Director's Statement

Symbolism plays a major part in the film. I have devised something called The System—unrelated to the Stanislavski's system—while working on Alchemy in Hyde Park. It is basically an abstract system of correlations between colors, characters, numbers, days, planets, astrological signs, chakras, musical notes, elements, and Tarot cards based upon esoteric knowledge from East and West. Hence, why I classify the film as an Esoteric Drama.  

I was inspired by Wassily Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art as well as Mike Figgis's Timecode and Digital Filmmaking. Kandinsky provided me with the spiritual vision for the film. I frequently told Tony, the DOP, before filming shots that we are going for "Zen aesthetics." I wanted the film to be a healing experience not only for the cast and crew, but also for the audience. I did not make Alchemy in Hyde Park to compete at film festivals with it, or to make a lot of money--two things I am not opposed to--, but I made it because I needed to make it. This therapeutic necessity was the driving force behind the project. Figgis provided me with both the experimental vision and practical wisdom for making a no-budget digital film.

The film starts with an architectural montage of Hyde Park to establish the setting, but also to pay homage to the aesthetics of said neighborhood. Hyde Park is introduced as the first main character in the film because it is the space where the four other characters meet and interact.

Hyde Park is a very significant neighborhood historically and culturally, and as of now there has not been any feature film that was set and shot entirely there that is also dedicated to the neighborhood. 

lived in Hyde Park for three years and fell in love with it to such a degree that it became my second home (after Cairo, Egypt). Hyde Park has been featured briefly in When Harry Met Sally and other such films, but does it not deserve its own movie? 

Alchemy in Hyde Park is the first digital no-budget feature-length fiction film set and shot entirely in the neighborhood of Hyde Park!

Perhaps Hyde Park, London or even Hyde Park, NY—think of the recent film Hyde Park on Hudson—are more famous than Hyde Park, Chicago, but the latter is notorious for the following: the University of Chicago, Chicago Pile-1, the Robie House, and Barack Obama--I know it's Kenwood!--among other historic places and people.

Enough said about Hyde Park, what about the other four characters?

Rumi is a lit professor who has not dated anyone for years and who struggles with alcoholism, Louise is a barista, martial artist, dancer, and student of East Asian literature who is also a survivor of sexual abuse, Mira is a painter and yoga instructor who lives up in the clouds, and finally Franco is a mover who occasionally busks on the streets of Hyde Park and sells weed to survive.

In terms of temporality, the film takes place between the present, memories, dreams/nightmares, and fantasies. And this is reflected in the editing of the film, which sometimes gets choppy and fragmented to stress the non-linear experience of being, that is, how we get bombarded not only with conscious imagery but, more often, with unconscious imagery--think Carl G. Jung's collective unconscious.

To say more about the esoteric aspect of the film, the alchemical process has to do with the catharsis that the characters--and hopefully, the audience, too--go through as they transform from selfish to selfless beings, which we intuitively understand as being-with-others, or which we may call ‘friendship’, that is, prioritizing the needs of the collective before our individual desires.

Inspired by Jodorowsky, Buñuel, Lynch, and other surrealists, I wanted to audio-visually capture not only what the characters go through externally/socially, but also what they go through internally/psychologically. And to draw connections between conscious and unconscious elements in the characters and in myself, I attempted to do so via what was labeled above as The System.


Robert Beshara

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