Perhaps it’s because filmmaking is such a male dominated industry, but it feels like there are an inordinate number of “dude friendship” films as opposed to female-driven ones. In that sense, Jason Jeffrey’s Bonfire feels like some crisp, fresh air—an all women led “hangout” film about a couple of girls bonding out in a cabin in the woods. Granted, despite what that description might have implied, tonally, the film doesn’t feel like a “buddy flick”: it’s not some silly, laugh-out loud hijinks fest. Rather, it’s a hypnotic character drama focusing on three young women searching for a connection at a very impressionable time in their lives.
On the surface, Bonfire is film about independence: the three main characters are cutting loose and rebelling away from parental eyes. But, really, that freedom is an illusion. Their (mostly) innocent shenanigans are confined to their winter haven—their rebellion nothing more than a facade used to mask a safe, upper class existence. The quick bonds formed between the three main characters (played by Erin Carter, Grace Glowicki, and Mandi Nicholson), however, are very much real, if ephemeral. Carter, who also wrote the film, really captures this idea that, when young, even the briefest of relationships can have a lasting impact.
As Carter related when corresponding with Short of the Week, “We always saw Bonfire as an homage to how much young women seek being a part of something, and how much they seek to please each other. Bonfire is very much a satire of what it is to be independent. Or at least what independence might look like through Jen and Emily’s jaded point of view, and Faye’s rose colored glasses. When coming up with the characters we loved the idea of showing girls who wanted so badly to separate themselves from the herd, but in the search for independence, they ended up losing a lot of themselves.”
Working from Carter’s script, director Jeffrey captures an intoxicating mood. The score (from composer Ben Fox) is lovely: an alluring combination of the ethereal and the electronic. Likewise, the film’s cinematography, crafted by the director’s brother, Kelly Jeffrey, is equally adroit: muted colors, overcast skies, and falling snow.
Bonfire was shot three years ago in Northern Ontario Canada with a small crew of six (plus cast). As director Jason Jeffrey relates, “Spending three days together, in dead the of winter, cooped up in a cottage 24/7 forces you to form quick bonds. It also set the stage for future collaborations.”
As such, the cast and crew has gone on to collaborate on a plethora of other projects. One of the film’s stars, Grace Glowicki teamed up with assistant director Ben Petrie and DP Kelly Jeffrey to make the Sundance award winning (and Short of the Week featured) short, Her Friend Adam. Glowicki also worked with writer/actor Erin Carter on the film Suck it Up, which premiered at Slamdance earlier this year. Finally, Jason Jeffrey made the short, A Teachable Moment (with Glowicki and composer Ben Fox) which premiered at Tribeca last year. Needless to say, it’s safe to say we can expect a lot more great work from this talented cast and crew soon.