On “DOBRA OJCA”

Chris White

Chris White

This guest post is written by Chris White, filmmaker of Thomas McConnell’s “A Proof for Roxanna” for the Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival at HUB-BUB on March 24. Chris hand-makes nano-budget, artistically ambitious films for friends. Trained as a theatre artist and screenwriter, Chris aims for Criterion Collection quality through an organic, improvisational process. He lives in the Upstate of South Carolina (USA) with his wife and writing partner, Emily, and three children: Gibson, Whitaker, and Harriet.

When I first read Thomas McConnell’s World War II-era short story, “A Proof For Roxanna,” I was looking for math.

Kassie Bridwell and Greg Humphreys

DOBRA OJCA is Polish for Good Father. Kassie Bridwell and Greg Humphreys.

The word “proof” makes me think of resolution, fact, truth. I like my big questions to be answered stone cold and certain.

Tom’s story gets at the logical fallacy of too easy answers, of false proofs. To his daughter’s knee-jerk dismissal of all that is holy in the face of all that is evil, the father rebuffs her flawed logic:

“One life proves something only about he who lives it….nothing more.”

This idea captured me, and has motivated my work—from adapting Tom’s story into a six and a half page screenplay, to casting the actors who would inhabit his characters, to the two-day shoot in Anderson County last week, to our post-production work this week.

With the life I’ve been given…this one chance at living…what will my life prove?

First shot of film

The opening shot of DOBRA OJCA. 1947. The Polish forest, somewhere near Warka. Keri Lumm as Roxanna.

My cinematographer Jessica Hollingsworth is, primarily, a still photographer. When she and I discussed shooting the film, we agreed that black and white would serve the story best.

Kassie Bridwell plays pre-war Roxanna (c.1939) in DOBRA OJCA.

Kassie Bridwell plays pre-war Roxanna (c.1939) in DOBRA OJCA.

We wanted the film to emphasize the actors’ faces, the textures of those faces…the physical and spiritual contrast found in lives being lived at their bitter end.

Greg Humphreys plays Simcha in DOBRA OJCA.

Greg Humphreys plays Simcha in DOBRA OJCA.

We spoke quite a bit about shot composition…the size and scope of the moving pictures we would assemble to tell our story.

DOBRA OJCA Production Assistant Alessandro Bussi, Director Chris White, and actor Keri Lumm hike to the Pendleton set, early Saturday morning.

DOBRA OJCA Production Assistant Alessandro Bussi, Director Chris White, and actor Keri Lumm hike to the Pendleton set, early Saturday morning.

The film is set in the past, and is framed by flashback—the young adult Roxanna remembering what happened to her family at the dawn of war, 1939. Jessica and I framed and lit every shot from this woman’s point of view: part memory, part myth, part history.

Keri Lumm as post-war Roxanna (c.1947) in DOBRA OJCA.

Keri Lumm as post-war Roxanna (c.1947) in DOBRA OJCA.

Frederic Chopin’s “Nocturne No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 9” provides the film’s score.

I went looking for a piece of music from Poland…the country our film is set in. Chopin is Poland’s most famous classical composer, and many of his more dramatic piano compositions seemed well suited for our story.

As you listen, see if you agree. It really does evoke a sense of loss, wonder, and memory.

This week, I will finally see the piece integrated into our dialogue and images…but I’m even more excited to share the completed film with you, March 24 at The Showroom!

–Chris White

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1 Comment

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One response to “On “DOBRA OJCA”

  1. I can’t wait to see the film Chris. The stills look amazing.

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