Increasingly disturbing flashbacks haunt a grieving girl who struggles to navigate her own pain in a desperate attempt to free herself from the trauma that has taken over her life.

There is always something special about student films, where fearlessness splurges creativity, ambitions grow so high often at the cost of structure and other important elements. But every once in a while a student film comes in that holds splendid ambitions and formidable production values. Vitória Vasconcellos’ ‘Pathei Mathos’ is that film. We caught up with the young filmmaker who told us a little more about the experience:

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

Pathei Mathos was my response to an accident that happened to me in 2018 when I was acting in another short film. I was hit by a car and spent a little while away from school recovering and learning how to walk again. When people asked about the accident, I struggled to put my feelings into words and figured there was only one way I could express them. My experience with PTSD made me want to make a movie that was a sensorial portrayal of it, to the best of my ability.

As a writer/director are you open to changes or suggestions when you start shooting or do you like to stick to what has been written?

Because I came to film from acting, an important part of my process is being open to the world. I try to value spontaneity and freedom in the creative process as much as possible. Although I’m definitely an over-thinker and do a lot of prep, my goal is always to serve the story. I love getting actor’s feedback and creating characters together, building worlds with the art department and meeting with my composer as early as possible to explore musicality together. Their creative input gives me so much as a writer-director, and filmmaking is a team sport, it really takes a village. Even on set, I strive to create a safe environment where people feel comfortable voicing ideas. Being open to the world teaches you which things are uncompromisable per your vision and makes evident the elements that still need to be developed.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

Definitely the swing scene. It was supposed to be shot in a garden at 3am, everything was set up, we were literally minutes away from shooting when, suddenly, the world’s most aggressive sprinklers went off and we had to run and get the equipment out of there asap. We were unable to shoot that evening and ended up making the bold choice to drastically change the location of the scene while still trying to keep its purpose within the story. We shot it the next morning at a warehouse after sleepless hours of planning and adjusting. Funny enough, we were all much happier with the result and friends often say it’s their favorite scene.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

This was my first real short film, I was still in film school when we made it. It taught me so much. The biggest lesson I think was learning to welcome the unconventional ways of self-expression that I once thought were too bizarre and weird to have a place in the world. This is a movie I thought no one would understand, it seemed too personal for anyone else to identify with. I learned, of course, that the opposite is true: the more personal it is, the more deeply connected people feel. The response we received, the random people that would message us or stay after a screening to say that Pathei Mathos made them feel seen, was a humble reminder that personal stories may be difficult to tell, but they are worth it.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

I’m not sure I’m in a place to give advice to anyone haha but one thing that I’ve learned is to go after the peculiarities, the ordinary beauties that intrigue you about the world. Ask yourself the hard questions but don’t worry too much about answering them, let them live inside you if there’s room. Another advice I’ve received, maybe the best one, was to just have fun. This filmmaker life can be crazy stressful, but with the right crew and a story you believe in, there is always room for fun.

What do you hope people will take away from Pathei Mathos?

I hope people will feel a little less alone, especially people who have experience with trauma – but also the ones who may not have first hand experience but have seen a friend go through it. It’s such a hard thing to convey and even talk about, Pathei Mathos is an attempt to honor the chaos and struggle of it all. I hope this little short film made for all the kids that feel broken out there will elicit some kind of empathy in us all. PM is far from being an educational movie, but I hope that the raw sensorial feeling we tried to convey help people feel understood and less alone.

What are your favorite short films?

I have so many favorites but here are some that I keep coming back to: Carlos Segundo’s Sideral (that’s currently and deservingly taking over festivals around the world), Aly Muritiba’s The Factory, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Vinil Verde (one of the most unique shorts I have seen, and I’m pretty sure it’s free to watch), Rayka Zehtabchi’s Are You Still There? and Will McCormack’s and Michael Govier’s If Anything Happens I Love You.

I know I’m going to look back at this list and get mad for having forgotten some incredible shorts I love (like Julia Ducournau’s “Junior”! See, I just remembered that one) so I’m going to leave it here for now before I go crazy.

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

I usually have many many answers to this question but Pathei Mathos is such a special case.

I think “Momentum” was the biggest one. I really liked the intrusive harsh red lights of “Climax” and thought they helped dialogue with some experiences our main character goes through (same goes for “The Night Of”). David Fincher’s work, in particular when it comes to how he manages different levels of psychological tension, was definitely a reference as well.