Sophie & Jyothi


TYPE
: Narrative Feature
GENRE: Student Film
STATUS: Development

LOGLINE

Jyothi and Sophie are two women who’ve had enough. But their decision to walk out turns deadly—and a new life on the run begins.

SYNOPSIS

Jyothi, a recently-immigrated South Indian housewife in an arranged marriage, and Sophie, an unemployed musician, have both hit dead ends in their lives. Their paths cross at a pawn shop, where a quick transaction takes a turn for the worse, and they find themselves on the run from the law, initiating a brief, few days’ journey along the road from North Carolina to French Canada.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

Having moved to this country in the 1990s, I grew up on the open road—on U-Hauls following my father’s work state to state, in our cramped sedan out in the exurbs where we settled. America’s highways symbolized her mythological values: freedom, adventure, boundless opportunity. Yet those same endless roads have by now staged many other moments from my hyphenated-American reality, its loneliness, uncertainty, and antagonism. Sophie & Jyothi (working title) captures this poignant paradox of existence in America, following one character overburdened by tradition and domesticity, in search of escape, thrown into an unlikely journey with another, cut adrift by lack of guidance and structure, who sees in the road a redemptive path forward.

Sophie & Jyothi is the American road movie that America needs in 2019, mooring the fractured social and spiritual state of this country in the lives of two hot-blooded women impatient for change. Our active, pissed-off protagonists propel us with their frustration, drawing us in with the pungent, lived specificity of their dead-ended situations: Jyothi, a recently-immigrated Telugu housewife, and Sophie, an unemployed stoner musician.

As the soaring arc of such a narrative implies an extreme emotional journey for our characters, from rock-bottom to sky-high (and back), the form of the film must also embrace both freedom and confinement, in extreme duality. Sophie & Jyothi will combine the youthful energy of such road classics as Breathless, Thelma & Louise, Badlands, and Bottle Rocket with the formality and aesthetic precision of the European art comedy/thriller, as in the work of Ulrich Seidl, Götz Spielmann, and Yorgos Lanthimos. The film will thereby center our characters’ emotional experience while also contextualizing it, on the highways which connect us all. 

On the one hand, the film will be lensed wide, with formal, objective long shots emphasizing the tragic beauty of our intricately composed world—one that is albeit still bursting at the seams, as one feels in wide lenses’ edge distortion. Contrasting wider shots, intimate moments will be lensed similarly but framed much closer, handheld. These luminous moments, where our characters break through their world’s order, letting their repressed, numbed urges take over—these are the moments when the camera comes close, harrowingly so, all in the effort to run and fly with our characters when something real finally stirs in their hearts. To free our actors to surprise themselves as their characters must, we will cast gifted improvisers whose lives are close to their characters, and we will work collaboratively to discover the startlingly real.

In the end, Sophie & Jyothi is neither a political manifesto nor a popcorn movie. It is a meditation on life with two lost souls who try and fail—but, crucially, keep going. Echoing the classic road movie credo, our film agrees that escape is not possible, because escape itself becomes a way of life, burdened by its own rules. Yet instead of concluding escape in failure, our Sophie and Jyothi realize that their escape is instead a wandering, that they would rather yearn for the impossible than accept a hopeless certainty.

KEY CREW

Prashanth Kamalakanthan - Writer/Director

Prashanth Kamalakanthan is a first-generation Indian-American writer/director, born in Tirupati, India, and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prashanth graduated summa cum laude from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and Duke Arts of the Moving Image, where he was named 2014 Filmmaker of the Year. He worked in documentary at outlets like The Nation and Mother Jones, before joining The New York Times Video Desk. Prashanth’s work at the Times covered the war against ISIS, the 2015 Nepal earthquake, civil war in South Sudan, protests in Baltimore, black markets in Myanmar, and more. Prashanth is a thesis candidate in Screenwriting/Directing at NYU Tisch Graduate Film, where he is Adjunct Faculty in Editing, a Masters Film Future Fund Scholar, and 2018-19 Purple List Coordinator. Prashanth currently works as an educator at Reel Works and Feature Film Programmer at Cucalorus Film Festival, and is a 2018-19 IFP-Marcie Bloom Fellow, based in Brooklyn where he is developing his first narrative feature.

Artemis Shaw - Producer

Artemis Shaw is a Greek-American filmmaker from New York City. She began her career working for Josephine Decker, associate producing her 2014 Berlinale film Thou Wast Mild and Lovely. Most recently, she associate produced Selah and the Spades, which premiered at Sundance 2019. Artemis is Head of Creative Development at the NYU Production Lab, and is currently a thesis student at Tisch Graduate Film, where she has produced over a dozen shorts that have screened at festivals worldwide, Vimeo Staff Picks and Short of the Week. She has taught film production and theory at Tribeca Film Institute, Ghetto Film School, and the Museum of the Moving Image. She graduated with honors in Art History from Columbia University and has an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.

Lucy Kaminsky - Sophie

Lucy Kaminsky is an actor born and raised in Brooklyn. On film, Kaminsky's work has been seen in dozens of festivals, worldwide. Credits include The Plagiarists (Berlin International Film Festival, Moma & Films at Lincoln Center's New Directors New Films, Sarasota Film Festival Terry Porter Visionary Award), Chained for Life (BAM Cinemafest), The Law of Averages (Vimeo Staff Pick, Short of the Week, No Budge, Provincetown International Film Festival Best Narrative Short). She was also featured in the MGMT music video for "When you Die".

Over the last decade, she has collaborated on several works with the internationally acclaimed performance group 600 Highwaymen as well as with Nellie Tinder, New Saloon, William Burke, Mac Wellman/Meghan Finn, Sarah Hughes and McFeeley Sam Goodman. She has worked at Abrons Art Center, The Bushwick Starr, Dixon Place, The Flea, Fusebox Festival (Austin, TX), Incubator Arts Project, MASS MoCa, Mt. Tremper Arts, NACL, Pace Gallery, The Public, and The Signature. She has been an affiliated artist at The Sundance Theater Lab, The Park Avenue Armory, New Georges and Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at FSU.

Kaminsky holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Bard College and she is a volunteer organizer for the NYC chapter of Black and Pink, an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other in work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex.

Jagathi Kamalakanthan - Jyothi

Jagathi Kamalakanthan was born and grew up in Tirupati, India, a small town in the South known for its hilltop temple, one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites. There, she completed undergraduate studies in Agriculture and went onto receive her Master's in Agronomy with a Gold Medal for Academic Excellence, at Sri Venkateswara Agricultural College. She married Kamal Pokaloorie in 1991, and had their first son, Prashanth, in Tirupati two years later. In 1997, the family emigrated to the United States, where their second son, Pranesh, was born. After following her husband's work from state to state, the family settled in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Jagathi lived as a housewife until 2005. That year, she began working at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, where today she is an Agronomist in the Soil Lab. 

Lasse Tolbøll - Cinematographer

Lasse Tolbøll is a cinematographer and director from Odder, Denmark. He first gained interest in filmmaking during high school shooting skate videos with his friends before slowly transitioning into making short fictional and experimental narratives. He went on to study media science at the Southern University of Denmark. After living in Taiwan for six months, he started the Masters program in Film and Media at the University of Copenhagen but dropped out when he was accepted into the Graduate Film program at Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. He is now based in New York City where he is an HBO-sponsored BAFTA Scholar and the 2018 recipient of the ARRI Volker Bahnemann Award for Outstanding Cinematography.

 

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