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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #59: Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh Put A Modern, Almost Bizarre, Twist on an Old Tale In ‘H.’

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #59: Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh Put A Modern, Almost Bizarre, Twist on an Old Tale In 'H.'

The ancient Greek myth of Helen of Troy is re-interpreted and re-imagined in “H.”, the tale of two Helens living in Troy, New York, whose lives being to unravel after their town is hit by a natural (perhaps supernatural) disaster.

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

Two women descend into madness after an alleged meteor strike sets off a series of strange events in their town of Troy, N.Y #Hthefilm

Now what’s it REALLY about?

H. is a mysterious, modern interpretation of a classic tragedy in which two women, each named Helen, live mirrored lives in the town of Troy, NY. The first Helen is in her 60s, lives with her husband, and takes care of an eerily lifelike baby doll called a “Reborn Doll,” which she cares for as though it were alive. The second Helen is in her 30s, has a successful art career and is four months pregnant. One night, something unexplainable falls out of the sky and explodes over the town. In the aftermath of this event, bizarre and unexplainable things begin to happen. As people in the town go missing en masse and unnatural cloud formations begin appearing in the sky, the two women find themselves and their lives spinning out of control.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

One of us is from Lebanon and the other is from Texas. We met in Texas during a Drawing 1 class where one of us would borrow the other’s pencils and erasers and never return them. We then began making films together and doing other stuff too. Fifteen years later, we continue to make films together and still do the other stuff too. One of us sleeps very early and the other sleeps late. We once nearly perished together in Mexico during a jungle rainstorm, at night. Tacos are one of our favorite things.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

Time was BY FAR the biggest challenge in the completion of this film. The film was made as part of the Venice Biennale College- Cinema Program, which selected three films to receive a production grant, mentorship and a guaranteed screening during the Venice FIlm Festival. While amazing, what this meant is that we basically had to make a film in well under a year to make the Venice August deadline. We have, quite literally, never worked so intensely for such a sustained period of time and it was brilliant but utterly exhausting. We’ve made other films that would not have been such a stretch at this timeline, but H. is a very different film for us, with many more moving parts and much greater ambition. We had horses and crowds and forest days in a foot of snow (it was the worst winter ever), and a post production tour-de-force that included travel to Argentina for VFX work and a rather complicated sound design and mix, not to mention a ton of score from four different composers that were scattered all over the world — all having to come together just 4 months after shooting. 4 months. Granted, we’ve had the time now, after Venice, before Sundance, to go back and tinker here and there with elements that were perhaps a bit rushed, but the film was by and large made in a pressure cooker of bitter cold, sleepless nights, and not enough days.

What do you want Sundance audience to take away from your film?

Ultimately, we want to provide people with a unique experience, and an unexpected one as well. We’d like people to leave the theater having questions, being intrigued, wanting to know more, forming their own opinions about the characters and the world we created. We’d like the film and its images to stick around in people’s heads, possibly be recalled every time the letter H comes up in every day life.

Any films inspire you?

This year a few films definitely woke us up… “Under the Skin,” “Maps to the Stars,” “Ida,” to name a few. Roy Anderson’s “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch…” was also a treat, and in addition to the other two films of his trilogy, definitely an inspiration for its boldness and audacity.

What’s next?

That’s a good question. Well, let’s see. In some ways it all really depends on what happens with H., and where this film takes us. Basically, we have ideas for many things at many different budget levels. Ultimately we’d like to make a bigger film, and we have a long standing New York City set ensemble absurdist drama that we’d love to see put into motion. But lately, a bonafide crime drama set in Niagara Falls has also sprouted itself in our collective mind, and this idea has been putting some work in, making the rounds, talking itself up at the water cooler, so to speak. And then there are other films we could make. smaller films, if you will. Sights have been set on Buenos Aires, Beirut, Mexico City, etc. It just depends. So, it seems, we shall see.

What cameras did you shoot on?

RED Epic with vintage Cooke lenses.

Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform.

No, H. was made as part of a production grant award from the Venice Biennale College- Cinema program, the finer points of which stipulated that the film should be made with that sum.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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