The highly acclaimed BlackMilk Productions film Jornada Del Muerto was recently released on-line, but this epic journey started more than a year ago.
BlackMilk directors Ronnie Belcher and Thomas Dorman were asked to premier one of their films at the “ON THE BOIL” film event at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. The only problem was that all their films to date have had public screenings elsewhere… The team had to quickly produce something new and unique to fit the criteria of this prestigious event.
And so Jornada Del Muerto was born…
The BlackMilk team worked day and night to finish the production in time for the screening, but without compromising the beautiful tale that was written on paper. As with all the BlackMilk films, Jornada Del Muerto is riddled with beautiful scenery, symbolism, rich sound design, and dream-like visual elements.
Many believe that this film is rather a piece that should be in an art gallery and that the magic of Jornada Del Muerto transcends the boundaries of any commercial screening realm.
A travelogue through the mind of an unknown solder, Jornada del Muerto invites it’s viewers to stroll through spectral landscapes of hidden beauty. It explores the personal tragedy of dying, with symbolic comparison to the first nuclear explosions which ended WW2. Delving into the relationship between love and death, Jornada del Muerto is full of archetypal characters and subtle humor. Surreal situations with small bursts of animation help drive this unconventional story forward. Jornada del Muerto remains very open to subjective interpretation, while not compromise it’s narrative element.
Jornada Del Muerto is a classic BlackMilk Production film where the whole team brought their strengths to the table to create an amazing piece of audiovisual art.
I started following Ronnie and Thomas’s work since KiTTY KiLL appeared on the silver screen in a suave boutique bar (what was called back then) Kink. I immediately fell in love with their vibe and knew that one day I must work with them. Two year later the opportunity popped up…literally.
In May 2010 one day I was just browsing around on Facebook as usual and then I saw a post pop up in my feed from Ronnie: “We are busy with a new short film and we are looking for a video editor”. Immediately I messaged him and said I want to be part of it even if I have to make coffee!
A few days later I met with Ronnie and Thomas with the premise of me only helping out with the post production. After a burst of creative discussions it was very clear that I will not only edit their ‘new’ short film, but shoot it as well! Two weeks later and I was on set shooting Regression.
In October 2010 it was screened at the South African Horrorfest and took home Best Short Film and this month marks the two year anniversary of Regression.
To this day it is still one of the most awesome projects I’ve worked on and for me personally it has also paved the way to what BlackMilk has become today.
Some things are cursed and should never return to the physical realm to reap its vengeance, but Emma-O (2009), will be released online on Monday 26 March 2012.
Eons before the expertise Este Kira and Leon Visser forged BlackMilk Productions into the force that it is today, Ronnie Belcher & Thomas Dorman embarked on a journey that lead them on paths beyond their wildest fears.
“During the writing and production stages we used to go to Chinese supermarkets and only eat Asian cuisine. We wanted to immerse ourselves in Asian culture. All aspects of it; food, film, literature, music, folklore, etc”.
Right from the start the team had many obstacles to overcome. “It was the most difficult film to cast as no one wanted to play any of the characters. We were told that the content would prevent us from finding Asian actors willing to be part of the production”. But Ronnie and Thomas persevered to cast all the roles at the last minute.
So where does the name and concept come from?
“We wanted to name the film after the murder weapon, which is a statue of Emma-O”.
Emma-O is the Japanese Buddhist ruler and judge of the underworld. He passes judgment on all the dead. Men or women who committed misdeeds will be sentenced to torture or miserable future lives.
The script is based on classic Japanese ghost stories where a cheating husband would kill his wife to marry his mistress. The wife’s ghost then returns to seek vengeance.
In this case, the dead wife’s ghost is “Onryō”, a mythological spirit from Japanese folklore who is able to return to the physical world in order to seek vengeance. Powerless in the physical world, they often suffer at the capricious whims of their male lovers. In death they become strong.
It was an intense project with only three months to complete the final film. Ronnie and Thomas wrote the first draft during July 2009 with Emma-O winning two awards at the S.A. Horrorfest in October 2009. “We believe that it is one of the best scripts that we have written”.