“I had the opportunity to see Terrence Malick‘s film To the Wonder at the Toronto International Film festival in 2012 and loved the simple, poetic cinematography and the wonderful storytelling that relied heavily on voice-over,” Jith Paul, engineer turned indie filmmaker, says of his inspiration behind his directional début, Algebra.
Following the screening two years ago, Paul entered a contest called Digi60, a festival in Ottawa where filmmakers were given 60 days to create a short film based on a “catch.” In the fall of 2012, the catch was to focus the film on a theme of “reunion.” For bonus points, filmmakers were also asked to begin and end their films with a rhyming couple.
“I had recently had some laser surgery to on my retina and experienced temporary blindness earlier that summer,” Paul says. ‘It was scary and disorienting. So when my friend, screenwriter Jennifer Mulligan, pitched an idea about a painter, Vincent, hiding his accelerating blindness from the world and himself, at the launch of the contest I had goosebumps.”
Mulligan’s pitched went something like this:
Vincent, who is a contemporary visual artist in the prime of his career, falls in love with Brigitte, a new model. He invites her into his studio and eventually finds that he can’t stop painting her. They end up making love one evening against the backdrop of canvas and paint
He asks her “How do you define love?” In whispers she replies “It’s the thing I feel in the pores of my skin.” She’s alluring, nurturing and falls in love with him.
Late one night when Brigitte is sleeping, a debilitating headache sends Vincent to the hospital emergency. Medical tests soon reveal a build-up of fluid pressure in both his eyes has damaged his optic nerves. Sadly, Vincent’s eyes can’t be saved. He becomes a painter without vision.
In the downward spiral of his anger towards his loss of sight, he shuns Brigitte and destroys all of his paintings. He cuts himself off from everything. His psyche splits as he tries to wield his vision back from the dead. Brigitte tries to reach into him and pull him through the wasteland, but he rejects her again.
Desperate to reunite with his vision, he falls in love with the imaginary reflection of his face instead of dealing with the inevitability of his new life.
Algebra is now available for all eyes to see on YouTube.
Of the project, Paul says “It was an ambitious…and it couldn’t have been done without the support and patience of an incredibly talented cast and crew.”
Over three days, the team shot in Wakefield, Quebec and downtown Ottawa. They workshopped a version of the film at the Digi60 festival in 2012 and won “Best Technical Quality.”
“The feedback we received sent us back to do re-shoots in Wakefield,” Paul says, adding that the newer version hit the festival circuit, screening at the Toronto Independent Film Festival in 2013 and at festivals in Scotland and France.