Since December 2019, as Coronavirus has taken hold around the world, many of us have enjoyed the surreal pleasure of wandering through social spaces usually overran by other members of our species. In Sojourn New Mexico, we accompany director, Cameron Kashani, on a serene journey through quarantine in the Southwestern state that he calls home. Employing a holiday footage aesthetic, Kashani helps his viewers to see the unexpected beauty of an unprecedented situation, whilst also maintaining an appreciation for the things that went before.
A varied array of handheld clips stitched together provide structure for the piece. Narratively, we begin with a more general selection of shots, rooting ourselves in the director’s geographical environment, before being treated to a more intimate insight, communicating a change in lifestyle approach for the director, post-COVID. Kashani makes us thirst for a sense of life and adventure, acting as a tour guide through deserted communities still mourning the noise they are accustomed to being filled with. Most interesting to analyse here is the use of sound. The extra-diegetic addition of tumultuous noise from humanity’s usual joyous rush, makes the barren landscapes seem all the more ghostly, without an obvious source for the noises we hear. A powerful tool and a wise addition. In truth, a multiplicity of sound could, and perhaps should, have been further capitalised upon. By reigning in the musical accompaniment slightly, perhaps even offering up sections of complete silence, a greater variation could have been achieved, thereby allowing the viewer greater opportunity for introspection.
Consumers of short film, appreciative of works with high production value, may not always find Sojourn New Mexico an easy accompaniment to their viewing roster. Some of the editing techniques and after effects may be recognisable to those who commonly spent time on mid-noughties iterations of Microsoft Office PowerPoint, where drab school projects could be given a redeeming makeover through its jaunty repertoire. Whilst it is certainly a nostalgic touch, it does undeniably pull the viewer out of the experience.
Despite the title, the filmmaker does introduce us to other locations, including Barcelona, Alaska, and Rome. These “mini trips” to some of the world’s most recognisable locations are appreciated, establishing a sense of reconnection to our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, currently unavailable to most of us. However, they do also present the double-edged sword of making the piece feel slightly less focused, as after only 3 minutes, we are shifted away from an area we are only just beginning to discover.
As a hobbyist’s side project, it is endearing and watchable. One suspects it may prove a more fulfilling experience for its creator, than for its later recipients, though, as many of them will have fond memories of making similar projects themselves.
'Sojourn New Mexico' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.