What a refreshing time in Hollywood… a scene scapin moment in time, where stories are being voiced through the power and intelligent mastery of independent film. Indies represent the value of Freedom, the opportunity to Believe in exposing all facets of the human emotion without a filter shading the exchange and most importantly the ingenuity to create magic.
Helping to pave that path is filmmaker Vincent Sabella, whose Independent featurrete ‘Anonymous’ just won him a Best Director accolade, at the Idyllwild International Film Festival of Cinema for the screen adaptation of the short story “Crack Gives You Wings”. ‘Anonymous’ takes audiences on a journey of innate self-destruction, all the while tackling the subject matter of addiction, turning a key many are afraid to unlock.
“I knew I was interested in tackling the subject matter of addiction and I had been knocking around several story ideas but nothing was getting me excited… That’s when I stumbled across the short story “Crack It Gives You Wings” by U.K. writer, Lee Carrick. It was so vivid and visual that it took me into the world. I could see the world so clearly – a world most people do not want to be in or talk about, which intrigued me even more” explained Sabella.
Trying to understand the world Vincent is referring to, compresses layers of subtextual beauty with self- destruction and interconnects at the paradigm, where ones childhood innocence escapes the virtues within the inabilities of an abandoned adulthood. Vincent went on to explain, how his personal experiences had helped him connect to this story.
“I had been in crack houses on several occasions, because I had a very good friend who was an addict. Unlike most, I was fascinated by what I witnessed. The deterioration of the mind, body and in some cases, humanity of the people in these places was horrifying, sickening, desperate but also oddly beautiful to me. As a story teller, I was immediately drawn to this story because it didn’t hold anything back. I wanted to tell a story that would make the viewer uncomfortable, but at the same time draw them in with this disturbing beauty.”
Sabella has also created some incredible artistic collections, including his 2011 “Bear on A Hot Tin Roof”, which I had the pleasure of experiencing myself at one of his gallery openings. It seems to me similarities exist between the message, which gets Anonymously lost in the translation of art on canvas and on screen…
“I believe we all lose our childhood innocence at some point in our lives. For some it’s due to a personal tragedy, illness or some sort of abuse. More often than not, it’s simply a product of growing up and becoming jaded with the reality of adulthood, which dictates the natural loss of our childhood freedoms on so many levels. I painted what I knew…what felt familiar and real to me and now as a filmmaker I hope to tell stories that provoke thoughts and feelings, while shining a light on reality, but doing it in such a way, where I can find a shred of dignity and beauty in the worst of circumstances.”
Anonymous tells the story of a young man, played by rising star Grant Harvey. His character was born and raised in a crack house and is the epitome of how sometimes you don’t have a choice, but becoming a product of your environment. Sabella is the type of filmmaker that spends time with his actors discussing their characters, building up back stories and challenging their ability to tap into the mental, emotional and physical states of the character. But the question remains, would the story channel to audiences?
“Grant was a delight to work with and he made himself completely accessible to me emotionally. It was up to him to decide what happened to his Mother and find that shred of humanity in the character, because otherwise you risk losing the audience. I have had many people come up to me after a screening and tell me how much they were rooting for the character… Everyone wants to escape their own life at some point, even those who seemingly appear to have it all, exists an under layer of darkness and despair . For me, Anonymous represents hope. No matter how bad it is, there is always a way out. In the case of my lead character his way out was death but it was his awareness that he knew there was something better for him that made this story all the more tragic. He knew he was destined to escape the existence he was living. Audiences are going to have mixed reactions to this film but if I can let them walk away with something I would want it to be HOPE.”
National Statistics have pinned down that about half of adolescents have abused an illicit drug at least once by the 12th Grade. This movie sheds light on the impact drug culture has on our youth… Do you believe it was part of your journey to use this film as a tool for repurposing the truth of our youth?
“Honestly, I wasn’t trying to repurpose anything. All I did was address a topic that people don’t want to see or hear about. If this film in some way helps expose a truth to a young person and gives them hope or helps them see a more positive direction in their life, then great, but I did not make it with any other intention than to show that this is a real thing. There are people living in crack houses in cities all over, maybe even in your neighborhood… But, just because they exist does not mean they are bad people or don’t strive to escape. Society would much rather place these people in a box to be discarded. I don’t see it that way. Just because you are trapped in despair or darkness, does NOT mean you are broken.”
I must admit that hearing these words from Vincent provided an enlightened moment for me; sometimes it takes that precise moment of stepping back to see someone else’s world and feel someone else’s pain to realize, that when one makes certain sacrifices of self, it will eventually shine a light of truth. It may not be the Truth you expected, when you first started your journey, but it will be your truth.
Vincent’s light has been shinning truth of onto his journey. After battling some health roadblocks throughout the past few years, his spirit never ceased to dim, in fact I wondered if the art of making art played a vital role in his healing process?
“It’s been a huge outlet for me with the various health issues I have struggled with over the last several years. I’d go as far as saying that had I not been diagnosed with cancer, I may not have ventured into film making. It’s good to have a place to put your emotions as opposed to keeping them all bottled up inside.”
The purpose and journey of the film’s characters paints a beautiful painful portrait of the contortion between struggling with the power of addiction, living in a life of darkness and its fractured physical state, by transcending the common principles of human emotion, it leaves audiences Anonymously entranced.
Check out ‘Anonymous’ at film festivals across the globe for a bit of inspiration.