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The Emotional Flight of Emilio Subia's Paper Plane

(Emilio Subia and Luke D. Tierney on the set of Paper Plane)

The past year has been devastating for much of the world’s businesses; the film industry is no exception. Writer/Director/Editor Emilio Subia (@emiliosubia) has experienced the same obstacles as his peers but his recent work is gaining a second life on Amazon Prime. Subia’s Paper Planekicked off its festival run at the 2019 Redstones Film Festival, recognized as one of New England’s premiere film and television venues which kick-started the careers of successful directors, screenwriters, and producers like Josh and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems), Gary Fleder (Homefront), Scott Rosenberg (Beautiful Girls), Nora Grossman (The Imitation Game), among others. Since, this short film has received substantial praise at events such as Castelvolturno Film Festival in Italy, Lift-Off Sessions in the UK, Stone Flower Film Festival in Russia, Kinosmena in Belarus, and others pre and during the pandemic. With Paper Plane’s recent release on Amazon’s streaming service, the worldwide viewing public will have the ability to see what made this film and its creator a darling of the film community. This “heart on a sleeve” approach to the storyline of the film makes it widely accessible to an international audience, which makes this Ecuadorian born filmmaker’s growing popularity more understandable. Casting a wide net without the need for a massive budget is the effect of Emilio’s formation of a sensibility that is enviable by Indie and major studio production companies. The greatest power a filmmaker can wield is to allow us as the audience to gain the experiential and emotional visage of others and thereby make the world a more intimate and compassionate place; with Paper Plane, Emilio Subia has profoundly and yet gently achieved this goal.

Emilio’s strength as an observational filmmaker is profound in establishing the world of shy and sensitive Sam (played by Luke D. Tierney) whom the story revolves around. Void of any dialogue within the first part of the film, we immediately adopt Sam’s apprehension and distance from the rest of the world, including his intriguing young female neighbor named Willow. Sam makes overtures that indicate his desire to meet Willow but he is always guarded. There’s nothing “dark” about Sam’s mindset or the tone of the film, established early on by Sam’s venturing into the world for a bike ride to meet Willow…while being safely contained in bubble wrap to ensure no injury will occur. Through the course of the story, we see Sam’s ultimate goal of getting to know Willow becoming the impetus for his immersion into the real world and the adventures that will make him a more confident person. That uneasiness or uncertainty has benefits in the story as well as in the making of the film. The director relates, “I was very fortunate to work with Sam Tetro (@ortetmas) as the cinematographer for this film. We both understood the visual language for the film but she made decisions which I would not have conceived of without her. Sam is a fan of wide lenses and I was not. She had to push for me to accept using them in many scenes of the film but I am glad I did because I think it really adds to the sentiment of loneliness that we wanted to portray. Just like our characters, the way the camera is being used changes throughout the film: it starts off very static but by the end, we’re there with the characters following them in the streets.”

(Actress Daniela Mindis, Emilio Subia, and Same Tetro (Director of Photography)

An upcoming film by Emilio Subia that connects with his roots is already receiving a lot of attention. Currently in post-production, Ñaños is a film that touches upon issues of identity, immigration and masculinity, and focuses on the rotted relationship between two Ecuadorian brothers who were brought up by their immigrant mother in Queens, NY. Set in a volatile world framed by the 2020 pandemic/election year backdrop, this high-energy film shines a light on Latinx characters and their ambitions. The story revolves around a common dilemma: getting away from home, and just like the city where it takes place, Ñaños is like a potpourri of culture. With this new film that departs from the stylistic approach that Paper Plane had, Emilio Subia seems to demonstrate he is a filmmaker that likes to diversify. Subia communicates, “There are definitely themes and stories I lean towards more. My films talk about family relationships, identity, growing up, masculinities. There is a lot of unhealthy prejudice towards Latinos, and there is a lot of ignorance about our culture. Latinos aren’t a conglomerate, they are individuals just like everyone else and we can be quite different from each other. We are complex, we have ambitions, we have flaws and virtues, and our stories deserve to be told. Through my work I will try to create awareness of my culture and bring these stories that have gone untold for too long.”


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