Short Film Lost Face Looks at Tensions Between Natives and Whites

Still of Lost Face (2016)

Written by Madison Drew Daniels
Originally posted on IndieEntertainmentMagazine.com
October 6, 2017

Director and Cinematographer Sean Meehan steps up to the plate in a big way with his debut film Lost Face. To date the film has appeared in over 90 film festivals worldwide and won at 34, with nominations at another 20. With Oscar season just around the corner, Lost Face could bring home even more awards.

Originally a short story written by Jack London, Lost Face also stands as one of the finest literary adaptations I’ve ever seen. Having read the text myself, I was amazed at how well Meehan’s cinematography and direction captures London’s timeless prose. For any director hoping to adapt literature to the big screen– take notes.

Set in the 1800’s American frontier, Lost Face opens with a shot of blood stained snow and a lifeless body of a fur trader. Bodies riddled with arrows hang from broken windows. Smoldering wreckage of homes and then more bodies strewn across the snow.

All with the grunts and cries of a tortured man heard in the background. In the first ten seconds Meehan has subtly informed the audience of all that has taken place. And then the camera falls on our main character– the fur trader Subienkow. With a face sickened and angered by all that has befallen him and his men, Subienkow calls over the Chief Makamuk and begins to bargain for his life.

Ultimately the film revolves around Subeinkow, Makamuk, a freed native slave Yakaga and the flow of power between them.

In an oversaturated superhero market, Lost Face is a breath of fresh air.

As Meehan proves, the fate of the world doesn’t have to be at stake for us to hang on every line of dialogue. The tension and momentum remain strong because, for each character, the stakes as high as life and honor.

The flow of power, subtle cinematic details, and a fifteen minute runtime make Lost Face rewatchable. In fact, the first time I watched the film, I was as caught up in the magic as each character was. It wasn’t until the second and third time that I was able to notice the subtle attention Meehan pays to details in London’s original text.

Lost Face is also a great addition to the conversation around native peoples and white conquerors. Native issues like Standing Rock and Bears Ears have not been adequately resolved and prolong a centuries old narrative. In this way, Lost Face feels timely.

Rather than fading away, Lost Face stuck with me throughout the day. Its ending is satisfying but in an odd way. I wanted to show it to friends and family and ask them what they thought about the ending. This is the type of feeling a good director wants to leave a viewer with and Meehan succeeded.

Sean Meehan knocks it out of the park with his first solo outing. With masterful directing, stellar cinematography, sharp editing, and a wise use of music, Lost Face is sure to continue as an award winner.

Still of Lost Face (2016)

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