In Conversation With Albert Shin, Director Of DISAPPEARANCE AT CLIFTON HILL - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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In Conversation With Albert Shin, Director Of DISAPPEARANCE AT CLIFTON HILL

Tony Fyler talks with Albert Shin, the director of Disappearance At Clifton Hill.

WarpedFactor: We understand Disappearance At Clifton Hill has elements of your own history in it. What’s your process in terms of synthesizing elements of your past into intriguing fiction?

Albert Shin: That’s a really great question! Every film that I make is a synthetization of all sorts of elements, and you’re really just searching for the right alchemy to create something personal, original and interesting.

WF: What was it that made you determined to tell this particular story?

AS: For this film, there was this possible kidnapping that I had witnessed as a little boy and how it consumed my imagination for most of my life. My nebulous relationship with this traumatic childhood event made me think about memories and how they really work as a chamber where truth and imagination congregate and machinate. I took that as an invitation to finally try and exorcise all of this and it sort-of took on a life of its own.

WF: How did David Cronenberg’s involvement come about? Did you have him in mind for the role and go after him, or was it something in which he took a proactive interest?

AS: We were having a really hard time finding the right actor to play this role of Walter, and it was one our producers, Niv Fichman, who knows David personally a little, who suggested we send him the script. It was the perfect suggestion, but in my mind, I thought there was exactly a zero percent chance that he’d be interested, because, well, he’s DAVID CRONENBERG. But amazingly, he read the script, agreed to do it and was on set as Walter, all literally within a week. It was one of the more surreal moments in my filmmaker career thus far.

Disappearance At Clifton Hill appears to deal a lot with perception and case-building. Is there a particular message you want your audience to take away from the film about what they think they know and/or remember, or do you want them to come away less certain of the memories and certainties they have?

More than a specific message, I certainly wanted people to think about that very malleable relationship between memory and truth. But on a larger thematic level, I was really fascinated with exploring the relativity of truth. Especially in this day-in-age, where it can sometimes feel like facts have no bearing on “truth” – I thought this was an interesting subtext to explore in a modern noir mystery.

Which really leads into my next question. You draw an interesting line in the movie between historical research and conspiracy theory. What’s your take on conspiracy theories generally?

Well, I’ve known a few conspiracy theorists in my day and we also did a bunch of research on some of the more public personas out there. And if you ask any conspiracy theorist, they’d argue that everything they espouse is absolutely based on historical research.

It feels like Disappearance At Clifton Hill says something about our need to buy into interesting stories and then retroactively justify them to ourselves. Is that something you think most people do, or was it just an interesting angle to pursue through this movie?

I definitely think this is something many people do, including myself! It was the genesis of the film. I witnessed something shocking as a little boy that could have been a kidnapping—maybe, maybe not—but by the time I was a teenager recounting this memory, it had grown in legend to the point where it was nothing more than pure fantasy. Sometimes I question if I actually witnessed anything at all.

Stage magicians feature in the plot as potentially sinister people, as well as avatars of the difference between what’s perceived and what’s real. Just a useful profession to make that point, or do you find magicians particularly unnerving in and of themselves?

Haha, I find magicians to be more beguiling than unnerving. Certainly, our Magnificent Moulin magicians fit nicely as a metaphorical avatar for perception vs. reality, which could also be seen as a metaphor for the actual Clifton Hill itself.

How has the response been to the movie so far?

The response has been great so far, and it’s been fun and interesting to get people’s take on the film, especially since it was designed to be more open-ended and opaque.

Has anything taken you by surprise about the reaction it’s had? 

The screenings have all been at film festivals so far which is a relatively small sample size, so I guess we’ll see once it’s released!

Indeed! With the film about to be released internationally, are you already looking ahead at your next project? Anything you can tell us or tease us with about that?

I don’t know what my next project is yet, but the plan is to go into hibernation and hopefully come out with whatever that next project is!

Oh and finally, can you settle an argument for us? Which is the best side from which to see the Falls? American or Canadian?

C’mon, you can’t be serious? It’s the Canadian side, no question!

Albert Shin, thank you.

Disappearance At Clifton Hill opens in cinemas and on VOD nationwide this Friday, February 28th 2020. You can read our review here

Tony lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at

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