Billed as the story of a “documentary filmmaker [who] investigates the troubling, unexpected suicide of a teenager”, Minhal Baig’s After Sophie is so much more than its synopsis promises. A complex, multi-layered short worthy of multiple viewings, Baig’s 9-minute film cleverly blends genres to create an original and haunting short with a reverberating impact.
Who was Sophie? Why did she decide to take her own life? Was it really a suicide? Why am I feeling such a discomfort after learning about her fate? And what is this longing I’m feeling, a nostalgia for something that never existed in the first place? Why am I asking so many questions? Because After Sophie reaches its fullest potential best if viewers keep asking themselves questions during and after seeing the film, creating a mental canvas within the confines of the screen to reminisce on the labyrinth of one’s own memories.
In her film, Baig uses a combination of genres and influences, from docu-fiction to horror-mystery, to create an exceptional atmosphere that made me wonder if it was in fact a real documentary. Only the precise visual composition and the almost perfidious construction of the story convinced me that it had to be fictional, the mysterious uncertainty of the film still lingering in the back of my mind. This ambivalence alone is one of the main reasons why writer/director Baig succeeds in creating a unique blend of experimental and narrative (documentary) filmmaking with After Sophie.
In an interview with our own Rob Munday for Directors Notes, Baig talks about the fine line between reality and fiction. “We have talking heads and the b-roll that gives a sense of the eerie atmosphere in which this story lives. […] Believability was important, to an extent. I wanted naturalistic performances from all my actors. But it was also very important that the film be visually striking too. I’m not interested in the found-footage genre, so our b-roll is very beautiful, and the color and sound-design are obviously at a higher quality than perhaps an independent documentary filmmaker might be able to afford on their own.”
As a S/W alum it is particularly exciting to watch Baig thrive as a filmmaker, and when we featured her short Hala, we knew that hers was an exceptional voice to follow. In the meantime, Hollywood and the rest of the world have caught up.
After releasing her first theatrical motion picture 1 Night, starring Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) and Justin Chatwin (Shameless), she is entering production on a feature film version of Hala. The screenplay for her short-to-feature adaptation landed a coveted spot on The Blacklist, an annual survey among industry figures that features the best not yet produced scripts of each given year.
Furthermore, she is expanding After Sophie into a bigger project as well and was named one of ten experimental filmmakers tackling the world’s big topics on the website of Dazed Magazine.
Baig is also an avid social media communicator, and in one of her tweets she wrote, “Some people have asked why I’m making yet another short film. Because I have stories to tell & I don’t need permission to tell them.”