An LGBT short film about silencing insecurities, embracing oneself and the importance of human connection.
MUM was an official selection of NFFTY 2014 and won the Audience Award for the Opening Night screening.
Film of the Week is presented by Volvo Cars of North America.
About the director:
Inspired by that galaxy far far away and One (particularly) Fine Day, Alex Bohs has found a home in the filmmaking community creating intimate worlds that speak strongly through visuals, soundscapes and the underrepresented. While now based in Los Angeles, his midwestern, Chicagoan roots continue to permeate his work as a full time freelance director / editor.
NFFTY spoke with Alex about his work on the film.
Q: What inspired you to portray the story of MUM?
Simply put, facing my own internal nonsense in order to let someone else in was – and still very much is – the backbone of MUM in my opinion. Obviously I realize it’s a pretty open-to-interpreation little film (my personal favorite style of storytelling), but that vulnerable theme in particular is something I really hope resonates since it’s the most personal aspect of the film for me. With all that said though, I’ve particularly loved how varying the responses and connections have been. For example, some have really found themselves in the unadulterated courting of William and Thomas while others have mentioned how it’s a film for the folks in-between chapters. There has even been a strong connection within the deaf gay community and I can’t begin to tell you how meaningful that response in particular has been – hearing that special, unique voice express their thanks and approval. What a beautiful thing life after release has been with this film. I may sound schmaltzy but I couldn’t be happier with the home(s) MUM has made around the world. Very thankful.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in putting this film together?
Production-wise: Finding our route. I realize now just how nightmarish this film looked on paper – a short story told entirely from a deaf gay man’s perspective – partly in the present, partly in the past – all without classic exposition oh and don’t forget, almost every minute we introduce a brand new environment. I mean come one now, it really is no wonder why I got denied admission into the Directing III program with this script. “Best of luck” they said – “Yeah good luck with that whack-ass idea” they really meant. All I can say now though is thank heavens they were weary because from that moment forward – knowing we would create this independently – a whole new rush of ideas arose, allowing us a terrifying (yet refreshing) amount of freedom.
Lastly (and this is specifically for any younger filmmakers reading this): it should be noted that while we went about this very much on our own, we were endlessly and specifically supported by two Columbia instructors, John Mossman and Adam Jones. I mention them because early on – when others doubted, both were there to ask the necessary questions to get us moving forward. Both saw what was lacking in the early drafts while also pinpointing and reminding us what was unique and strong about the project. It sounds so obvious and silly but it’s hard to fully explain how invaluable the John Mossman’s and Adam Jones’ of the world are. Always be on the lookout for those individuals for I truly think they are in every situation if you take a minute to observe. Your work will only benefit. Scout’s honor.
Q: You’ve built up a very respectable portfolio of LGBTQ driven themed stories. Is this a genre you plan to continue in or do you see yourself exploring other niches as well?
I must be honest with you: sadly and unfortunately, in the beginning, I was very much the “I don’t want to get pegged as an LGBTQ filmmaker” person. I don’t know why exactly but I initially thought it would make me less of a filmmaker. To me, a label meant a crutch and that concept foolishly scared me. I’ve had this conversation with several “female filmmakers” who also cringe at their equally-omnipresent, unnecessary segregation but over the years my perspective has greatly shifted from wanting to be one with the mass filmmaking world and instead accepting the luxury I have been given as a storyteller with a semi-unique perspective that can also help to further flesh out a community often falsely portrayed.
Yes it’s still annoying that LGBTQ is considered a niche but what’s more frustrating is the high amount of misrepresentation in mainstream art. Why would I give up the chance to move forward not only LGBTQ cinema but cinema as a whole? As someone who’s been highly active in the film community over the last five years, I have seen such an incredible amount of progression in not only queer cinema but cinema in general. It’s with great pleasure to express how truly excited I am right this very moment as both a storyteller and a member of the LGBTQ community. The future is far from bleak and the mere fact that we live in such a film-accessible, ever-expanding world gives me goosebumps instead of hives. Just think of where we will be in twenty years. It’s incredibly exciting and to finally answer your question, you bet I’ll continue to explore this “niche” and any other that comes my way in hopes that someday they won’t be seen as niches but merely as one of the many human experiences.
Q: How has your participation in NFFTY helped you grow as a filmmaker?
At this point I don’t even care how much of a skipped record I sound like when saying this but NFFTY has been the single-most supportive and proactive home for me as a filmmaker. Hands down. Minus merely being a venue for many of my films over the years, NFFTY was (and will forever be for me) the first place that really took me seriously as a filmmaker. It sounds corny but there are few things more frustrating than putting yourself out there, trying to even tell a story you find will benefit at least a couple other individuals at a young age, and being responded to with an automatic placement under the “student” category of a festival. It sounds arbitrary but it starts to feel degrading festival after festival, basically being placed under the “work in progress” section when you are trying to find your voice and want so badly to be a part of the cool kids club. I obviously understand it from a festival organizing perspective and truth be told, youngsters are lucky to have the opportunity to get into larger festivals thanks to a student category but I still remember the longing sting of wanting to truly be a part of a festival – regardless of one’s level of experience. It’s hard to explain so I won’t continue trying. Instead, and I’m certain my gushing echoes many others’ in saying, at NFFTY, you feel like you are being seen as an equal – not just a minority of some sort. Like the many individuals mentioned above, NFFTY will forever hold a dear place in allowing me to grow and others watch me grow. It’s been a rare gift I hope Jesse Harris and everyone else who has made NFFTY what it is today, fully realize.