Editor’s Note: The 2016 New Orleans Film Festival is ready to take over screens around the city on October 12-20. On Friday, October 14, the film Jonah Stands Up will screen at The Orpheum Theater, and this was a documentary that NolaVie’s Brian Friedman has known since its impetus. In 2014, he talked with Jonah Stands Up filmmaker, Hannah Engelson, about the concept and artistic ideas that she was interested in for the documentary. Now you can look back on what began this project, and on October 14, you can see how it all came to fruition.
Certain careers call out to be explored through documentary films. The life of the stand-up comedian, for example, is ripe with material. The same can be said for the social activist, the writer, the visual artist, or the political candidate.
So when filmmaker Hannah Engelson met someone who’d done all of the above, it made sense that a film would someday follow.
In September, Engelson will begin principal production on Jonah Stands Up, a short documentary that focuses on 28-year-old Jonah Bascle.
“Jonah is a developing artist, comedian and activist who is both inspired and constrained by his muscular dystrophy and related heart complication,” says Engelson. “The film project aims to look beyond his disability to reveal his multidimensional character.”
Engelson plans to film Bascle and his family for a few months to provide insight into his life and creative ambitions. But in addition to the observational footage, the film will include Bascle’s stand-up comedy shows and archival footage of his past activism for greater accessibility for the disabled, including his 2010 run for Mayor of New Orleans.
Also central to the film is a highly stylized animation made by Bascle and Engelson that depicts how Bascle remembers first learning of his heart complication. The animation uses Bascle’s visual language of pop-up and collage cards to communicate difficult and important ideas. “It can be hard talking about disease, especially to the people closest to you. It is through his art and humor that Jonah speaks ” Engelson says.
A Michigan native, Engelson met Bascle in 2010 shortly after moving to New Orleans. “I just started filming just a couple things for him and then I got to know him better and his family better,” said Engelson. “And then over the years kind of decided it’d be a good idea to make the documentary.”
More information can be found at www.jonahstandsup.com.
The box office is now open for the 2016 New Orleans Film Festival, and you can purchase your tickets here: http://www.neworleansfilmfestival.org/pages/detail/43/tickets-passes