Local filmmaker is all about hysteria
Special to the Berkeley Daily Planet
By Kamala Appel. (03-12-02)

Jakob Bokulich as "Ikar"

Antero Alli, the director of “Hysteria” was born in Finland and grew up in Toronto, Canada. He moved to the Bay Area at age 19 in 1972 and stayed for 10 years. Alli also resided in the Portland and Seattle areas before returning to the Bay Area in 1996. Prior to working with film, Alli wrote and directed plays that he toured with in Berkeley, San Francisco, Mendocino County and Sonoma County. Most recently, his two-act play, “Hungry Ghosts of Albion” played at the Noh Theater in San Francisco in 1999.

Alli has created “exhibition films” (short run art house films) for 11 years, including “Tragos,” a cyber noir tragedy. In 2000, he screened “Tragos” to audiences in Seattle, Portland and the Bay Area at the Fine Arts Cinema in Berkeley and Cell Space in San Francisco. In addition to Alli, the key members of his film company, Vertical Pool, include his wife, Sylvi Alli, who acts as a producer, composer, and sound editor; and Michael McWhirter, who does the special effects out of Austin, Texas. Their most recent project, “Hysteria,” Alli describes as a “a post-Sept. 11 suspense drama with moments of humor.”

“Hysteria” is a completely independent film with absolutely no studio involvement.

“I don’t really have commercial ambitions. I’m just an artist type, you might call it,” Alli explains. “I make movies that I want to make and then from there I go about the process of booking screenings.” Sometimes Alli will send his films to festivals, but mostly he’s been booking screenings himself. Because of his independent marketing, Alli’s films often end up at festivals where he will speak about his work, but they don’t get seen by large audiences. For instance, “Tragos,” his last feature, even though it received good reviews from upwards of a dozen film magazines, was only seen by a few thousand people.

He said “Hysteria” may be a turning point for his career. His films are not necessarily “crowd pleasers,” he said, because they deal with unconventional, somewhat difficult material. And he thinks of himself as an experimentalist, though he sticks to the story, he added, “Hysteria” was inspired by the events that unfolded after Sept. 11. Alli wanted to make a film that explored hysteria in various contexts. He and his cast and crew felt an urgency to create a film that would capture their emotions in response to the nation's tragedy before they faded. They shot 14 hours of footage in the month of February and are now in their third week of post production. Alli anticipates that the completed work will be roughly 90 minutes.


Anastasia Vega as "Peri"

“Hysteria” takes place in Oakland in October 2001. The story begins when a young woman named Peri, traumatized by Sept. 11, decides to leave New York City and head to the West Coast. Peri, played by Anastasia Vega, moves in with her sister Marian, played by Atosa Babaoff, in Oakland. A Croatian amateur boxer and devout Catholic named Ikar, played by Jakob Bokulich, lives next door. Bokulich co-wrote the script with Alli. The suspense heightens as the sisters’ and Ikar’s lives radically change as a result of their encounters with each other in the post Sept. 11 world. In addition to exploring hysteria as a phenomenon, Alli also uses the film to question how the media disseminates mis/information: what is included and what is not.

Although Alli claims that the film does not take a strong political position, he said he hopes it will breakdown stereotypes like the ones that led to the onslaught of hate crimes following Sept. 11. The film features music from local Bay Area bands, including Mark Growden and Lumin. Alli self-finances his films or he pools monies with the core crew from Vertical Pool. He does not rely on grants or outside producers, which he asserts “is fine with me because my main ambition is creative control, at this point.”


Atosa Babaoff as "Marian"

Shooting in digital video allows him to keep his budget reasonable. Unlike many of his other works, for which he hired cinematographers, Alli opted to shoot more than 95 percent of “Hysteria” himself because the film is so personal to him. Although I would argue that using shot lists, storyboards, and rehearsing can save a lot of time and money in the long run, Alli believes that “storyboarding is for wimps”. Instead, he elects to show up to the set and “react to the site specific shooting” with spontaneity. He admits that he may storyboard in the future and he does use a shot list to a certain degree. In general, though, he feels superstitious about “over rehearsing actors and over preparation” and declares that “problem-solving is very exciting to me”, so he tends to be “slightly under prepared.”

“Hysteria” will screen at the Fine Arts in Berkeley on March 30 at 11 p.m. and at Cell Space in San Francisco on April 11 at 9 p.m. After these two initial screenings, the folks at Vertical Pool will either continue a release in Seattle and Portland or enter into a few festivals, possibly Sundance. Depending on audience reactions, Alli may re-edit the film. For more information about the cast and crew, and their projects, including “Hysteria”, access their Web site at www.verticalpool.com

CAST and CREW (credits)

ANTERO ALLI, filmography



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