Antero Alli, director
In the days following the 9/11 attacks, the collective shockwaves left my friend Jakob Bokulich and I wondering -- like so many others -- how to react. What to do ? We knew we had to DO something but WHAT ? At the time we were in the ideational stages of making a short film together about a boxer haunted by the demons of datura (the flower) he was making tea from. But in the wake of all that was going on -- the racial profiling of Middle Easterners, the government crackdowns, the fear and the panic, the shock and the media hysteria -- our idea felt trivial and self-indulgent. How could we continue our little art film project after all that ?
We decided instead to make a feature-length film response to everything that was happening just because we had to. And so, our joint film project HYSTERIA was born. We agreed to write the script together. We decided to keep the main character of the datura drinking pugilist (boxer) but made him a devout Catholic born and living in Croatia where, as a young boy, he and a group of other children witnessed repeat visitations from the Holy Virgin Mary. This idea was based on an actual event that occurred around 1980 in Medjegorie (google it). We decided that our boxer would be one of those children grown up.
An extraordinary story unraveled from this premise and because it carries several critical twists and surprises, I won't divulge any more except to say this boy's early religious visions profoundly shaped the rest of his life during the Croatian war of 1991 when he was a soldier who accidentally drinks hallucinagenic datura flower tea given to him by gypsies seeking shelter in a bombed out church he was sent to destroy. By virtue of his early childhood experiences and strong Catholic background, his psyche explodes with strange visions of the Virgin Mary who also delivers a speciual mission to him. Or does she ? Ten years later, he migrates to Oakland California, moves in next door to two Persian sisters, takes up boxing and prepares to fulfill his mysterious religious mission.
Sylvi Alli, composer
also: actress, sound editor/coproducer/consultant
Although each soundtrack project I approach for Antero is a unique process, this one for Hysteria was different in that I was working more from the direction of researching and translating music from other cultures rather than recording music that emerged more from within.
I especially enjoyed developing and recording the song Shtiler, Shtiler with Beth Vandervennet, cello and Tim Carless, trombone. Im uncertain as to the origins of the song, it was a piece that I acquired years ago when I was playing Eastern European music with some musicians in Seattle. When Antero first heard the piece, he immediately knew he wanted to use it in the church scene. I had originally envisioned it as a big operatic number but later found that a quieter rendition better served the song as well as the scene.
The most challenging piece of music to come up with had to be the Mary Datura piece. I felt like I was working blind since there was no way to see the footage for the special effects scene before making the music. I kept imagining it in my head and eventually the sounds came together into something that Antero and I felt worked when paired with the finished visuals.
Other Music by SYLVI ALLI
Jakob Bokulich, actor
Back in August last year, Antero and I began meeting once a week, brainstorming what we then planned to be a fifteen-minute short-film. The basic theme of the film was developing around war, and the poisonous plant Datura - two things I've had experience with in Croatia a few years ago. Then September rolled along. The sense of futility that prevailed in so many of our endeavors after the eleventh made Antero and I think about what we had in our hands. It would have felt indulgent to make a movie about a remote experience from years ago, but on the other hand, we realized that we had already developed the germ of an artistic response to September eleventh.
The word "short" was soon dropped from our plan for the film, our weekly brainstorming sessions continued, and Antero's over-the-top imagination went to town, forming the screenplay of a feature-length film. Sylvi Alli, Anastasia Vega, Atosa Babaoff, and many others climbed aboard, adding dynamics that gave the movie a thrilling life of it's own. Because of the timeliness of the issue, Antero scheduled an insane deadline for the premiere - it looks like we made it. It's been a crazy past seven months.
Atosa Babaoff, actress
This experience has reinforced my faith in film. What I mean is, Antero Alli is an inspiration; as an artist, as a human and a renegade. He follows and films his dreams. Its all about integrity. He was so kind & patient with us. He took us seriously. We all became collaborators. There was no real hierarchy; we created together. Anastasia and Jakob were an absolute dream to work with, as well. They were so utterly present on & off camera. I couldnt have asked for a better on-screen sister than Anastasia. You look into her eyes & there is an unending flow of generosity and energy coming right at you. Jakobs patience and chivalry and amazing screen presence will take him far. All in all it was an AMAZINGLY life-affirming experience from the cast and the crew - who all rocked - to the engaging final product. I hope all of my filmic experiences are so fantastic.
Antero approached me about editing "Hysteria" sometime in February 2002. We had worked together previously ("Tragos") and I looked forward to working on this new secretive and controversial piece. The editing was particularly entertaining since the plot was a mystery to me until I started cutting the scenes. I was pleased with most of what I had to work with, the images were rich and the acting was very good.
We editing at a break neck
pace and came up with a rough cut
within 84 hours
and we finished the piece a few days later. I like
the direction the film took
and I believe people
will truly enjoy the work, or at least have some
thoughts about it and the world they
CHRIS @ I.M.Db
CAST and CREW (credits)
VERTICAL POOL PRODUCTIONS
HYSTERIA Front Page