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Far Out Meets: Alexandre Dostie, the director of the short film 'I'll End Up in Jail'

@LeeThomasMason

At Far Out Magazine we believe in cinema’s ability to heal.

At a time when millions of people continue to adapt their daily lives amid strict social distancing measures and cinemas around the world continue to keep their doors closed, we want to shine a light on filmmakers on a personal level. Turning our attention to the work created by independent artists, we have launched our new weekly series ‘The Far Out Film Club’. The project will focus on one filmmaker during each episode and will premiere on both Far Out Magazine’s Facebook page and YouTube channel every Wednesday.

As we enter series two, the Far Out Film club welcomes Alexandre Dostie, an acclaimed Canadian film director with his short picture I’ll End Up in Jail. Dostie, who rose to prominence in 2016 with his Toronto International Film Festival-winning short film Mutants, is a deeply emotive creative whose work often attempts to relay the ability of storytelling in a relatable style.

“I like blurred moral lines,” the director told Far Out. “I like stories where good people do bad things and vice versa. I find these stories particularly appealing in this day and age where we’re told that the world is divided into two categories of people: the righteous saints and the irredeemable sinners.”

Relentlessly trying to push the boundaries of the ordinary, Dostie views the art of filmmaking with an innate passion. “This narrative is boring as fuck and unrelatable unless your brain is severely damaged,” he added. “On the other hand, fucking things up, digging your own grave, being served your underserved share of shit and still looking out there to be loved, forgiven, understood…this story never gets old.”

His film, I’ll End Up in Jail, tells the story of Maureen and her escape that comes to an abrupt end when she drives her monster truck into a fatal car accident. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, she must share the company and the blame of a rather touching junkie dubbed Jelly the Loon. “The thing is that the story felt pretty anecdotal to me, and I had a hard time connecting on a soul level with the character,” he said of the project. This feeling of wanting to break free no matter what, no matter how imprudent or impulsive, it became the fuel for I’ll End Up in Jail.

The film, given its first premiere at the Guanajuato International Film Festival, went on to be featured at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival before earning a screening at the prestigious 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

Here though, as part of the Far Out Film Club, we are adding our name to the list with a premiere screening of Dostie’s short film which is available through our Facebook and YouTube channels.

You can read a full interview with Alexandre Dostie below and, at 20:00 GMT, watch the premiere of his film.

Kicking off season 2 of #FarOutFilmClub is Alexandre Dostie’s ‘I’ll End Up in Jail’ The film stars Martine Francke as an unhappy housewife who is attempting to escape her life…

Posted by Far Out Magazine on Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Alexandre Dostie Interview:

Far Out: Given the current circumstances and the struggles that the film industry is facing, how difficult is it to be an independent director right now?

Alexandre Dostie: “Translating your vision to the screen is always challenging. Maybe the pandemic is making it extra hard? I don’t know. That’s the work I chose. Complaining about it won’t make it any easier anyway. Most of my friends aren’t in the cinema business, and the current circumstances are fucking with them just as bad as they are fucking with me, if not worst. The thing with art is that either you are possessed with some kind of a vision that will haunt you day and night until you exorcise it, or you aren’t. If you are indeed possessed, you always figure out a way whatever the circumstances. It’s like killing. Somebody who really wants to kill doesn’t need the second amendment, if you catch my drift.”

Similarly, on a personal level as both a film viewer and creator, how important is cinema as a form of release at the moment?

“Whatever floats your boat. I prefer camping in the woods and horse racing.”

We’re focusing on your project ‘I’ll End Up In Jail’. Could you explain where this idea came from?

“There was this crazy story that happens to my friend’s aunt. She had to drive this huge American pickup truck from her husband’s garage to the inspection office. The thing is that the truck’s speedometer was in miles/hour, contrary to the km/hour that we’re used to in Canada. She never noticed, even though she drove that beast way past the speed limit. She realised what had happened when she got to destinations in half the time. In my mind, I couldn’t help but to think about this small-frame lady getting off, unconsciously, on the danger, the power and the exhilaration of speed. This image was seminal to the project.

“The thing is that the story felt pretty anecdotal to me, and I had a hard time connecting on a soul level with the character. Something had to happen on the road while my character was speeding and tasting this unknown freedom. And I had to find out who was this woman to me. Soon enough, I remembered being shoved in the back of a car with my sisters when I was a kid. This car was speeding on a dirt road, and my mother was driving. She was a young and distressed woman, afraid she hadn’t made the right life choices, to be indefinitely stuck in the middle of nowhere, her freedom forever gone. This feeling of wanting to break free no matter what, no matter how imprudent or impulsive, it became the fuel for I’ll End Up in Jail. Out of my mother’s experience, a character was born. Her name was Maureen.

“From there, many other inspiration sources came into play. This rural region where I grew up in Quebec called La Beauce, which is like our Texas, is where I wanted to shoot. That’s where I filmed my first short, Mutants. I knew the harsh landscape there would be perfect for the story I wanted to tell. Then, there was this André Guitar’s murder ballad, Je finirai en prison, that gave its English title to the film. Finally, I stumbled on Flannery O’Connor’s literary work, and it blew me away! The grotesque, the comical of life’s tragedies, the strange morality, the brutal American South that I could easily translate to La Beauce…I felt I was sharing all of this. It was like finding through space and time some kind of an artistic soul mate. It’s a very special feeling. To honour that, I coined my film as a Northern Gothic piece in reference to the Southern Gothic literary movement Flannery was a part of. Plus, it sounds badass!

Detail, if you could, how the scenario of this project was formed, how did you develop your ideas and did the end product match your initial expectations?

“Writing is often the hardest part for me. I can’t help but do a shit load of research once I am possessed by an idea. Soon, the idea that was pretty clear in the beginning is shattered into thousands of pieces, smaller connected ideas, and I have to put them back together, like a puzzle, to get the script. And since it’s a short film and not a five-book saga, I have to make choices. I don’t like that. So, my advice, don’t do research until your second draft…invent. 

“But, to answer your question, yes. If you were to read the script/shot list, you’d see that it almost matches the film shot by shot. The beating heart of the film, Maureen’s great escape, was never compromised.

Did your creative vision change when you began to understand more about your process?

“Well, at some point, the old man in the car was a vampire, and the girl under the tree communicated telepathically with Maureen. The film was ending with a showdown where Maureen was throwing flaming propane tanks at the police after fucking with Jelly in the fire watchtower. Then I realised that this would be material for another film, and I would keep this one more family-friendly.”

Did you encounter any unexpected difficulties in its creation?

“Sitting down and writing the son of a gun. Also, but on the easier side, shooting at -26 Celsius after a snowstorm that left three feet of that stuff on the ground, when the film was intended to be an autumn piece. That was vertigo-inducing, but in retrospect, a lot of fun and quite a benediction for the film.

What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a film director?

“As of now, my role as a director as always been intertwined with my role as an author of the written material. So I can speak on that particular stance. Remember that it’s all your fault. Shooting in the freezing cold, with three hours of sleep in your body, trying to get two actors to stab one another in the throat while the sun is crashing down on the horizon, not giving a fuck that you haven’t nailed that crucial shot yet. This is all your fault. You wanted this. And now there is a forty-person crew, that could be spending their god-given time on much more comfortable sets than yours, busting their asses to satisfy your vision. They are professionals. They are waiting for you to call the shots. Let them inspire you. Be nice. Don’t waste their time and talent. Be a professional. This ship might be sinking, but it’s your ship. Own it.”

We’ve reached a point in cinema, much like that of the music industry, when the phrase “we’ve seen it all before” becomes a topical debate.

How do you stay original? How do you find ways to produce something unique in a market that has so many creatives? Or is being unique even that important?

“I don’t know. I try to stay away from seen-it-all, know-it-all smart aleck. There hasn’t been a time in the history of mankind like now where you can get your mind blown with amazing stuff on a regular basis. For me, originality is a matter of experiencing stuff, somebody else’s art or getting bit by a racoon on your way to the liquor store. Get yourself in trouble, live another day to tell your story and connect some dots on the way. As for uniqueness, yes it is of the utmost importance. The good thing though, is that you are unique by default. There’s nothing you can do about that. 

9. What/who are some of your major cinematic influences?

“I’ve always been a Cohen admirer, especially because of the way they develop the characters in their films: always on the verge of the burlesque, but still incredibly complex and truthful. I’m also attracted by their stories where existential dramas meet the comedy of life itself. To me, it feels very close to the reality I experience, and that’s how I like to tell my own stories. No Country for Old Men was instrumental in nailing the neo-western vibe and the artistic style of my film. Bong Joon Ho’s Mother was another artistic inspiration, especially to help me figure out the evolution of Maureen and imagine a story where the moral guidelines are blurred up into the lead’s point of view. Oh, and I have to admit there might be a pinch of Thelma & Louise in there. I like to imagine Maureen watching that film and thinking she’s their cosmic sister.”

Do you think those influences are prevalent in your work?

“Maybe, you guys will be the good judges of that.”

Fair enough, let’s look at it another way. Given your inspiration, could you run us through your process? What distinctive themes are you looking to create, if any?

“I like blurred moral lines. I like stories where good people do bad things and vice versa. I find these stories particularly appealing in this day and age where we’re told that the world is divided into two categories of people: the righteous saints and the irredeemable sinners. This narrative is boring as fuck and unrelatable unless your brain is severely damaged. On the other hand, fucking things up, digging your own grave, being served your underserved share of shit and still looking out there to be loved, forgiven, understood…this story never gets old.”

Generally, speaking, what attracts you to a certain subject or field?

“I am amazed by the complexity of stuff that looks very simple on the surface and that we all experience. Things we take for granted, anything, and that we don’t fully understand: love, freedom, sex, power, the life of an insurance salesman, shit like that.”

Moving on to the subject of independent cinema, I’m keen to know your thoughts on its current standing. How important is independent film today, what does it mean to you?

“Independent cinema has been a vocation for me since I’ve discovered it. It’s the hardest thing I ever did. It challenges me, changes me…in a good way I think. It connects me to my fellow human beings. On a very personal level, this way of telling stories has been to me mysterious and life-giving. 

“I don’t know for the rest of the world…Maybe independent film is a dying breed? Maybe we ought to make better film? Maybe Tik-Tok is now a better way to make sense out of existence? To whom is independent cinema reaching out anyway, really? Sometimes I wonder.”

“Short films and independent cinema excel at making bold and risky propositions. If they are not doing that, they are missing the point. I hope it will never change.”

Finally, do you have any ideas in terms of which sphere of cinema you may be exploring next?

“Sphere? What about triangle! My next film is about Christmas trees, imperialism and virginity. I’m almost there. Only thing missing is my butt, strapped to a chair, writing that son of a gun.”

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