“Have you ever felt like you were trapped inside a dream? Everyone looks the same. The places are all the same. But certain things don’t fit. Little things are out of place.”
That begins the protagonist’s monologue about her existential crisis in Jonathan Kennedy’s short We’re Undone (2014). Reminiscent of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, the film opens on the nude protagonist wandering through a desolate wintry landscape until found and returned to a life she disappeared from five years earlier.
The film below contains brief nudity, do not click play if that’s an issue for your age or inclination.
Kennedy describes his aesthetic as a “sort of a flailing attempt at being a post-punk Andrei Tarkovsky,” and his films certainly share affinities with Tarkovsky’s poetic crafting of images and exploration of themes that revolve around memory, dreams, and identity.
“Does being self-aware enough to know how pretentious that sounds insulate me from actually being pretentious?” Kennedy continues.
A Memorial University graduate who studied political science and sociology, Kennedy traces his filmmaking roots back to insomnia and Showcase.
“I saw films like Kids and Gummo when I was thirteen and couldn’t wrap my head around what I was watching – those are heavy films to experience that young – but I was never really able to shake them. That was my first indication that movies could be more than just entertainment. A few years later, I discovered David Lynch and there was no turning back.”
Buoyed by his fascination with Harmony Korine and David Lynch – along with additional influences from writers André Breton and Gabriel García Márquez – Kennedy began his filmmaking journey.
“I got my first digital camera in 2010 and mainly filmed local punk shows,” Kennedy says. “I took the NIFCO Film Class and used YouTube tutorials and Criterion Collection supplements to teach myself the technical and artistic aspects of filmmaking.”
This DIY attitude drove Kennedy to shoot We’re Undone, which was followed by Haunted (2015), a captivating experimental short that combines found footage, collage, and poetic narration to explore how the ghosts of our pasts intersect with the present.
“I’ve always had dreams about ghosts, and for years after I moved to St. John’s from Bishop’s Falls, I had these intense recurring apocalyptic dreams about Bishop’s Falls, so I was trying to write about how those dreams relate to memory and the disconnection I always felt from growing up in a small town like that.”
Haunted hooked Kennedy the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts & Letters Award for Digital Multimedia in 2016, the same year he spent two weeks in Cuba under the tutelage of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami and shot I Have Always Lived Here, an experience he calls “the most formative experience for me as a filmmaker so far.”
Now working on a feature script, Kennedy is also in post-production for his new short Morning Comes, which sees Chelsea Patey from We’re Undone return to a lead role alongside Sarah Blackmore.
“Morning Comes shares a similar theme to Haunted, this idea of the past reasserting itself into the present, albeit through a more traditional narrative,” Kennedy says. “It’s about Chelsea, a gender non-binary who starts experimenting with EVP recording during a bout of insomnia that’s triggered by a memory involving their partner Sarah, who insists it never happened.”
While you wait for Morning Comes, head over to Kennedy’s website www.jonkennedy.net and let yourself be trapped inside his dream world.