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Short Films in Focus: Glove

Somewhere out there in the farthest reaches of space, perhaps even on another planet at this point, is a lost glove. It slipped away from an astronaut during a routine journey to the moon and back and now (presumably) roams the galaxies. There’s footage of this glove that lasts just a couple seconds, which inspired the short film “Glove.” Everything after that random occurrence is left to the imagination. 

Alexa Lim Haas and Bernardo Britto’s animated short tells the story from the astronaut’s point of view, covering the glove's origin story in a manufacturing plant in a small Delaware town and following its stages of transportation until it gets used and accidentally discarded by the astronaut. To him, the glove knows its journey could be the envy of many, being able to see what we never will and to not feel bad about its fate. It has come to accept that the journey is infinite. It will soon reach the end of the universe (if there is an end). Then what?

“Glove” is a collaboration between Haas and Britto, whose films I have covered here before. Both have a similar aesthetic to their work, with the quick editing, the imperfect animation style and the feeling at the end that there exists many deeper questions in the universe, the answers to which could cause one to take another look at themselves and the world around them. As I said in my last piece about Britto’s films, they each accomplish a lot in just over five minutes and “Glove” is no exception. Haas’ previous work, particularly “Agua Viva” (which I programmed in 2018 for the Chicago Critics Film Festival) has a similar texture and is well worth watching. There’s even a fun little visual callback from that film in “Glove.” It’s a thrill to see these two working together.

“Glove” seems like such an inconsequential subject, even for a short, but Haas and Britto know why the story is worth telling and where the fascination lies. Sure, there’s lots of space junk and debris floating around out there, but one astronaut may have seen this one thing of his float away and maybe had a moment that stayed with him. His inaction in that moment might have caused a communication of some kind between our world and another that we’ll never know about. Somewhere out there, it’s possible another being just had an encounter and thought to themselves, “the gods must be crazy.”

Q&A with co-directors Alexa Lim Haas and Bernardo Britto

How did this all come about?

ALEXA LIM HAAS: The dedication to Thomas Haas is a dedication to my late father who died only a few months before we started. “Glove” is a continuation of a months-long conversation that Bernardo and I had after my father's abrupt death. One day Bernardo approached me with a couple of writings (he's very prolific) that we could co-direct together, and "Glove""s beautiful written questioning about what happens once we leave the material world into the unknown felt like a healing meditation for me to delve into during a time of grieving.

BERNARDO BRITTO: The original inception of the short came from watching the wonderful documentary “For All Mankind” and seeing that tiny bit of footage where the glove floats away. I immediately felt something, thinking about the mismatch of this earthly object in deep space and that feeling of losing something forever. And then I just followed that feeling down and shared it with Alexa and she felt like it was worth making as an animation. 

How did this collaboration work out for you as co-directors? Who took on what role(s)?

ALH: So Bernardo wrote "Glove," and then we storyboarded it together, and then I animated it while he worked on his live-action feature film "Jacquline (Argentine)," which I would soon after production design and costume design. So that's how it often goes between us: Bernardo has a sharp wit, a natural play with language and works with great discipline, while I have a keen eye, a natural play with visualization, and an improvisational work ethic. We are each other's biggest fans, and each other's yin and yang. 

BB: All of my favorite things I’ve made have always counted on Alexa as a collaborator in one way or another. “Glove” was the first time we got to co-direct something together and for me personally it was like the ultimate realization of a decade long friendship. We’re both very similar in lots of parallel ways but also both very different in terms of how our moviemaking brains work. Usually I’m much more practical and minimalist, and Alexa is a more original, inventive thinker and visual stylist. The entire look and design of the short came from her. And she’s always great about challenging a lot of the boring ideas I initially have and elevating them into something more interesting. 

What went into the research for where the glove came from? 

ALH: The visual style came a lot from the photos from my father's childhood that Bernardo and I dug through when making the videos for the funeral. They were photos of an Irish-Slovak family in Queens and Long Island that iconized an Americana lifestyle of the '60s. 

BB: It was all so long ago now but I do remember doing a lot of research about where the spacesuits were manufactured and what kinds of materials were used. It’s always interesting whenever you look into any of those things because of course everything comes from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually a pretty normal place. Like a factory in Delaware. I don’t know if that’s precisely where that specific glove came from but I do know that there was a factory in Delaware that used to make bras that then started making astronaut suits and again, that mismatch between earthly mundanity and deep space fantasia was always appealing to me. So any time I read about something like that I’m going to want to feature it. 

What were some of the other ideas you had for this, if any? Were you ever tempted to throw in anything otherworldly?

BB: There was a little alien in there once upon a time and Alexa was very smart about saying “no that’s bad.” I’m not sure if she remembers that or not. But that’s one of those things where I'm just referencing other media and Alexa is able to come up with something wholly original, like the crazy weird scanner stuff that she developed for this to show these unimaginable depths of space, rather than seeing a little alien guy. She also came up with more specific images for sequences like the lucky cat and the mountains of plastic and the decomposing astronaut. If I were making this movie on my own I would’ve for sure put a little alien guy in there and it for sure would’ve been a worse movie overall. I’m trying to remember if there were other things we cut or considered once upon a time. 

ALH: Ah yes, the alien story. I am a teacher at Carnegie Mellon for story development and storyboarding and I always tell this story. As I mentioned, Bernardo has a very disciplined craft and likes to have every frame accounted for before animation, whereas I like to leave a little room for improvisation. The line is, "And all the while it floated on ... past civilizations we've never dreamed of, and galaxies we could have never imagined..." In the animatic, it is a storyboard of a sort of humanoid alien and we battled about it for a while but had no alternatives at the time so we left it in there as a placeholder for the timing, with my secret unending desire to change it. 'Something we could have never imagined' was key to me, so I scheduled a day of experimental animation to address this scene. I did some experimental scanner techniques, and even scanned some beautiful small potatoes (meteors) and other things I could find around the house. In the end what blossomed from the play was a scene where the glove goes through colorful origami paper universes where time functions unpredictably. I always teach this to exemplify the need for discipline with the freedom to play. 

What’s next for you?

ALH: Here is a music video Bernardo and I just directed together this past summer, with the beautiful help and imagination of our 3D animator Magda Gourinchas. 

BB: Next for me is finishing up this movie I’m doing right now and then just trying to enjoy life and relax for a bit. 

Collin Souter

Collin Souter has been reviewing films in Chicago for 14 years, most notably on WGN Radio where he has been a part of the movie review segment every week on The Nick Digilio Show.

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