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Nathan Douglas

"Bread of Heaven" (2012) - Short Film

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http://vimeo.com/43567120

I finished this last year as my thesis film for my BFA degree, and made it available online recently. It's (surprise!) a post-apocalyptic story, very Road-influenced in terms of setting and the coming-of-age elements, but with an attempt to get into some of the theological implications of how Christians would try to maintain the liturgical elements of worship when everything has utterly collapsed. I originally came at it from an Anglican perspective (I was raised Anglican) but I think it plays more coherently for Catholic and Orthodox audiences. The Anglicanism I grew up in retained some reverence for consecrated hosts, and yet never articulated any inkling of the Real Presence; I approached the story from this perspective but didn't necessarily get some of the nuances it would have for those who believe in the Real Presence - at least, not until I became Catholic this year, a step that was helped by the process of making this film.

It is what it is - a student film, with any number of things that drive me nuts now that I can see it from a distance. Flaws aside, I'm glad I got to make something on 16mm one last time. To have a chance to shoot and edit on film in the last gasping years of celluloid processing (at least in Vancouver) has been an absolute gift.

Edited by Nathan Douglas

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Thom   

I remember cutting film, it has much more of a "making" quality to creating a piece. I don't miss those L-cuts though.

 

Nathan, this is a really well done piece of work. The "flaws," as you say, may stand out to you but not to the audience. The lighting (especially the fire light), the audio sweetening, the music placement and silence, the editing...all superb. I liked the story a lot as well, powerful and open to interpretation.

 

I am surprised that there haven't been more comments. I don't frequent the boards much anymore but for a long time I tried to move this part of the forums forward, hoping to engage the maker and the critic more...well, I guess I am not that surprised. It is a shame though.

 

Anyway, I hope more people watch this and comment.

 

Please keep me posted on what you are working on - feel free to PM.

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This is an exceptional student film, Nathan. I sense a maturity in the choice of subject (which echoes not only the relationship between Christ and his disciples but also Abraham's offering of Isaac) and in the camerawork, the control and juxtaposition of shots. The first image feels Russian. 

 

It's neat to see 16mm used so intelligently. There is a point in the film where you can actually see the particles and specks playing across the screen--the imperfections remind you how delicate the format really is. And I also appreciate the fact that you didn't drain the color away too much in postproduction. Too many student filmmakers fall back on the bleached, gray-on-gray look as an aesthetic choice--I think it has become cliche.

 

Like many student films, the pace is slow, almost funereal, with plenty of dead air around the dialogue, but this is appropriate to the story and augments the somber, sobering mood.

 

Very nicely done, Nathan. This beats a lot graduate thesis films I've seen recently.

Edited by Nathaniel

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Thank you, both, for your kind words and encouragement. It means an awful lot to see people engaging thoughtfully with the work.

Thom, I don't know if you got it, but I sent you a more detailed PM a little while ago. Please let me know if I should re-send.

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Josie   
I am surprised that there haven't been more comments. I don't frequent the boards much anymore but for a long time I tried to move this part of the forums forward, hoping to engage the maker and the critic more...well, I guess I am notthat surprised. It is a shame though.

 

 

 

Maybe it's the sheer volume of personal work shared here?

And the reality that if you're engaged in the arts or journalism or academia (or a mix) there is just so much you need to ingest, because your friend/colleague/student made it ; because it intersects with what you do; because someone came to you expressly for feedback or suggestions.

So you miss out on a lot.  Or your silence is no indication that what you just saw didn't move you.

But for all the reasons I come up with, I also think it's a shame!

 

For some reason, this reminds me of Scandinavian film and other art and I want to call it painterly. I really like how understated and subdued it is (and not just visually) and the sense of suspension and recessed interiors and space between frames. Especially given the post-apocalyptic setting and the climax. 

In terms of plot, I love that the bedtime story that the child (children?) falls asleep to is a child's worst nightmare. I think you compress a lot into that scene.

 

I've always felt shaky in my understanding of how Catholics see transubstantiation, as it's applied to the Eucharist.

I wish you could say more about it and how it's brought to life in your film. I don't know how to take the literalness, this rendering of the Real Presence, how it's intended. I also thought of Abraham, and the gunfire seemed both a reprieve and a new sacrifice.

 

It is what it is - a student film

 

 

 

I don't know what those look like or very much about film, but nothing here felt flawed or amateurish to me! 

 

 

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M. Leary   

I just noticed this, Nathan. It is exceptional and mature. I see a lot of work from first and early filmmakers, much of which is student work. I rarely see something this quality out of the gate. Thom's comments on the medium are spot on, but the depth of narrative/theme here is also worth noting.

Edited by M. Leary

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Anders   

I also just finally got around to watching this and wanted to add my praise for a quite exceptional student film. Well done. Despite whatever flaws you see in it now, I think you can be very proud of this work.

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Thanks, Josie, M., and Anders. Really appreciate you guys having a look at it. (It's also really good to have you back, Mike!)

 

Josie, to make things even more complicated, when I made the film I did not believe in transubstantiation/the Real Presence. The Eucharistic hook of the film was supposed to be from an Anglican perspective - at most, the bread has some sort of spiritual but not literal presence. It's vague because I was going on what I observed from altar serving as an Anglican kid - I knew the priest "consecrated" the bread, but where that fell on the spiritual presence/symbolic act spectrum, I had no idea - just that it wasn't the Real Presence.

 

Now that I'm Catholic, the Eucharistic elements work much better as far as understanding how a deeply religious man would hold onto tradition in the wake of complete disaster (ie. not letting the kids scarf 'em down immediately). The film still plays and sounds Anglican to me, but the Eucharistic yearning at its heart resonates much more deeply (with me) as a Catholic.

Edited by Nathan Douglas

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Thom   

Thank you, both, for your kind words and encouragement. It means an awful lot to see people engaging thoughtfully with the work.

Thom, I don't know if you got it, but I sent you a more detailed PM a little while ago. Please let me know if I should re-send.

 

Thanks, Nathan, I did get the PM. Sorry I was delayed in my response. Hope you received mine as well.

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Josie   

You're welcome, Nathan! Even after your explanation, this  

to make things even more complicated, when I made the film I did not believe in transubstantiation/the Real Presence

 

still surprises me.

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