The incredible short film Remember When was screened at the recent Dances with Films Festival. The short focuses on Daniel, his younger sister Vanessa, and their mother Elisa. The drama begins when the family moves into a predominantly white trailer park community. Elisa has to go to work and is forced to leave the children alone for one morning. Daniel and Vanessa’s sibling rivalry is put aside when Vanessa goes missing and Daniel does everything he can to find his sister.
The film is a Zeus Pictures production. Zeus Pictures is a New York-based, independent development and production company that focuses on powerful, character-driven forms of screen media (films, TV shows, etc). “We believe that the greatest stories are told through the eyes of authentic and complicated characters and strive to transport audiences to worlds both familiar and fantastic” Owner and Producer, Zeus Kontoyannis has over 10 years of production and writing experience. He started the production company in 2014 to help other creators achieve their goals.
The film is shot in a very personal and artistic way, unique to director Paola Ossa. “The hardest artistic choice I made was probably deciding whether or not to shoot on 16mm. I had never shot on film before and the shoot dates were coming up so fast that ultimately we decided to go digital. I felt like I needed more time to prepare to shoot on a film especially when working with kids and in the location, we were in. Also, Guenter Noesner from Arri was so gracious to lend us his Alexa Mini for the project which I will forever be grateful for. My DP, Joshua Echevarria, and I still wanted to go for a naturalistic, gritty, feel for the film so we shot on the super 16mm mode on the Mini with a vintage zoom lens that allowed us to catch moments that we would’ve other-wised missed. I’m so happy with how the visuals look and I know we made the right decision.”
Award-winning writer, director, and producer, Paola Ossa, incorporates her rich Colombian culture into her storytelling with the hopes of sharing with the world the narratives of underrepresented communities. Co-producing with equally successful Michael Cuomo, whose achievements come from starring in films including The Light of the Moon and Happy New Year, the duo was meant to be for their incredible capabilities. The heart of the film from Ossa shows as she says, “At the very top is the relationship between siblings and growing up in a low-income setting. But I think there are many layers that I hope the audience catches on to that resonate as well.”
While keeping the focus on the sibling relationship, she comments that her experiences in Colombia, combined with it being “a Hispanic family moving into a predominantly white community- reflected on when my family and I moved to the US. However, I wanted to keep the social commentary nuanced as I didn’t want to distract from the sibling relationship.” The personal relationship that goes into this film can be one that those within the immigrant experience will understand, and that outside of it will find a new lens to understand from.
She continues on, “I drove to a trailer park about 15 minutes from my house and while driving through it, it was like a maze with all the tiny streets to the point where I was lost for a minute. It immediately brought me back to a time in Colombia where I was lost, and then seconds later I saw a very young girl of about 5 years old running across the street without looking and her slightly older brother was chasing behind her. It looked like he was walking her home from school and that’s when the story hit me. I felt so connected to these kids I did not know because my brother and I were the same way.”
The cast of Remember When features many talented actors. “Anytime you’re casting kids it’s stressful, especially when they’re your leads. But we worked really hard and had countless auditions. Adrienne Stern, our casting director, helped us find Olivia, Aiden, and Jackson who I was elated with” said Ossa. Shakira Barrera, a Nicaraguan-American actress and dancer from New Jersey who is best known for her role as “Yolanda” on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated series Glow, Olivia Perez who is in the upcoming feature film In the Heights directed by Jon M Chu and produced by Lin Manuel Miranda, Aiden Medina who can be seen in God Friended Me, The Colbert Show, SNL, and The Jonas Brothers Happiness Tour, and Jackson Frazer who is best known for his role in Netflix’s comedy-drama series, I Am Not Okay With This.
Speaking on working with the cast, Ossa said “I was amazed every day on set how talented and mature they were for their ages! It was amazing working with them and I know for Aiden it was tough at times for the emotional scenes but we pushed through it and made it happen. I hope they’re just as happy as I am with how it turned out. They have a long career ahead of them that’s for sure. I mean Olivia was in Jon M Chu’s “In the Heights”, that’s insane!” She also spoke highly of Shakira Barrera, “I could talk about Shakira forever! She was a dream to say the least. We actually changed the entire production schedule to fit hers so that she could be in it, and I would do that again in heartbeat. I loved the detailed questions she would ask me about Elisa, the mom. She really fought for the character and we built a backstory and developed her together. She really an actor of such high-caliber and I hope to work with her again in future!”
Remember When brings to light the perspective that people of color have while growing up in a predominantly white community and the challenges we all face as we grow up. The short reminds audiences that although siblings can annoy us at times, we still deeply care for them. Ossa perfectly captures the intimate bond between Daniel and Vanessa through the screen and brings a high level of detail to every frame. Viewers can expect to be instilled with a sense of nostalgia, promise, and a reminder of the importance of family.
Ossa isn’t done working, though. “I’m starting to write my first feature which is exciting yet incredibly hard. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself in the writing process for everything to be perfect in the first draft but I need to just write, and then rewrite (x20). I’m very interested in exploring other kinds of relationships in my future projects, which always tend to be based on personal experiences.