Golden Boat is an experimental short narrative film directed by Kristin Li & Clayton Beugeling in which a group of diverse travelers are stuck in an isolated shack surrounded by a harsh desert, waiting to continue their nondescript travels. Some characters, such as the protagonist, view this purgatorial state as suffocating and unbearable, while others are content with the quiet.
The film creators do a fantastic job of creating a liminal space with the set and disjunctive sound design. We as the audience are easily able to buy into the somewhat fantastical scenario because of the attention to detail present in the sets and the effective world building ingrained in the aesthetics. The warehouse is filled with items wrought with use, stained, aged. There is a sense of stagnation as nothing present in the frame looks as if it was made after the 1980’s. Combine that with the muted color pallet and the ever-present layer of sand plaguing every surface, and what we are left with is a heavy and oppressive atmosphere. Kristin Li & Clayton Beugeling have created a setting that feels like a character in and of itself.
One of the strongest aspects of this film is the outstanding cinematography. The frustration of the main character is felt by the audience with the lethargic pacing and static camera. Shots are expertly composed with depth and texture that lets the eye wander throughout the long shots. The film stock used produces a soft image that compliments the deep colors present in the frame.
In the end, the film asks more questions than it answers, providing a surreal and thought-provoking experience. It’s non-traditional narrative structure acts as an amazing mechanic for exploring the themes of faith, uncertainty, and liminality. In my opinion, it is a must see for audiences at the Ithaca Pan Asian American Film.
Golden Boat will be shown at around 5:30 at Cinemapolis on Friday October 12th.