By Connor Hayes | firstname.lastname@example.org
For some students at Flagler, enjoying films means movie nights with friends in the Ringhaver Student Center, or the occasional full length feature at the Gamache-Koger Theater, but for Sina Eslami, film is more than a pastime: it’s a passion.
“I’ve always liked cinema, but I only seriously got into it when I came to Flagler,” Eslami said. “During my freshmen year, I started reserving all kinds of films from the library.”
But for Eslami, it wasn’t enough to be in front of the silver screen. He wanted to be behind the camera.
“At first, I lacked the resources to produce my own work, but when the Communications Department made equipment available, I just jumped right in,” Eslami said.
Eslami soon found the production of film to be a learning process, but showed he was able to convey powerful, provocative themes.
“Separate”, one of his first short films, involves a flashback of a honeymooning couple, which transitions to a cryptic depiction of a game of chess between two shadowy figures.
The entire sequence is revealed to be the dream of one of the players, who eventually loses his queen. Waking up, he crawls over to a picture of a woman, then turns it face down.
“It’s about memories that are burned into our brains that we can’t forget about,” Eslami explained, adding that the primary theme is adapting to loss and recovering from it. “The man is playing chess. He’s lost something critical, but he has to move forward, even though it’s hard.”
Yet, even such insightful work can come about by happenstance.
“‘Separate’ originally sprung about as a class project. I was learning how to use film and how to edit it. It’s very much an experiment, both content-wise and technically speaking. I thought it turned out pretty well,” Eslami said, chuckling.
It only takes a cursory screening of one of these short films, three of which were unveiled at the St. Augustine Film Festival in January, to see that Eslami draws heavily from many experimental directors of the mid-20th Century. His work is predominantly done in black and white, with an inherent slight graininess in the film.
Another one of his short films, “Grey Matter,” follows in this vein. Like, “Separate,” “Grey Matter” involves contrasting dreams and realities. A cynical, hesitant man waits for his lover, all the while saying that their scheduled meeting is a mistake. When she arrives, she is overjoyed, until he tells her that he doesn’t feel the same way about their relationship. After some deep conversation about their flaws and compatibility, she leaves him, both of them sullen.
“It’s the whole catch between the guy and the girl. He’s hoping that she doesn’t show up for a date, and while he’s waiting for her, he worries what could or couldn’t be,” Eslami said.
However, as with “Grey Matter,” nothing is what it seems. The entire date is revealed to be a fantasy of the man.
“She never actually arrives. I think we’ve all had moments where we may not be very into someone, so much as into their presence,” Eslami said.
So what drives Eslami to keep crafting original, short films?
“Kubrick, Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa. Maybe not [influencing] conceptually, or thematically, but these are the guys that keep me going,” Eslami said.