With brevity and sensitivity, Christine Turner artfully shows a remarkable moment where a bridge is created between a young man and his grandmother, who can barely communicate and comprehend what is going on around her due to her dementia. The film is sparked by the appearance of activist and African American modelling icon, Bethan Hardison making a heartbreaking debut as the grandmother. The film exhibits what short films can do very well: Seize the emotional truth within a very brief moment.
1 Was there a personal inspiration for the subject matter/theme of aging versus youth and bridging the divide between the two?
A couple of years ago I came to know an elderly woman with dementia while I was serving as a hospice volunteer. As her memory and language skills declined, I was challenged to find new ways of communicating and connecting with her. In the film, I explore some of these challenges as well as how generational differences can play into them.
2 Bethann Hardison, the legendary and groundbreaking model and activist, makes her acting debut in the film. How did you find this talent for HOLD ON?
Bethann’s got presence and I thought she’d be an interesting choice for the role of the grandmother. I had no idea if she’d have any interest in being in a film when I sought her out. But when we spoke, I learned that she had trained as an actress and was very much intrigued by the role.
3 You seem to be making a steady move from documentary to narrative filmmaking. Is that by design? And what are the joys you find as a filmmaker doing one versus the other?
It’s not by design, but sort of how things are working out right now. With documentary I love interviewing people and discovering the story. With fiction, I enjoy writing as well as working with actors. Either way, you’re telling a story and the hope is to get to the truth.
4 The film has a powerful economy about it – so much communicated in a very short time, with very little dialogue, etc. Do you relish the opportunity to convey information, emotion, etc. with so little or (if given the option) would you prefer a dialogue-heavy or expansive narrative?
I enjoy talky films, but my own impulse is to use dialog sparingly and only when it serves the story. Some stories require more dialog, others less. I see it as a useful tool, but maybe not the first one I go to in the box.
5 As a female filmmaker, are you conscious about or make a point to have other women in production roles on your set or is that not a priority for you?
It’s not only a priority, it’s a responsibility. I’m proud to say that almost all of the crew positions on the film were held by women, people of color and/or LGBTQ folks. Everyone, including a few woke, straight white men, brought their unique perspective to the film, which I’m very grateful for.
6 You’re going to Sundance. What is the thing you’re looking forward to the most? And what are you most nervous or apprehensive about?
Well, it’s going to be the first time I see the film with an audience. So that’s something I’m both looking forward to and find a little scary at the same time.
7 Popcorn or Candy?
HOLD ON screens as part of Shorts Program 4 on Saturday 1/21, Sunday 1/22, Tuesday 1/24, and Thursday 1/26. Go to Sundance.org for more information.