In the cultural tradition of pop psychology, the number 16 is celebrated as a coming of age. For young girls, in particular, the allegorical figure is a worn as insignia to symbolize the connate transition from girlhood to young womanhood. Even so, while most ceremonies are are marked by high spirits and jubilation, Boolab and The Ebeling Group, in their main title for film festival, Slamdance, get the party started with “Sweet 16.”
Palpitating to the rumbling beat of a drum and unfurling at a frenzied pace, the piece makes haste, borrowing from sweet 16 folklore by illustrating the benchmarks of pubescence through a surfeit of rousing imagery. By way of the first shot, the audience catches a glimpse at the awkward portrait of innocence: a sweet young girl with wide eyes, buck teeth, and straggly hair.
Wrought with a series of literal and figurative transformations, the cinematography is elegant: brimming with quick cuts that fire in rapid succession, leaving the audience in a stupor to the evocative imagery and reverberating beat. As the storytelling visuals swell into motion, viewers are shepherd through a turnstile of tactful visual effects that exist solely to reinforce the conceptual underpinnings of the enduring, sweet 16 mythos.
For process imagery and insight from the Boolab director, Nico Casavecchia, continue here.
Insight from the director, Nico Casavecchia (boolab)
I first heard about the project back in August. Peter Baxter, founder of Slamdance, had some interesting ideas about what the number 16 meant to them as a festival. He wanted to establish an analogy between adolescence and the current momentum of independent filmmaking, going through so many changes—like the universal access to powerful production technology and new distribution channels. In our conversation, he mentioned how he felt about independent filmmaking leaving its infancy to enter into an exciting new stage.
This transition from childhood to adolescence, where the true potential of the individual is revealed, draw me immediately to a picture of one of my favourite photographers, Rineke Dijkstra. The first inspiration for the piece comes from this picture of a girl posing in the beach in Kolobrzeg, Poland.
I wrote a script where a 14 year-old girl enters a trance to leave totally changed. I wanted to express the energy behind the changes taking place in this particular stage of life through dance and movement.
Talking with Lucas Elliot, executive producer and creative supervisor at boolab, we decided to add new layers of symbolism to the movie, bringing the analogy of the bird breaking out from the egg and the girl setting up a video camera in the beginning. Lucas brought some other key references like Sergei Paradjanov, the Armenian director, and Kenneth Anger, which influenced the original script as well.
With Iris Heitzinger, the choreographer, we worked together to get the mood of Latin-American vodoo rituals, where the participants lose themselves completely to higher forces. We were very lucky to find the two girls, Carlota Urdiales (the teenager) and Jessica Alonso (the adult), who not only have physical similarities and a very strong presence, but they both are great actresses and have a serious dance background. We couldn’t have asked for more.
Being the first collaboration of boolab with The Ebeling Group, I am really happy on how everything went so smoothly through the whole process. This meant that we could step firmly on every stage to take the very best of its potential and make an exponential advance until the end.
A boolab / The Ebeling Group production
Director: Nico Casavecchia
Executive Producers (boolab): Lucas Elliot, Coke Ferreiro
Executive Producer (TEG): Dexton Deboree
Assistant Producer: Maria Soler Chopo
1st Assistant Director: Lucas Adamson
Creative Supervision: Lucas Elliot
Director of Photography: Eloi Sánchez
Actresses: Carlota Urdiales (teen), Jessica Alonso (adult)
Puppets and mask: Lula Cartoons
Dance Monitor: Iris Heitzinger
Talent Agency: Laura Costa
Technical Supervision: Joan Janer
Music: Alex Candela, Geronimo Balado
Sound Design: Alex Candela