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Stranger than Fiction

Stranger than Fiction

RISD faculty member Alexandra Anthony’s most recent film Lost in the Bewilderness earns an Odysseus Award for Best Creative Documentary.

“It’s so hard to get an independent film out into the world,” says filmmaker Alexandra Anthony, a senior critic in Film/Animation/Video. “No matter how many years you spend making the film, there’s always more to do in terms of marketing and working with festivals after it’s finished.”

Anthony first began working on Lost in the Bewilderness—the second in a trilogy of documentaries featuring young protagonists caught between two cultures—40 years before it premiered in 2014. Now the film has won an Odysseus Award for Best Creative Documentary at the 2015 London Greek Film Festival—a fitting honor given that the narrative plays on the Greek myth of Odysseus.

Lost tells the true story of Anthony’s cousin Lucas, who was kidnapped from Athens, Greece as a five-year-old by his mother and then returned to the family 11 years later as a troubled teenager. The narrative travels through time, beginning with footage she shot of the family in the 1970s and culminating more than 30 years later.

“I was a film student in my early 20s when Lucas was found,” Anthony recalls. “I grabbed my Super-8 equipment and started filming.”

The first film in the trilogy, Yaya (1984), also focuses on Anthony’s “stranger-than-fiction” Greek family, following the lives of her grandmother and other relatives who immigrated to the US and ended up in Shreveport, LA. “Yaya was made before I started tapping into mythology,” the filmmaker says. “It’s a more straightforward documentary.”

Anthony is still working on the third film in the series – tentatively titled Three Pomegranate Seeds—about her aunt Miranda and adult cousin Karena, who hit her head as a baby and has been struggling with the resulting brain damage ever since. Their tragic story parallels the Greek myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone.

“It’s about a mother and daughter persevering through life’s challenges,” Anthony explains, “and it’s framed by their religious pilgrimages to the Greek island of Tinos. I got a lot of ideas for the film while working on Lost and am now especially motivated to get in there and finish the last chapter.”

Working as a filmmaker, Anthony says, really helps her to connect with students in the Live Action studio she teaches at RISD. Although most of them are working on narrative films as opposed to documentaries, she explains that there’s “a fluid line between fiction and nonfiction. My students,” she adds, “generally want to work on films that are rooted in the psychological issues they are grappling with. And we’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying to figure out how to tell that authentic story—how to get at its essence.”

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