Cult actress Rose McGowan (The Doom Generation, Jawbreaker, Planet Terror) makes her directorial debut with Dawn, a Kennedy era, seventeen minute short film, best described as Larry Clark meets Douglas Sirk. Like last year’s underated Foxfire, this story of an impressionable teenager yearning to escape her sheltered life digs beneath “Gee-Whiz!” nostalgia, and unearths the dark side of ’50s Americana.
McGowan also worked on the film’s production design which has a perfect sense of period, but what’s most remarkable about Dawn other than the shocking act of violence which concludes the film, is how it avoids the short form tendency of being overly abstract or expressionistic. For this very reason, McGowan had only seen two shorts before working on her own, telling me during our interview that she set out to make a ‘movie’, rather than a short, and that’s exactly the feeling you get watching her film with its clearly defined beginning, middle and end.
Being a very “story-oriented” person, McGowan didn’t want to make “a series of impressions” likening it to a “steak vs. candy situation” and admitting that she needs “something more substantial to hold on to as an audience member.” Certain audience members may have trouble holding on to their lunch, as at one Q&A screening when a woman told McGowan she felt like throwing up. Between The Voices, Fruitvale Station and The One I Love, there’s plenty of disturbing films playing at this year’s Sundance London, but none quite so dark as Dawn.
First published by Vérité Film Magazine on April 26, 2014