"Existential Dread (And Other Dreams)" by Justin Kaminuma

February 16, 2019

My name is Justin Kaminuma and I'm currently an 18 year old college student based in Atlanta. For the past 5 years, I've been uploading short films / music videos to my YouTube channel with the hope that I can share a little about who I am with random strangers on the Internet.

In my first semester of college this past fall, I found myself feeling lonelier than I expected. That feeling hit hardest towards the end when I got extremely sick and had to isolate myself from everyone around me. I remember laying in my bed and hearing the sounds of people talking, walking, and laughing outside the thin walls of my dorm room. And in those lonely moments, my mind would drift into a half-sleep where I'd see pictures and think thoughts and feel feelings. Eventually, they'd lead into these dark confusing moments of existential dread.

This short film titled "Existential Dread (And Other Dreams)" is an amalgamation of all of this, which I decided to start making after reading a YouTube comment on a video for Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th." It started as a series of random moments that I've filmed over the past year, but slowly found its way through editing as a visual representation of just how scary and messy yet poetic and beautiful those moments were for me. I combined a bunch of different forms of media including 35mm film stills, 4K footage from my GH4, and my mom's old Sony Camcorder from 2001. The gorgeous music is by Johnny Goth. I hope you enjoy it!

"An Ode to 'Bandersnatch' and All the Things I Wish I Could Change" by Andrea Panaligan

February 10, 2019


I once saw a tweet that said something like, “You guys have never spent most of your days spacing out and imagining scenarios in your head and it shows,” or something, but I can’t remember exactly.

There are a lot of things I can’t remember. I’ve been meaning to google what it means when I can’t tell the difference between what happens in dreams and what happens in real life, but I always end up not remembering.

There are a lot of things I can remember, though. Right now I am overwhelmed by an itch I cannot scratch, a feeling of unrest I can never undo.

***

I’m too proud to admit that I’m a huge believer of alternate realities, but I am. Every time something goes wrong, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Somewhere out there in the universe is a timeline where this is not going wrong.” Every time I want something, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Somewhere out there in the universe is a timeline on which I have this.”

At first it’s romantic. Cutesy. Oh, maybe in another universe. To an extent, it is scientifically accurate. It even made me a better poet, I think (emphasis on the “I think”)—it made me seem more optimistic. Hopeful. And isn’t poetry more heartbreaking when it’s hopeful?

I don’t know what age it stops being hopeful and just becomes plain heartbreaking, though. I’m at that age, I think.

Okay, I think I’ve tiptoed around it enough, so I’ll just say it outright before I change my mind: very, very frequently I use my belief in alternate realities as an out; a defense mechanism, I think? I can never remember anything because I am never here—I am always somewhere out there in the universe, where nothing goes wrong and I have what I want to have. I have trouble remembering if I actually did something or said something in this world—my world, the real world—or if I just pictured it in my head, but I’m too afraid to ask. I can just simply imagine a world where I don’t have to ask, after all.

***

Since it looks like we’re telling secrets here, have another one: there are many, many, many, many, many things I wish I never did. Sometimes I just want to cry thinking about them. Shed my skin, maybe. I know we’re only human and we all make mistakes and all that faux-motivational the-past-is-in-the-past Quotes of the Day, but that just makes me feel more helpless—the past is in the past, I know that, but I’m stuck in it! I am in the past that is in the past!

It’s easier to create all these alternate lives—to start over, shed my skin—in my head than it is to actually start over and shed my skin here, in my world, the real world. It gives me a sense of control, like I finally get to decide the ending of my story.

***

I think you have to be some kind of psychopath to find comfort in a Black Mirror episode; maybe I am. I’ve been trying to write a review of Bandersnatch for what feels like weeks (I’m not so sure)—I put on my little Film Critic hat and took notes and tried to be as objective as possible, but any kind of review I tried to write that was detached from what it made me feel felt…pointless? I know rule number one of film criticism is to never talk about how it made you feel, so I’m gonna try not to, at least for the next few paragraphs.

Bandersnatch is the forerunner of this new genre/medium/experience that was practically destined for Black Mirror. The anthology’s episode plots very often double as thought experiments, so what better way to expound on that than by making the audience participate? Black Mirror in itself is already a feat—its bleakness is never just bleak for the sake of being bleak. It never fails to pack a punch—that punch usually being humanity’s impending doom that we brought upon ourselves. But after four seasons of bleakness and murder and humanity’s impending doom, the audience is, inevitably so, becoming desensitized. What used to be a series I could only watch one episode of every week because it stressed me out that much became something I binged. Season 4, the first to premiere on Netflix, was by far the breeziest—oh cool, he’s cloning them, when’s the next plot twist?

So this, this interactive episode/film/event was obviously a cause for anticipation; this was something new and exciting, not just for Black Mirror, but for television in general. It’s something that would practically force me to think about what I’m watching, because I control it, I get to make things happen.

News of it started circulating throughout last year, whispers about something interactive, etc. etc., but nothing concrete was confirmed until mid-December. It is interactive, starring Dunkirk breakout star Fionn Whitehead, with a reported 312 minutes of footage. The surprise trailer drop was, quite tragically, the highlight of my holidays then. I was staring at the Netflix homepage the day of the launch, etc., etc., you get the picture—I was excited.

If you’ve seen it then you know it warrants at least a second viewing, and so I did. I was adamant on unlocking every single iteration (and reiteration) of every single scene they shot, so I watched it four times in a row, only stopping when I was sure there were no more alternate paths to be taken. It only took me a second viewing, however, to realize that the novelty wears off much quicker than I would have liked. The tweets were coming in, and people were saying it was very gimmicky, and the story wasn’t really strong enough to match this new genre/medium/experience, and at that point, I agreed. I absolutely lost my marbles when my screen made me choose between Sugar Puffs and Frosties and Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) pointed at Frosties when I told him to, but somehow I wanted more. I didn’t want to run out of endings. So I watched it two more times that night, because I wanted more. 

I knew Bandersnatch wasn’t perfect, but that just made me more protective of it. I mean, how could people not like it? Were they not completely flabbergasted in the face of a choice point like I was? (It’s true that I didn’t like it as much when I watched it the second time, but seeing as I saw it four times, then another time, then another time, then another time, I’m thinking maybe I do love it, after all). I keep reading these reviews that all essentially boil down to, “It’s not actually interactive. It doesn’t really give you much of a choice!” and I’m sitting there, dumfounded (and honestly a bit hurt that something I truly love is getting so-so reviews), because wasn’t that the point? You’re not supposed to have control. You’re supposed to get the same bleak ending(s), no matter which permutation you end up choosing. This is Black Mirror, after all. 

But then I think, maybe they have a point. Certainly the geniuses behind Shut Up and Dance and Be Right Back can do better than “Destroy Computer” vs “Throw Tea Over Computer.” But what other episode/film/event has burrowed itself into the crevices of my mind for over three weeks (and counting), causing me to rewatch it again and again and again despite knowing it all ends the same, grim way? This mental do-I-love-it-or-do-I-hate-it limbo convinced me that no, I can never write a review of this; at least not one that follows the first rule of film criticism. Sorry, film critics—talking about my feelings is my only talent, after all.

What I’m trying to say is this: As someone who believes her life is greener on the other side of the universe, Bandersnatch angered me, scolded me, and ultimately healed me. I gasped when Stefan, sitting in his living room, defeated, said, “I should try again,” and then transported himself to another dimension where he could try again—that is a part of myself that I keep closed off and locked up, and seeing it onscreen—and so casually too—felt like I was being ripped open. Oh, how many times have I sat in my own living room, writhing in my own defeat, wishing I could try again!

So maybe I see myself in Stefan. Maybe the reason I keep watching it again and again and shielding it from the fangs of (objective) critics again and again is because I am Stefan. Maybe I see myself in the way he says, assertively, “I’m trying again.” Maybe I subtly flinch everytime I make a wrong choice and the film takes me back to the previous scene so I could choose again.

So maybe I see myself in Stefan, and seeing him end up in the same place I knew he would be no matter how hard I try to make my choices different this time, maybe that hurt me. That isn’t really an ~alternate~ dimension if what’s happening is not different to what happened in all the other dimensions. Maybe it hurt me to think that the things that went wrong here, in my world, the real world, could still go wrong there, in all my other worlds, and the things I can never get here are things I still long for no matter where I am.

But maybe it’s cathartic. Maybe on my fifth watch, or maybe sixth, I realized, hey, maybe the reason I’m watching this so much is because this is what I want. Maybe I don’t want to have control, in the real world or in any other world(s). Maybe it’s true that there are alternate dimensions, and like Stefan, I’m still making the same mistakes in all of them. Maybe the other worlds are just as flawed as my world, the real world. Maybe there is nowhere I can go where everything is pitch-perfect, where Stefan’s life doesn’t go into shambles and I do everything right. Maybe that’s okay. 

How people feel about this episode/film/event mainly depends on how they feel about the illusion of control. I hated Bandersnatch when I feared not having control. But maybe not having control doesn’t have to be scary (and maybe we don’t have to hate Bandersnatch for it). Bandersnatch may not have given me consolation, or relief, or retribution, or redemption, or absolution from all the things I regret, but it gave me liberation. It has given me the knowledge, and it has set me free. 

"An Eye For An Eye" by Natalie Tapia Carranza

February 9, 2019

Model: Lesley Carranza

Follow Natalie on Instagram to see more of her work.

"I Care About U" by Madelyn Moore

February 3, 2019

Whether it be a friend, family member, crush, or significant other, everyone needs a little love in their life, and it’s nice to know that people care. Here are some ways to spread the love, digitally!

Make them a playlist! Add songs that make you think of them, songs you think they’ll enjoy, and maybe some songs attached to memories you have together. You could even customize the playlist art and add a cute description! It’s sure to put a smile on their face.

Send a funny meme! I mean, c’mon…EVERYONE loves a good meme. And laughter is always the best medicine!

Ask them how their day is going and/or if they’re doing okay. This might seem like a pretty normal and insignificant thing to do, but I can guarantee it means more than you think. Like I said before, it’s nice to know people care.

Let them know you’re thinking about them. You could do this many ways, so I’m going to break this one down a little. Make an Instagram post! You could edit a cool collage of the two of you, or just post some memories you’ve had together! Share a fun story in the caption, gush over how much they mean to you, or you can keep it short and sweet with some cute emojis! However you choose to do it, they’ll definitely have a smile on their face when they see it. If Instagram’s not your thing, head on over to Twitter and proclaim your love to them via Tweet! You could even pin it to your profile to make them feel extra special!

Shoot them a text, or give them a call! If you’re not feeling the whole social media thing, or if you just want it to feel a little more personal, this is another great way to let them know you’re thinking about them.

FaceTime Time! A good FaceTime session with someone I care about always makes me feel better, so try giving them a call! It’s probably the closest thing you can get to actually seeing them in person, and it’ll give both of you a chance to see the other’s face, which will probably make both of you happy! Everyone wins!

Hopefully these tips give you some ideas on how to spread the love when the person you care about is not always available face-to-face. And remember, even the smallest of gestures could seem huge to someone else, so stop rereading that text and hit send!

"In the Heat of the Summer" by Asirah Abdul Kadir

February 2, 2019

Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong in the city. Growing up, I’ve always loved the beach however, being a native to the city of Kuala Lumpur, the closest thing we have to a surf beach is the fake wave at our waterpark which we have to pay a grand amount of money to spend like 30 minutes “surfing” on it. So, when my family and I took a trip to Sydney, I made sure that Bondi Beach was on the itinerary.

After a hearty breakfast, we walked down the streets to the beach. Along the way we saw pretty much just surfers, surfboards, and surf shops. For the first time in my life, summer really felt like summer. You could hear the waves in the distance and feel the warm Australian sun on your skin. As we walked along the coastal path at Hunter Park, we saw a bunch of surfers catching waves and that really doubled my interest in surfing. I couldn’t get enough of watching them ride the waves so effortlessly and so confidently. Even 50+ year-old men were surfing on that day. I was blown away.

I can’t wait for the day I get to experience the same feeling and excitement. Maybe I won’t get the chance to hop on a surfboard right now but one day I will. For now, I’ll just leave it to my imagination and these photos.


Follow Asirah on Instagram to see more of her work.

Editors' Letter

February 1, 2019

(graphic and photo by Zoë Bridgwater)
February is upon us and we couldn’t be more excited over here at Dissolving Film. We’d like to start by giving a short recap of the previous month and what happened in regards to our website/social media. In January we launched a new column, “My I Love You”! This column is all about people’s favorite things, ranging from people, music, architecture, artwork, anything really. We created this column in hopes that it would bring people together. Talking about your favorite things and sharing that with a large group of people feels very vulnerable, but it also allows you to connect with people you may have never interacted with otherwise. We’d love to see any contributions you may have to this column (just email us at dissolvingfilmmagazine@gmail.com)!

Something else we are carrying over to the month of February is having someone outside of Dissolving Film create a playlist for the month. We absolutely loved the thought and creativity that Kara put into her playlist and how her playlist brought something new to the table. The idea of bringing in all sorts of tastes in music is so exciting to us! During the month of February, we will have lots of new submissions going up that feature all sorts of mediums, so stay tuned for those.

Finally, as always, we want to take a moment to express our love and gratitude for this platform and everything that comes with it - including you! (Also, what would a February Editor’s letter be without a mention of love?). Thank you for sticking with us so far and we hope you decide to stick around a little longer!

Lots of love,
Zoë Bridgwater + Zoey Martinez (zb + zm)