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DISTANT TALES, A Haunting Reminder Of Life During Lockdown

4 min read
Movie Poster for Film DISTANT TALES

A COVID-19 Fever Dream Indie Thriller by Shem Bitterman

Los Angeles-based writer and director Shem Bitterman‘s indie-thriller Distant Tales exquisitely explores how the COVID-19 lockdown exposed and amplified structural fissures in our society.

Carl Jung wrote that “To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.” When the California statewide stay-at-home order was issued on March 19, 2020, Angelenos (and Americans) learned how hard it was to be with the ones we lived with and loved; but especially how impossible it was to be alone with ourselves. We synchronously found out just how much we depend on each other, couldn’t stand each other, yet desperately still wanted to be with each other. How cruel it was when we couldn’t be.

Distant Tales is a compelling emotional experience that creates a haunting and precious historic record. Establishing shots of Black Lives Matter and Please Wear a Mask signs hung in empty windows with shades drawn spark memories of how our preceding faults all seemed to burst at once.

“I can’t breathe.”

Disrupted sleep rhythms, video feedback glitches, soundscapes of helicopters, delusions of time, nighttime explosions (were they real or hallucinations?) and the ironic echo of our society’s pre-existing virus in “I can’t breathe” as COVID-19 stole the breath from millions.

“A gripping portrait of isolation in the 21st century” – Steven Leigh Morris

Ben Friedman of Highbrow Magazine called Distant Tales “A Fascinating Depiction of Pandemic Era Psychological Turmoil” and Steven Leigh Morris of Stage Raw, commends its “Richly textured performances and haunting soundscape” calling it “A gripping portrait of isolation in the 21st century.” 

Bitterman’s masterful direction allows loneliness and longing to percolate and dwell in the audience’s imagination. As we see empty streets with deer and wildlife roaming hillsides, parks with locked gates and shuttered public spaces, we are drawn back into the long months when time blurred and the only way for us to connect was online or during the 8 o’clock howling.

The story alludes to the shadow pandemic of violence against women through a time of unprecedented mental health collapse. It remains unnerving to recall the risks and lengths people went to support themselves and their families in order to survive. And how grief, empathy and longing for love can lead to terrible decisions.

A Powerful Ensemble

Liz Whittamore of Reel News Daily applauds Distant Tales as “a thrilling ride within a COVID-driven world” where “real-time, intensely intimate vulnerability… pours off the screen through its “phenomenal performances. Jeffrey Bracey of Comic Crusaders called the acting top notch saying; “I love being exposed to the small films that punch so hard above their weight class!” 

Distant Tales exceptional cast includes: Carolyn Michelle Smith, Amen Igbinosun, Liz Fenning, Chantal Nchako, Christopher Curry, Megan Gallagher, Alaska Jackson, Rupak Ginn, Tiffany Wolff, Samuel Martin Lewis, and Ben Bowen.

Written & Directed by Shem Bitterman, Story Consultant Amen Igbinosun and Carolyn Michelle Smith, Produced by Tony Minas, Christina Rencis, Mk Viakley, Cinematography by Ezra Bitterman, Music by Roger Bellon, Editing by Stephen Mark, Costume Design & Makeup by Pher Patterson, Assistant Director Chantal Nchako.

We Carry On

I admit I was hesitant to watch this film. The pandemic took some of my most beloved people either directly from or because of. I bid FaceTime farewells to keystones so I was afraid of a gut punch from: it’s too soon. But it isn’t, it’s time.

Revisiting the collective event we all endured separately through this beautifully crafted film was surprisingly necessary. Denying or suppressing the reality of so much fear, anger and loss is dangerous because unresolved grief inevitably metastasizes.

March 19, 2024 marks four years since everything changed. The isolation, at least the mandated part, is history. Our shadows may have been exposed, but so was our light. I’m so glad we didn’t succumb to burning it all down… not yet.

We carry on, remember, light a candle… we tell the story and if we’re wise, we listen. If we’re lucky, may we do it as well as Shem Bitterman does.

How to watch Distant Tales:

Distant Tales is available for sale on BluRay and streaming on platforms listed below.

Prime Video: https://www.primevideo.com/detail/Distant-Tales/0S8K6EVAB7I8ETP71IJDDVE0U6

Roku: https://www.roku.com/whats-on/movies/distant-tales?id=cd8c938d37e35ba09290e8c5dcdfcdbb

Apple TV: https://tv.apple.com/us/movie/distant-tales/umc.cmc.cb5iixek28pgmbo3dk5rth4y

Vudu: https://www.vudu.com/content/browse/details/Distant-Tales/2746254

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