Catch Up: Joseph Zentil

In 2010 OTM we featured filmmaker Joseph Zentil. At the time, reported that he was in transition. He had spent a few years directing and producing some very sleek films for Canadian artists, and was not afraid to do some risky and creative things. However, he also felt that music videos lacked the narrative structure that he was feeling pulled towards. He was asking, “What’s my story? What’s my voice?”

We caught wind a few weeks ago that Joseph was making the rounds with a new short film that he has written, directed and produced called Jose & Eli. We tracked down the film online and reached out to Zentil to hear about the film and what has been going on in his world.

Jose & Eli tells the story of an artist in his early twenties in Toronto trying to be both a father and to follow his artistic pursuits. It’s set in the winter-time and feels perpetually dark and quiet and cold. But at the same time, the relationship between Jose and his son bring palpable warmth to the film.

We caught up with Joseph to learn more about where he was coming from in creating this short and where he is planning to go over the next little while.

OTM: Tell us about Jose & Eli. What is it about? Where did the project come from?

Joseph Zentil: Jose & Eli is a short film about a young father struggling between balancing the responsibilities of being a father and achieving his dreams of being an artist. I choose to share Jose’s story because I thought it was something people could relate to. Eli is Jose’s biological son and the opportunity to work with non-actors was appealing to me. Although the story is fictional, the characters are real and ultimately that is what’s compelling about the piece.

OTM: How close to your heart is this project, as a young artist?
JZ: Due to the personal relationship I have with both Jose and Eli, the project is something I’m very connected to, and it will always be an important to me. Although my situation is different from Jose’s, I can relate to the guilt he feels by not wanting to conform to the expectation of society.

OTM: You screened Jose & Eli and several film festivals. Tell us about that experience and the reception you got.
JZ: The reception from audiences was positive, but the real satisfaction came from being able to tell their story. It’s extremely gratifying to hear from someone that they could personally relate to the film.

OTM: Since last we spoke with you, what do you think are some of the major changes in your world?
JZ: Recently, my father passed away, so exploring the father-son archetype in Jose & Eli, contained a certain amount of irony.

OTM: What’s next for you?
JZ: I’m currently developing a number of narrative projects. One I’m particularly excited about is I’m Only Sleeping, a film about a group of friends who play in a band bouncing back and forth between hedonism and potential self-revelation. The film is loosely based on some of my experiences playing in bands and a group of my friends that were involved in a tragedy.

Follow Joseph on Twitter