The Hunting of Lost Characters: A Review

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“The Hunting of Lost Characters” Asks a Timely Question:

Just What Makes You a Real Character?

by Michael Arangua

If you’ve ever heard the expression “Create the Next Chapter of Your Life’s Story” then you have an entryway into Gustavo Sampaio’s short film, “The Hunting of Lost Characters”. Most of us think of ourselves as the Star of our own life story—or at least we do when we’re filled with ambition and see the world for the endless planet of opportunity that it is.

But what happens when we give up on life and cease becoming the main character in our own lives?  What happens when we fall into a hole of self-loathing and self-limiting doubt?  That’s not just the rhetoric of a self-help manual—that’s actually when they come to get you.  They, being the “hunters” of lost characters, inter-dimensional stalkers who delete you from existence on behalf of a mysterious “creator” who is writing your story…but finding you ripe for deletion, once you start lagging behind and missing purpose in life.

The film is a sci-fi / action fusion piece that avoids slapstick comedy in favor of a more cerebral and suspenseful tone.  However, the quirkiness is still there, particularly in how the main character is introduced to the danger, being warned by a little girl and then chased by several EOE “Men (and women) In White”, perhaps a reversal of the “men in black” urban legend.  The narrative of the film, as well as a newscaster, goes so far as to suggest that people who mysteriously vanish in life always seem to find themselves at their lowest ebb right before the inevitable happens—almost as if low ambition and lost creativity is the doppelganger of doom.

The director’s influences include Spike Jonze of Being John Malkovich, another exercise in surrealism, as well as Marc Foster and his comedy-drama fantasy Stranger Than Fiction, which explores the physical reality of fictitious beings and how they periodically invade our world.  Expanding upon the limits of quirky existential cinema, director Sampaio brings a pulse to the short film, directing screenwriter Wagner de Assis’s words with the emotional escalation and suspenseful storyboarding of a Guillermo Del Toro film.

For the making of the film, which features ambitious cinematic visuals well beyond the standard film festival piece, Sampaio relied on unorthodox rooftop camera views, remote helicopter shots, and additional visual enhancements to make the film feel epic.

He also relies on his knowledge of producing and editing to make the technical Tour de Force, having won three Emmy Awards for his work producing shows for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.  He has also worked on Entertainment Tonight, ESPN, and special events for the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards, and thus is no stranger to working behind the camera or with the biggest names in show business.

Sampaio’s first love has always been in filmmaking.  Before branching out into the creative side of cinema, he worked on editing feature films and in cinematography.  “TheHunting of Lost Characters” is his third short film and gave him an opportunity to work with three actors who bring a thoughtful range of conflicted emotion to what could have been secondary roles.  But of course, the worst sin in this universe is to not be the star of your own life’s story and leave yourself open for prompt deletion by a creator whose main purpose is to make an all important point.

Actor Justin Matthew Gordon, inhabits his writer’s role very well, capturing the despair and cynicism that is the starving artist’s life.  He not only speaks to the aspiring show business star, but to a great majority of Americans who find themselves spiritually burnt out at the endless consumerism and artifice of a life starved of passion.  Gordon, who is a Shakespearean actor bred from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and in regional theatre across the U.S. does a good job of balancing a writer’s contempt for humanity along with the more subtle poise of a reluctant action hero.

Vanessa Verduga of Justice Woman fame also has a cameo in the film appearing as another “hunted” character who’s encountered the wordless, white-clad assassins and who may hold more information to unraveling this mystery.

Lola Wayne Villa is given the task of communicating much of the story’s plot and exposition and does it with natural enthusiasm. She does well playing off of Gordon’s disbelief and in inhabiting such an enigmatic character without seeming overly manipulative.

The social commentary of the piece boldly suggests that the line between deletable characters of no particular value and real life people who have no ambitions, dreams or passions isn’t that thick.  If we feel alive and inspire others then we are very much “real”, in our own world and perhaps across multiple universes and other people’s stories.

In contrast, if we have no reason to live and just take up space while we wait to die, who’s to say we ever existed in the first place?

“The Hunting of Lost Characters” is screening at the Laemmle NoHo 7 in North Hollywood, Los Angeles from this Friday September 25 through Wednesday September 30, 2015.  The cast and crew are submitting the film for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences consideration, as well as film circuits all over the globe.

The film is screening every day at 6:30 PM until Wednesday September 30th at the Laemmle Noho 7 Theater located at 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Visit https://www.facebook.com/thehuntingoflostcharacters or buy tickets directly at http://www.laemmle.com/films/39925.