Stoner movies, that’s a general term that spans the iconic Cheech & Chong 70’s films to zen classics like The Big Lebowski. The reality expansion offered by chemical influences that are inherent in these tales provides the means for the most imaginative of filmmakers to establish altered states of reality. In Dos De Asada, cinematographer An Shu has established herself as one of these filmmakers who has the ability to take the audiences along with the characters on a trip (no pun intended) that challenges us to reconsider the limitations of our eyes and our minds.
During this experience, we follow An Shu and her fellow collaborators on an odyssey that melds the extraordinary potential of the common individual with what could be, if we only imagine. This is the very ingredient which makes An so powerful as a DP, a seemingly limitless imagination of what can be manifested with the camera. It’s remarkable that this was one of An Shu’s first films as DP and yet her work garnered her an award for Best Short Film Cinematography at the New York Cinematography Awards. She’s known for her boldness which is prominently on display in Dos De Asada. As An describes it, “We have a saying in China, ‘chū shēng niú dú bù pà hǔ’ which means ‘newborn calves are not afraid of tigers.’ We executed the bold ideas in this picture without fear.”
While most films that feature the use of marijuana depict it as a party drug with slackers who are stagnant in their maturation, this is not that type of story. Dos De Asada begins with a couple visiting a taco truck but the smoking that occurs while they sit in their car is what leads to a transformative experience. The altered state offered by the marijuana is not the impetus for a night of hedonism but rather a discovery of self and partner for this young man and woman. Cruz and Vero find that they share a connection much deeper than either of them might have guessed. To infuse the movie with the closeness and emotional space the couple shares, An shot the entire movie with handheld cameras. The delineation of reality and dream sequences was manifested through the color tones. Prior to getting high and falling asleep, yellow street lights and neon lights add hints of a lived-in environment; these are replaced by the foggy purple lighting before Cruz exits the car and later, pale street lights that indicate the different experiences and perspectives of the characters.
These subtle textural shifts gingerly steer the audience into perceiving different perceptions of what these characters feel and understand. The DP affirms that color was a strong aspect of the visual language of Dos De Asada noting, “The story involves a magic realism style, starting from when our main character Cruz (Jonathan Greenhouse) wakes up from a drug-induced haze. That motif gave me a lot of space to paint the image with surreal lighting — like creating a foggy, dreamlike world with purple and orange, a bold red hallway where Cruz meets Ernesto (a spirit guide), or cold blue when Cruz and Vero (Karina Lopez) have a fight in their car about how to escape. I think we made many bold lighting decisions and I’m glad we were able to execute them for the picture.”
The film community overwhelmingly praised An Shu’s approach on this film. In addition to the previously mentioned New York Cinematography Awards, An’s work was also recognized with a Best Cinematographer award at the Berlin International Art Film Festival and as an Official Selection of Best Short Film Cinematography at the Toronto Independent Film Festival of Cift.