Back at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, director Erin Vassilopoulos debuted the short film “Superior” starring twin sisters Alessandra Mesa and Ani Mesa. The project, a nominee for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize, focused on two sisters living in upstate New York who experience an awakening of self when a stranger comes to stay with them and their father for a brief spell.
The film also sparked a creative relationship among its director and stars. Six years later, the trio is back at Sundance with a continuation, of sorts, of the original short. Also called “Superior,” the new film takes place over one transformative Halloween weekend in the late 1980s and catches up with twin sisters Vivian (Ani Mesa) and Marion (Alessandra Mesa) after years of estrangement.
“A lot of the themes from the short still live on in the feature and are kind of the continuation of that exploration,” Alessandra, who co-wrote the new film with Vassilopoulos, says in an interview with Gold Derby. “Themes of identity, independence, dependence, safety, danger. It really felt like we just continued searching and finding new answers for those things. That was really special because I feel like we reached somewhere new with the feature.”
Shot in the fall of 2019, “Superior” is a thriller sure to delight fans of 1990s indie cinema. Vassilopoulos used 16mm film to shoot her feature debut and the stock evokes the early films of Hal Hartley and Richard Linklater without falling prey to the banalities of nostalgia.
“Growing up in suburban Minnesota, I looked to movies as a sort of escape hatch, often into darker, stranger worlds,” she said in a statement. “I’ve always been a fan of genre movies — thrillers and horror being two of my favorites, so I was excited to create a thriller-drama hybrid; a story simultaneously about the fear and tension clinging to a woman on the run, struggling to escape her troubled past, and the drama of identical twin sisters reuniting.”
That excitement extended to Alessandra and Ani as well. “Humans are complex and we have a lot of different layers and it’s interesting to explore that in yourself,” Ani explains. “We were exploring that right alongside the characters. It was very fun to do as an actor to be able to be on one extreme and fall into the other, feeling the power in that.”
“Superior,” which also stars Jake Hoffman and Pico Alexander, is screening at the Sundance Film Festival this year and awaits distribution.
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