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Ovid, New York

World Premiere

Director: Vito A. Rowlands

United States, Belgium, 2024, 78 min

Shooting Format:16mm, Super 8, 35mm (2-perf)

Festival Year:2024

Category:Narrative Feature

Genres:Surrealist, Tragicomedy

Cast:Emil Daubon, Tina Makharadze, Robert M. Johanson, b, Lindsay Rico, Junshin Soga, April Matthis, Max Weinbach, Nicky Weinbach.

Crew:Writer and editor: Vito A. Rowlands. Producers: Vito A. Rowlands, Thomas Heban, Hash Sesay. Cinematography: Thomas Heban. Music: Jordan Dykstra. Sound Design: Joe Tisdall.


Seven tales of transformation poetically reimagine Ovid's Metamorphoses and paint a picture of violence and catharsis, anchored in mythical landscapes.

The film's stories range in tone from crimson surreal to the darkest of comedy, playfully shifting moods, genres, and seasons without losing sight of its overarching mythology. It follows a lone bounty hunter prowling across snow covered mountains, a famous actress out for revenge, statuary lovers peeping leaves, a distraught demigod waxing poetic, an entomologist meeting her match in a mantis, a vacuum salesman haunted by his motel room, and twin ferrymen guarding the underworld by demanding exact change.


About the director

Vito A. Rowlands (né Adriaensens, Antwerp, 1986) is a Belgian filmmaker and scholar. His feature script Elvis, We Like Your Music was a finalist at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival Development Track and his award-winning shorts have played around the world at venues such as the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Vienna Shorts, Aesthetica, the Cadence Video Poetry Festival, Raindance, the Brooklyn Film Festival, HollyShorts, Dresdner Schmalfilmtage, Mostra Internazionale del Cinema di Genova, and Nitehawk Shorts.

Vito has taught in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Copenhagen, as well as at Columbia University. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Experimental Film and Media at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and a 16mm film instructor at Mono No Aware in Brooklyn. He is a co- author of Screening Statues: Sculpture and Cinema and the author of Velvet Curtains and Gilded Frames: The Art of Early European Cinema.

His first feature is the Metamorphoses-inspired 35mm anthology film Ovid, New York. He is currently in pre-production on his second feature: a silent, nineteenth-century set spiritualist thriller.

Website Filmography

Filmmaker's note

Film, for me, is still one of the greatest magic tricks. As a kid, reading and watching films would immerse me in worlds that had their own set of rules and boundaries, and moved at their own pace. Myths and mythical creatures loomed large, and their magic oddly brought the real world into focus. It was the type of experience that was only replicated by traveling and being in nature - and in my case also by raising pet stick insects. It's probably not so hard to track a course from there to my first feature film, Ovid, New York.

We all know that cinematic worlds are more than just a form of escapism. Fantastical allegories frame the violence and bleakness of tumultuous times in ways that are both subversive and immersive. Dark but still playful. Poetic yet cutting. In Ovid, New York, I wanted to create a universe that similarly exists outside of time. Hopefully you will find it to be a place in which the lines between our world and the liminal are exceedingly blurry and often crossed. The film's seven chapters are myths for modern times, allegories that tap into a violent, beautiful, and mysterious yet universal world.

Coming from one of the flattest countries in the world myself, the ever-changing mountainous landscapes of New York State continue to provide this surreal feeling for me. Its many Dutch names, moreover, make it feel eerily uncanny. I embraced landscapes and the changing of the seasons in the same way that Ovid did. Much of his lyricism in Metamorphoses consists of allegories for a changing earth. We shot across the four seasons for a year to find that poetry. It took us out to the Western Catskills, the Hudson Valley, and the Finger Lakes, where there is a magical little town called Ovid, New York. This is also where our film comes to an end.

Animals and statues similarly populate the Metamorphoses and Ovid, New York, they are charmed vessels through which gods communicate and manifest themselves, never showing us their true form. You will run into enchanted deer, beetles, cicadas, mantids, caterpillars, butterflies, and even a petrified centaur.

Like most of my other work, Ovid, New York is also a film that draws attention to its own materiality. In this case, the living, breathing textures of our long-expired AGFA XT100 35mm color negative stock. We leaned into the stock's characteristics and flaws, skewing heavily as it did towards reds and blues, for instance, and embraced and foregrounded artifacts such as remjet stains and flash frames. We bleach-bypassed one chapter to add more contrast and texture. The film really aims to mirror its characters. It is complex, flawed, mysterious, textured, and, most of all, alive. I think it adds a crucial layer of magical realism to the film.

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