronx, where we are introduced to Michael, a gay, twenty-year-old mouse, who hides his true identity, while he works as a tailor. When Isaac enters the shop one day, he changes Michael’s perspective and their relationship blossoms. The film is presented by the Scottish Film Talent Network and funded by the BFI and Creative Scotland. The film had its world premier at The 2019 Edinburgh Film Festival as part of The New British Animation 2 Strand.

The concept of the film was inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus by American cartoonist Art Spiegleman. The novel recounts the experiences of the author’s father, during the Holocaust with drawn wide-eyed mice, representing Jewish people and menacing cats as Nazis. It spoke to Lohoar Self, “I used it as a catalyst for looking at stop motion animation as a way of telling more adult themes and seeing it as a vehicle for themes of grief and memory.” this is what the film does so well. The memories that Michael reminisces about throughout his day cut into his everyday activities. They can be happy memories or traumatic ones and it is all framed in how he processes those moments.

Michael

Lohoar Self has a Fine Arts background and wanted to incorporate her artistic knowledge as a painter through animation. She is skilled in telling stories through her paintings and wanted to combine that with her love for filmmaking,

“I enjoy working with like-minded creative people, so painting for me was sort of isolating. This was a great collaborative, creative experience with film and animation. That’s what it offers and I was particularly drawn to stop motion animation because of that.”

She felt that stop motion animation could explore different levels because of the endless possibilities that can be created in that space. There are moments that can be altered through memories in time and space, “I think I was really interested in exploring how grief affects memory and how memories are affected after someone passes on.” Lohoar Self said. There are moments in The Fabric of You that cut through Michael’s everyday activities to show that he misses his partner. Those were powerful moments because anyone who has suffered a loss will understand how Michael is feeling.

Michael and Isaac

There are waves of sadness that can hit you at the most random moments because a small thing could remind you have that person and that is what this film does so well. Lohoar Self wanted to present the complexities of those feelings through different plains, “I thought it would be fun to draw the parallels between people seeing objects and memory and also cutting between three different layers of reality, imaginary and fantasy.” She also used a singular object, a button, to create a profound moment between Michael and Isaac.

Lohoar Self wanted to create a deeper, emotional connection between Isaac and Michael by using the buttons as a representation of individuality. Fashion is something that can define you as a person, Lohoar Self goes onto say, “Fashion can be a form of expression, so I think for me, fashion as a concept in the film was quite important, as a way of revealing your identity and revealing who you are but also a way of hiding it and concealing it.” Isaac accepted Michael for who he was and the button symbolizes something entirely different halfway through the film. The importance of that particular object being tied to a memory is what makes this film emotional.

The Fabric of You uses stop motion animation to explore themes of love and grief through different plains. The narrative structure allows the audience to process the important memories as Michael does, his emotional spectrum is put on display and affects his everyday life. The film is assembled to draw in the viewer with its quick editing and fantastical elements, while retelling a traumatic story that can resonate with everyone. There is so much that can be done with animation and to be able to use a different form, to express adult themes, can really help audiences process their feelings.

How the Female Experience is Depicted in the Short Film “Twist”: An Interview with Aly Migliori


By: Amanda Guarragi

Women have shared so many similar experiences with each other for many years and there have been films that have truly captured the female experience. The short film Twist, written and directed by Aly Migliori, analyzes the loss of innocence in this coming of age thriller. It takes the female experience and tells a universal story that women know a little too well. Migliori gives a fresh take and elevates the experience through the use of colours, lighting, minimal dialogue and the score.

Migliori wanted to put these character in a space and in this heightened period all in one night, “I wanted to show the consequences, the learning, the growth and kind of feeling the loss of innocence without any kind of explicit blame or anything. It’s a pretty impactful moment for her, it’s pretty innocuous for the others.” The film takes place at night as a teenager named Hannah (Helena Howard), finishes work at her local ice cream parlour and she walks home alone at night. A car, with three boys pulls up right beside her and they convince her to get in, so they can drive her home.

She takes this universal story, this universal experience and makes a great thriller while addressing a young girls first encounter with the dangers of being a woman. Naming the film Twist was extremely clever because it’s an entendre. Migliori played with the idea of the expectations of the title, both literally and how everything unfolded at the ice cream parlour. She goes on to say that, “The ice cream parlour, this very Americana ice cream parlour has connotations with American nostalgia, American childhood and kind of American censorship. I think this story is kind of resisting that mythology, while playing with it.” That is why the ice cream parlour as the centerpiece of the film worked so well. It felt like a wholesome location because of the nostalgia tied to everyone’s childhood and then Migliori turned it into a place that has scarred its lead character.

Courtesy of First Hunt Films

What was most impressive was how the score elevated the moment Hannah realized what was happening and how this moment would affect her for the rest of her life. All women remember the one moment where everything changed, when their perception of the world, of boys, changed. The score had this teenage pop angst as Migliori described with a sinister undertone that completely worked with Howard’s performance. The connection was so raw and it forces the viewer to remember that specific moment in their own lives.

What really tied everything together was the cinematography and the use of lighting. The choice to light up the ice cream parlour and make that the standout while keeping everything else around the parlour in darkness worked very well. There were bright reds used at the beginning of the film and then as the film got deeper into the story, it got darker, “The red takes on a much darker meaning later on, as the story progresses we’re still using the same colour palette, we’re just shifting it darker and she’s kind of growing up and losing her rose coloured glasses on all of the elements of the female experience.” Watching Hannah go through that experience and having all of these elements change with her made a huge impact.

Twist is a short film that offers so much in such a short period of time. It dives into the female experience and leaves you questioning the moments in your own life. All women have a similar story and no, that is not an exaggeration. Aly Migliori delivers on all fronts and her biggest aspirational takeaway is that hopefully some people find a certain parallelism in their own experiences and feel heard, while also truly enjoying this story.

Saint Frances Review|How Honesty Impacts Audiences: An Interview With Filmmakers Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson


By: Amanda Guarragi

Saint Frances is a film that highlights the full female experience in the most honest way possible. It wants to show its audience that women at any age can experience hardships, shame and a certain vulnerability that comes with certain subjects. It dives into the stigma around conversations about abortion, postpartum depression, menstruation and breastfeeding. We see a woman in her early 30s, named Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) navigate her new job as a nanny. When looking after little Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams), Bridget faces hardships of her own and has to juggle her new life.

What is so wonderful about Saint Frances is that it doesn’t shy away from topics that would be considered “taboo”, it is right in your face and it felt like an open conversation among women. All films have this sense of community but this film felt like having a conversation with your best friends. O’Sullivan definitely made an impact with the story she wanted to tell,

I felt like I could add something to the landscape of movies that have an abortion in them and sort of treat it with a light touch, a humorous touch, rather than make it really dramatic or traumatic and sort of normalize it.”

Kelly O’Sullivan, Writer and Star of Saint Frances
Courtesy of Easy Open Productions
(Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith-Williams)

The women in the film had an interesting dynamic, which brought comfort when listening to their conversations. Films that have these tough conversations in a lighthearted way for a new generation is important,

“I do think it’s becoming more and more accepted and young women, teenagers are way more open and accepting, than people my age or older than me. So it’s really exciting to see that there is a bigger conversation starting to happen around those issues.”

-Kelly O’Sullivan, Writer and Star of Saint Frances

O’Sullivan was inspired by the female voices around her and wanted to make a film that would help the conversation. This new surge of young female voices, expressing their personal thoughts and feelings, allows teenagers to grow up with films that have a positive outlook instead of feeling shame.

The dynamic between Bridget and Frances was so interesting because of how they would speak to each other. Frances was speaking at an adult level, even though she was just starting elementary school. She was incredibly smart, perceptive and open to having conversations about womanhood at such a young age. Newcomer Ramona Edith-Williams was a firecracker and commanded each scene she was in,

“We just met her and she brought so much of herself to the room and so directing her was sort of a big mix of just creating an environment where she felt like she could be herself.”

-Alex Thompson, Director of Saint Frances

Thompson loved working with Ramona Edith-Williams and wanted to develop an increased sort of awareness and closeness with O’Sullivan.

Courtesy of Easy Open Productions
(Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith-Williams)

Even though Bridget was in her 30s, the honesty shared between the two of them, made her reevaluate everything. The bond between Frances and Bridget reminded me of the bond I share with my seven-year-old goddaughter. I speak to her like an adult and I’m probably the only one who actually listens to her. The scene where Frances runs out of her classroom calling after Bridget, during her first day of Grade One completely broke me. Frances hoping to be friends with Bridget forever is something that was so pure, that it brought me to tears. What this scene taught me was that even if you feel like you’re a complete mess, you’re somehow doing something right and there is always someone who believes in you.

Saint Frances is a beautiful film because of the honesty in front of and behind the camera. The dialogue surrounding the stigma of abortion, postpartum depression and other female issues was refreshing. Kelly O’Sullivan wrote such a wonderful screenplay, filled with tender, lighthearted and comforting moments. It is a wonderful addition to female stories that can start healthy conversations about these topics.