"Anyone in here ever have any experience with hypnosis?" comedy hypnotist, Rich Alexander, asked the audience before he "zapped" filmmaker Amy Seimetz at Borscht's screening of her directorial debut, Sun Don't Shine, at O Cinema.
With Borscht's ever-unconventional methods of promoting experimental indie film work, it's no surprise that a screening during the eighth Borscht Film Festival might include a filmmaker, a hypnotist, and a shit ton of crazy. Seimetz screened her film with an interactive element where she chose to view her work under an entranced state in order to feel like she was seeing it for the first time, just like the audience.
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"There's three levels of trance: there's light, medium, and deep state. It doesn't matter which state you're in as long as you're doing what the hypnotist suggests because all hypnosis is just the power of suggestion...[If] you choose to accept it, that's hypnosis," said Alexander, who has practiced hypnosis for more than 25 years.
Sun Don't Shine, Seimetz's first directed feature, is a film likely to gain a cult following, at least in Florida. It was filmed on location here; Seimetz's characters, lovers on the run, take viewers through emotionally charged scenes in Weeki Wachee Springs, Tampa, the Everglades, and much of central Florida.
Crystal, exceptionally played by Kate Lyn Sheil, is a self-destructive black hole of a person. Her boyfriend Leo, played by Kentucker Audley, is a man sucked into her vortex of hyper-tense situations, danger, and misdeeds. The dark subject matter of the film is offset by a score comprised of carousel music and mermaids. Sheil portrays Crystal's childlike character and inability to cope with her actions flawlessly; the viewer is torn between finding Crystal despicably weak and pitying her. Audley makes for a convincing anti-hero and from the beginning, it's apparent his fate is unfavorable.
As the credits rolled and the lights turned back on for the Q&A portion of the evening, Seimetz seemed to have an aversely emotional response to the film. Alexander assures that all hypnosis is dependent on the subject's desire to be hypnotized and undergo the situation, so any reaction he/she chooses to have is voluntary.
"I'm using this device to like, avoid actually doing a Q&A in a way...it's more like, I guess a stunt, but it's not really stunty. I just sat up here and cried...I was crying the entire time and I didn't like it at all...I just wanted them to leave each other so bad," she said.
Like the mermaids in the film, Crystal embodies the perilous siren whose charms claim an enamored sailor. It is a reminder to reevaluate one's relationships, or as Seimetz puts it after finishing the screening under her hypnotized state, "I started thinking about all my relationships and thinking, 'Oh, you should have jumped ship...'"