The notion of being in two places at once or the ability to go back in time has fascinated the human race for decades. Time-traveling is a phenomenon that remains a favorite topic of debate among intellectuals, conspiracy theorists, and the public for its peculiarity and obscurity. The romanticization of this concept, popularized by highly-acclaimed films such as Back to the Future (1985), Groundhog Day (1993), The Time-Traveler’s Wife (2009), and Interstellar (2014) continues to spark our imagination and curiosity of making sense of the unknown.
Award-winning Asian filmmaker Jacky Song captivatingly transports us back to the ’50s in his latest provocative, mind-bending short film Incognito (2021). Inspired by true events, this narrative explores the controversial phenomenon of time traveling and forbidden love that straddles the line of two conflicting eras.
Incognito introduces us to the mystifying life of Isabel who uncannily claims that she has teleported from the past. Instead of giving her the benefit of the doubt, authorities quickly took her as a lunatic who needed professional help. She was brought to a mental institution for further examination and was put under the care of a psychologist named Dr. Vogel. During the session, Isabel recalled that the last thing she remembered was suffering from a tragic car accident with her fiancée, Francis Laurent, four decades ago. The next thing she knew, she was aimlessly wandering the streets of present-day Los Angeles. Isabel was immediately flagged by the psychologist as a mentally ill patient, forcing her to be confined in a mental institution.
During one of their routine rounds, the medical staff discovered that Isabel disappeared from her room and security footage corroborated that she did not escape. This inexplicable disappearance piqued Dr. Vogel’s interest to further investigate this strange incident. However, as he closely examined her claims and the supporting evidence, it became more apparent to him that there might be some truth to this anomaly. As the story progressed, we were treated to an astounding twist that completely shifted the narrative and truly gave the story and its characters their distinctiveness, depth, and soul.
Time-traveling is a phenomenon that remains a favorite topic of debate among intellectuals, conspiracy theorists, and the public
This film serves as living proof of the collective effort and power of a creative team that has truly mastered its craft. From the direction to the cinematography to editing and everything in between, every element was meticulously structured and seamlessly executed. From the get-go, the vividness and mystery that fills the opening sequence instantly pull you into the world that the characters inhabit.
The cast notably breathed life into the characters, allowing the audience to empathize and relate to their journey and struggles. Each angle, design, action, and sensation were stunningly captured in every frame by Director of Photography, Logan Fulton. The elaborate production design by Vlad Aksenov not only took us on a trip down memory lane but also enriched the story tenfold. The non-linear editing, which was sophisticatedly and flawlessly stitched together by Mengfang Yang and her assistant editor, Yixia Li, commendably elevated the conflict, suspense, and tension of the story. It’s also worth noting that the universal themes, characters, and plot points presented posed a promising progression of dramatic conflict that could be further explored in a feature-length narrative.
Aside from the spectacle, the heart that gives the story its life is raising awareness on social issues such as sexual identity and mental health. Through the eyes and union of Isabel and Dorothy, Song hopes to “externalize what happens to those individuals who feel their society won’t allow them to be themselves, and love who they want. They find ways to cope, and in some cases, the space-time continuum assists them.”
The Boy Who Dreamed
Hailing from the bustling city of Shenzhen, China, Jacky Song stood out from the crowd at a young age. Unlike most kids who grew up on fairytales, he had a strong affinity and fascination for peculiar and paranormal stories that challenged his mind and perspective. His imagination and curiosity for the unconventional became more profound when he stumbled upon an intriguing story on World’s Unsolved Mysteries about a Russian time traveler who claimed to have teleported from the past.
Deeper into his research, he discovered that there were several accounts of time travelers who had tangible evidence of their claims. This piqued his interest and eventually sparked an idea of further exploring this matter the best way he knows how – through the art of cinematic storytelling.
Song’s passion for filmmaking inspired him to take a leap of faith and move all the way to Los Angeles to learn the ropes of the craft he fell head over heels for since his childhood. He attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU) where he majored in directing, film production, and screenwriting. For more than half a decade, Song has dedicated his time honing his artistry by directing and producing short film narratives that are “surrealistic, exquisite, story-driven, and contain vivid imagery, featuring graphic violence and nonlinear editing style with classical orchestra score pieces.”
His distinct creative narrative style and keen eye for aesthetics garnered him a nomination at the 47th Student Academy Awards and catapulted him into esteemed film festivals such as Newport Beach Film Festival, Dances with Films, LA Shorts International Film Festival among others. As evident in his award-winning films, Song utilizes his voice by incorporating his multi-cultural background as well as giving a spotlight on cultural stories and bringing it to the world stage.