San Francisco International Film Festival Selection: ‘After Antarctica’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on an expedition and then experience the aftermath of it? Well After Antarctica is a documentary that highlights the entire journey of an international crew of six explorers in 1989, who set out to be the first humans to cross Antarctica by dog-sled. Award-winning filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt intertwines the past and present, using stock footage through a different lens and utilizes the frame to tell this story. The expedition’s leader, Will Steger, returns to the Arctic tundra – this time at 75 years old – on his own, as he retells that historic, near-death journey all those years ago.

The documentary was beautifully shot and the one thing that Van Zandt did, was that she let the image within the frame breathe. If it was a scenic landscape, she let the viewer really take in how vast the Arctic was. As the viewer, you could feel yourself connect to the area and understand what Will Steger and his crew had to go through. The expedition took a toll on all of them, mentally and physically, and after watching this documentary, you can appreciate the work they did for the greater cause.

It’s such a fascinating watch because of the archival footage and actually seeing the weather conditions during the expedition. That is what is so shocking about this documentary, is the fact that they had to go through all of that, without the world knowing how that expedition affected them in the long run. You can also relate to Steger because he is returning to a place that really changed his life in so many ways. So, in a way, you feel that emotional connection to the environment as well. Not only because, Steger retells his story and what he was presently feeling, but because of the way Van Zandt captured the environment.

After Antarctica is a documentary that allows its subject to fully explore the extents of his own mind because of this strenuous journey. There is deep reflection of his time spent on the expedition and a beautiful, cathartic journey of his connection to nature in that environment. Tasha Van Zandt took her time with his story and fully explored it, so viewers could appreciate every corner of the globe and understand how important a connection to nature can be.

Nomadland Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Chloé Zhao’s Nomandland takes the audience on a journey through the American landscape, after Fern (Frances McDormand) loses everything in the Great Recession. She embarks on a journey of re-discovery as a van-dweller and finds solace in the community. Zhao’s direction and storytelling is mesmerizing and captures the subtleties of living.

What was so interesting about this film was the conversation surrounding the American economy and how retired workers choose to live, after they’ve been a slave to capitalism their entire lives. We, as people, lose sight of what is the most important because we are working in order to survive. Zhao choosing to focus on vandwellers was really eye-opening and hit such emotional chords. There’s such a human connection to this film and its characters, that the viewer will understand the decisions made by Fern and the rest of the community.

Frances McDormand as Fern
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The film is beautifully shot and the cinematography is the clear standout, the picturesque landscapes fill the screen, as we join Fern on her journey. It is a stunning film and it is understandable why so many people connected to it but it just was not for me. Frances McDormand carries this film and gives another wonderful performance but again, nothing really stood out for me. Zhao delivered on the technical aspects and her ability to ground her characters in a very humanistic story.

Nomadland is definitely the darling of the festival circuit and has every right to be. It has a strong story, beautiful imagery and a sense of peacefulness for its characters. Zhao is a beautiful filmmaker and has a great future ahead, she is a wonderful storyteller and raises strong questions about life after loss. The film is peaceful, yet draining because of the intimate, emotional conversations shared with its characters.

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.

The Jack of All Trades: An Interview with Filmmaker Jack Settipane


By: Amanda Guarragi

Jack Settipane is an actor and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He has been acting since the age of 4 and has been producing many short films, as well as writing his own. Jack made his first short film at the age of 11 and is constantly looking for new people to work with. He has a large following on Instagram and is very influential on social media platforms.

Settipane is currently on the festival circuit with his short film Tick, which has won a couple of awards this season. Jack shot the film completely by himself and he had control over every take, “It was really unique to not have anyone else on set. There was no pressure, no rush, which allowed me to have complete creative control.” Settipane read a script based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, reworked it, modernized it and changed the ending for the concept of Tick.

Settipane also got involved working on the film Last Call starring John Malkovich and directed by Steven Bernstein. The film had struggled to find its footing and it did not get finished until 6 years after it was shot. “I shared some out of the box approaches with Steven, which led to him asking me to take the helm as producer. I worked day and night for a year to find solutions the many financial and legal predicaments the film was in and to also find a distributor” Last Call should be released in 2021.

Social media seems to play such a huge part in everyone’s lives and Settipane utilizes his wide reach on each platform to find unique influencers that are also filmmakers. He has worked with many influencers internationally in order to create some wonderful short films. It’s rare to find people who blew up in social media but are really down to Earth people and are phenomenal human beings. Gilbert Sosa, Tavo Betancourt, and Nashua Aguilar stand out as those rare individuals.” Settipane believes that networking through human interaction is much easier than networking over social media.

When asked about his upcoming projects, Settipane is currently working with a 16 year old, named Felix Lavelle from Australia. “He made a short film that we ended up picking up and we are aiming to take it through the festival circuit.” Settipane also has a couple of pilots in the works and is ramping up his acting resume. His first love was acting and he would love to get back into it.