This week, the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, in collaboration with the Oxford Film Festival, welcomed artist, filmmaker and Emmy-nominated writer Kate Tsang to screen her debut film, “Marvelous and the Black Hole.”
“Tsang is known for creative, imaginative, offbeat stories with heart,” said Theresa Starkey, associate director of the Sarah Isom Center.
The film, which virtually premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, played to an elated response Wednesday evening at the Oxford Studio Cinema — only the third theatrical screening of the film worldwide.
“Marvelous and the Black Hole” revolves around the unlikely friendship between a precocious teenage girl named Sammy, and an eccentric, yet surprisingly wise children’s party magician, named Margot, portrayed by Rhea Perlman of “Cheers.” Through their relationship, Sammy is able to learn practical magic, a skill she had initially deemed as silly, and unexpectedly utilize it as a method of coping with her mother’s untimely death and her family’s current dysfunction. Despite the film’s many fantastical elements, the story remains deeply personal.
“This is the film I wish I had when I was a teenager,” Tsang said.
In her craft talk on Thursday in Lamar Hall, Tsang discussed how she made a consistently valiant effort to maintain this personal touch, even going so far as to deny a more lucrative distributing deal with a studio who wanted her to cut more graphic, yet ultimately pivotal scenes. Tsang vowed to make a film that accurately reflected the rebellious, and often emotionally fraught teenage experience, as well as accurately reflected a type of protagonist seldom seen on the silver screen.
“You must hang onto the authenticity of what you believe in,” Tsang said.
Tsang also vowed to reflect positivity, not only on-screen, but behind the scenes as well. “Marvelous and the Black Hole” contained a majority female/gender non-conforming cast and crew, in addition to a production schedule that emphasized humane hours and safe working conditions. The film was also miraculously shot in a mere 18 days, with only five hours per day allotted to working with the lead actress, portrayed wonderfully by Miya Cech. For comparison, large-scale productions can take up to 150 days.
Following the craft talk, Tsang attended the reception in the Stark Family garden at The Inn at Ole Miss, where she conversed with aspiring filmmakers about her experiences in the industry.
“It took me time to find my own voice and to be okay with that,” Tsang said. “Everybody is on their own timeline.”
Kate Tsang is a writer for the hit shows “Adventure Time: Distant Lands” and “Steven Universe Future,” for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. “Marvelous and the Black Hole” was recently acquired by FilmRise. A release date is yet to be announced.