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Video of the Week: Algebra

By Apartment613 on August 5, 2014

Algebra is the directorial debut of Jith Paul, founder of Ottawa-based production company Treepot Media. The 11-minute film is a poetic short about a painter who is losing his sight and features local Ottawa talent in front of and behind the screen. Shot in Wakefield and downtown Ottawa in 2014, the film has just completed a festival tour with screenings in Toronto, Scotland and France.

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Here’s the film maker’s Jith Paul’s description of the project.

I had the opportunity to see Terence Malik’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.   A few months later I entered a  contest called Digi60 where filmmakers are given 60 days to create a short film based on a catch.  The catch for Fall 2012 was the theme “re-union”.  Filmmakers were also asked to begin and end their films with a rhyming couplet for bonus points.
I had recently had some laser surgery to on my retina and experienced temporary blindness earlier that summer.  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.  Here’s a paraphrase of her pitch.
algebra (n.) — “1550s, from M.L. algebra, from Arabic al-jebr “reunion of broken parts” — Online Etymology Dictionary
“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind
And is therefore winged cupid painted blind”
Vincent is a contemporary visual artist in the prime of his career. Everyone loves his work. Raw and emotional it says we can’t or won’t. It reveals ugly truths.
He falls in love with Brigitte, a new model. He invites her into his studio. He can’t stop painting her. They end up making love one night 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. A build-up of fluid pressure both in his eyes damaged his optic nerves. There were warning signs though. Seeing haloes around lights and momentary decreases in vision. His obsession had pushed everything else to the periphery.
His eyes can’t be saved. He becomes a painter without vision. In the downward spiral of his anger he shuns Brigitte and destroys all of his paintings. He cuts himself off from everything. Except staring into a broken mirror for hours. His psyche spits has he tries to wield his vision back from the dead but it’s no use. He can’t stop. Brigitte tries to reach into him and pull him through the wasteland. 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. So it goes…
“And therefore is love said to be a child
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.”
It was an ambitious project and it couldn’t have been done without the support and patience of an incredibly talented cast and crew.  We shot wakefield, Quebec and in downtown Ottawa over 3 days.  We workshopped a version of the film at the Digi60 Filmmakers’ festival in 2012 and we won “Best Technical Quality”.  The feedback we received sent us back to do re-shoots in Wakefield and our newer version hit the festival circuit, screening at the Toronto Independent Film Festival in 2013 and at festivals in Scotland and France as well.