In a crumbling church on the main tourist drag of Vilnius, Lithuania, a deaf man lives alone, battling with time in his efforts to keep the building standing long enough to uncover the story of it’s life, and the story of his family.
Working Title: Vytautas
Directed by: Mahalah Ebony O’Malley
Type: Short Documentary / Installation
From the Director:
7 months ago I went to Lithuania for 2 weeks alone to chase some family history close to my heart, continue my attempts to a very challenging language and make some sort of documentary from whatever I discovered or was inspired by on the trip. I never expected the story I found though and have been so indescribably moved by it, that it has driven me to make this my passion project.
I came across an architecturally striking seventeenth century church run by a kind hearted deaf ex-army general who has silently spent the last decade odd of his solitary life fixing up this building single handedly. What at first appears to be a gloomy, low ceiling church, sectioned off from the public actually houses a centuries old neglected theatre upstairs that Vytautas has been trying to restore with no funding or assistance of any sort. Beneath the building in tunnels he has excavated himself, lie two dozen skeletons, four of whom are members of Vytautas’ own family, murdered during the Soviet occupation. Vytautas sleeps in a cot under the stairs surrounded by books and his research on the church and it’s war torn history. By day he makes candles and runs the small side wing of the church which is the only portion that remains open to the public, and in his own time he fixes this building, memorising every brick, clambering over every inch on his handmade ladders and peeling back paint to reveal colourful artworks in the theatre ceiling.
I spent three days with this man. Communicating was at once complex and primal. Our knowledge of one another’s written language was limited so much was occasional emotive sounds, expression and gestures.
This past month, I have met with an editor by the name of Emily McAllan, who now feels more like my partner on this project. Aside from producing a short “festival cut” of the documentary, we are now in development on what will be more of an installation experience to help an audience grasp the layers of this story in a more intimate way through projections, spaces, objects and bone conducted sound that even those who are hearing impaired can experience. It is my hope that we can put the audience in my shoes exploring this overwhelming space and this man’s story.
– Mahalah Ebony O’Malley