Here’s a question – When can you tell a filmmaker might also be an esteemed author? When can you tell one’s prowess in the written word can also guide them visually? In all fairness, these questions are quite unfair to say the very least. For instance, is a director who pens his or her own script not well within esteemed author territory themselves? However, let us assume we’re speaking solely for the champions of bookstore shelves. Alas, I believe there’s somewhat of a conclusion to be found in one’s way with verbal expression. Be it the likes of an author passionately adapting his own material for the screen or a linguistics scholar trying their luck at the cinema game, there’s more than one way to pick up the queues. But what if we were to dig just a little deeper on the topic? By deeper, I’m referring to the ‘large as life itself’ genre of non-fiction and how well one can adapt one’s own self to film. Ransom Riggs is not only a name in the young adult novel realm, but he is also(in my strong opinion)one of the most thought-provoking short subject documentarians to walk the Earth along with us. In honor of Riggs’ debut novel getting the big-time Burton treatment this coming month, I knew it was time to cover & showcase one of Riggs’ many quality works.
A successful artist coming from humble beginnings, as many of the same can commonly attest to, Riggs has painted an incredible self-portrait of his youth. Land of Sleep is a simple, yet ingeniously layered mini-autobiography, detailing one of or more chapters in one’s personal history. With every beautiful shot carefully framed and with the importance of everything seen within them taken into cherished account, the end result is nothing short of breathtaking. The aforementioned supplements are only enhanced further by one of the most tranquil, yet powerful narrations put to a digital image. This is the craft of a true writer. One who knows how to grab one by the mind and slowly melt it over the heart. It’s easy to admit this being the case here, considering the subject matter at play. You see, we don’t know him personally, nor his thorough life history. We don’t know or have any personal attachment to the people or places shown to us. We’ve most likely never been to Englewood, FL(the town described in the film)itself whatsoever. But for all accounts, after viewing something of this profound lovingness, we all realize we actually have all along.
Through this film’s expertly disguised simplicity lies a production effortlessly relatable. This is no more the story of one man’s return home than it is a request for many others to experience the same. It’s like a systematic network of brainwaves and heartbeats connecting us all together via the strength of individual nostalgia. Personally, I’m not from “the land of prehistoric animals”, yet I completely understand how one’s memory bound image of such a unique regional trait could greatly resonate over years, even decades. The way we glimpse into one person’s childhood – the kind of topic that’s at first considered too small or indulgent to hit with an audience – is as effective here as the current year’s Palme D’or nominated arthouse film at Cannes. The true writer knows how to take the small and subtle and distribute it as the unfathomable. Through every word I hear and every choice made in editing(Whether it be the motion of a porch swing aligning with the ticking of a clock or the POV sight of crashing waves transitioning seamlessly into your mother’s water hose), we’ve been shown just how immersive each and every one our lives are and always have been. It’s through true interest in one’s self that we can learn passion for our species as a whole. Not only had I learned when first seeing this short, but I then also understood just how impressive one’s interpretation could truly be. Now, without further ado, please enjoy Land of Sleep before my conclusion directly afterword.
Author and USC Filmmaker Ransom Riggs is an artist who’ll be spotlighted on The Microcinema Savant again in the future. Until then, I trust this first visual glimpse into the inner workings of Miss Peregrine’s creator will suffice for now. Documentary is a difficult genre to master. When faced with the topic of one’s own upbringing, as opposed to any deliberately large subject matter, the stakes are only raised from there. But if the craftsman behind the camera is as well read on the topic as he’d like the viewer to be, I’d bet my money on a show that’d send even Ken Burns himself right back to school(Well I mean, unless the topic were Baseball or the Civil War that is…)