Hisss is a weird sort of good-looking trainwreck. It’s well shot, but horribly edited. The practical effects are incredible, but the CGI is laughable. And the story just makes no goddamn sense. Even more interesting is to look at the film in the context of its director, David Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer Lynch. Hisss, or Nagin: The Snake Woman is her third feature, following Surveillance in ’08 and the notorious Boxing Helena, 15 years before that. Hisss was shot in India, filmed both in English and Hindi, and played mostly to a Bollywood audience. Now a documentary, titled Despite The Gods and directed by Penny Vozniak, is being released chronicling the entire arc of the making of Hisss, and casting some light on exactly what went wrong and Lynch’s fascinatingly messy career.
From what I know of the production already, it was a difficult shoot. Lynch dropped off the film towards the end of post, and after the film’s very poor reception, fingers were being pointed at the producers; supposedly she had lost creative control of the movie and her departure was due to that. One of those stories. Yet just from watching the film, I can say that can’t be all that went wrong. The movie is a noble, uncontrolled disaster. And Hisss was dumped on DVD and streaming services, forgotten till the trailer for Despite The Gods appeared online.
I’ve worked on a low-budget horror film set. In fact, I even made a behind the scenes web series about it, which was later edited together into a documentary for the film’s dvd release. It was intense and exciting, but I can’t imagine our film had anywhere near the turmoil that Lynch’s Snake Woman did. Behind the scenes documentaries rarely offer more than some light enjoyment for hardcore fans of a film. This does not appear to be the case here, I’m really sensing a fully realized story about Lynch here. Even in the trailer, you can see Lynch allowing herself to be the main character of the doc and opening up the camera, providing intimate details of her experience as a filmmaker, working in India, and aspects of her life.
Here’s the synopsis:
Despite the Gods is a feature documentary about Hollywood’s prodigal daughter. Jennifer Lynch is well known for making bold, if not ill-fated, choices in her filmmaking career. But nothing could prepare her for the unmapped territory of Bollywood-Hollywood movie making, where chaos is the process and filmmaking doubles as a crash course in acceptance and self-realization.
The film will be screening at Toronto’s wonderful doc festival Hot Docs. From what I can see in this trailer, Despite The Gods will give some insight into Hisss‘s failure and Lynch’s problematic career. And hopefully a good film will be crafted out of a botched one.