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Documentary – Scarlet Medusa

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This beautiful short film is a captivating tale of life, death and what might happen in between.

The 18-minute film, called Scarlet Medusa and directed by Spencer Macdonald, is bookended with Koju Kaji, the Abbess of a 600-year-old Japanese temple, who shares her thoughts on death and how to approach life. The main section of Scarlet Medusa, though, is concerned with Shin Kubota, a professor at Kyoto University who has spent decades studying Turritopsis, or immortal jellyfish, so called because they are able to regenerate and, effectively, live on indefinitely. 

Kubota's fascination with the creatures and how they might hold the secrets to human beings being able to extend their life, or at least their physical capabilities in old ago, is compelling and speaks to the nature of life, death and what it is to be human.

I embarked with the goal of making a masterpiece. In this case, one that would tie together immortality, our relationship with the natural world, mysticism, the deep sea, space, etc… Surely an easy task.

"Some years ago I read an article in the The New York Times about an immortal jellyfish and an eccentric Japanese scientist who has dedicated his life to determining how to harness its power for humanity and himself," Macdonald posted on his Instagram account. "So many of my interests were tied together in this subject and I thought: “a film needs to be made about this”. So I pitched the idea to Avocados and Coconuts [Macdonald's US production company], who agreed very generously to produce it, and we set off to Japan about two years ago to make the film.

"As with most film projects, I embarked with the goal of making a masterpiece. In this case, one that would tie together immortality, our relationship with the natural world, mysticism, the deep sea, space, etc… Surely an easy task. I labored over the edit for months, never quite getting the visceral feeling in my body that I expect when I dedicate that much time into an edit. Many times I even reconsidered what I was doing making films in the first place. Eventually I came to realize I had to finish the film to let that part of me go. What a tremendous release that was. I look at the completed film now and, although it is not exactly what I set out to make, I realize that in the process of making it, I have laid the foundation for the type of films that I will make in the future."

Macdonald is repped for commercials in the UK by Spindle.

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