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This Abstract Allegorical Short Follows a Father’s Mission to Reconnect

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John Charter’s mixed media experimental film tells a soldier's story of battling trauma

This Abstract Allegorical Short Follows a Father’s Mission to Reconnect

It is not in every experimental film that you find a man questing to reunite with his estranged daughters through life-sized, otherworldly creatures – living beings that personify his self-destructive behaviour from war-related PTSD. It is true in the case of the short film Remission, which premieres online today on NoBudge.com.

The visual, allegorical style of Remission is an imaginative departure from how PTSD has historically been explored in films. Following an unknown soldier trapped in a state of living paralysis, three creatures emerge as extensions of his trauma from battle and the resultant nihilism that he struggles to overcome. Visions of a distant little girl haunt the soldier and lead the creatures on a vast, lonely pilgrimage in hopes of restoring their once sacred connection. 

The short film is based on co-writer Paul Kaiser’s personal experiences. He served in both the United States Army Infantry and the United States Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and was deployed throughout the Middle East during the most recent campaigns. While serving, he was subjected to combat-related trauma and its subsequent collateral damage when he returned home. Most damaging was his experience being detained by hostile forces.

Kaiser and his friend, director John Charter, wrote the script together. Their motivation stemmed out of Kaiser’s heart breaking, ongoing battle for reconnection with his estranged daughters. Kaiser, a fine artist, has not had contact with them in years. His art is the only way by which he can ‘speak’ to them, with the hopes that one day they will see his work.

With no previous experience in creature design, Kaiser created the large-scale costumes over the course of six weeks in a makeshift workshop at Charter’s home. He discovered his process through hours of trial and error, inspired by costume-making videos from Henson Studios, the artist Nick Cave, and the paintings of Bosch. Kaiser continually reworked the engineering of his creature designs to make them more lightweight and resilient to harsh conditions. His most labour-intensive costume, inspired by sniper ghillie suits, was constructed by pulling individual strands of used burlap coffee bags to give the creature a naturally tattered and worn ‘fur.’ 

From the desolation of California’s Death Valley to the giant sequoia trees of the north, each shot composed by Charter and cinematographer Rainer Lipski could easily exist as a standalone image found in a painting or fine art photography. The crew adhered to a visually rewarding but inefficient shoot schedule, filming only during the “magic hours” of dawn and dusk. This painstaking approach resulted in 20 shoot days across 19 California locations to achieve the final seven-minute film. By the time the filming was complete, the team had persisted through run-ins with rattlesnakes, wardrobe malfunctions, flat tires, and off-road driving to remote areas without cell phone service, to name a few adventures.

Ultimately, what the filmmakers managed to create is a meditative, almost biblical journey in which creatures travel great distances across desolate landscapes to evoke a sense of loneliness, longing, and commitment at any cost. The creatures, who are an extension of Kaiser, would travel to the ends of the Earth to make their offering – a relatable journey for anyone who has lost contact with a loved one or has had to overcome a traumatic experience.

Remission has earned accolades from around the world, including Slamdance (Department of Anarchy curation), the Brooklyn Film Festival (Audience Award Experimental Film), Sapporo International Short Film Festival (Best Production Design), and the Best Experimental Film award at Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival, as well as Oxford Film Festival, among others. The film screened at Academy-qualifying festivals including Interfilm Berlin, LA Shorts, and Hollyshorts, and numerous MovieMaker Top 50 Festivals including Mammoth Lakes and Sidewalk. It has been exhibited at Richard App Gallery, Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, and the LA Art Show.

Remission is available to stream for free today on NoBudge.com


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Writers: Paul Kaiser & John Charter

Director: John Charter

Art, Production Design, Costumes & Music: Paul Kaiser

DP: Rainer Lipski

Producers: Sarita Choy, Paul Kaiser, John Charter

Genres: People, Storytelling

Categories: Short films, Short Films and Music Videos

Raconteur, Tue, 28 Sep 2021 08:29:58 GMT