Antonio Campos admits that anyone who watches “Afterschool,” which premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section last year, might assume that his intensely visual and disturbing film involving a 10th-grader armed with a video camera is autobiographical. “It is, in a way,” Campos says, “but I wasn’t in a video class nor did I ever discover two girls dead of drug overdoses like he does.”
The film is the writer-director’s long-gestating response to the emotions and experiences he had in the aftermath of Sept. 11 during his senior year in high school, which began with the death of a friend’s father in one of the Twin Towers and ended with another friend dying in a freak accident in Amsterdam.
“It was weird struggling with ideas of mortality at that age, but while they felt close, at the same time I was disconnected. I think that I reinterpreted this in film terms by capturing emotions, but with a certain visual distance on events,” he says.
With a Brazilian-born journalist father who encouraged the family to watch foreign and indie films and an Italian-American mother whose taste tended toward classical Hollywood, Campos thinks he received “the perfect balance of tastes and influences.” At 13, he lied about his age and told everyone he was 16 in order to make the cutoff for the New York Film Academy’s teen program, where he wrote his first short film, “Puberty.”
The budding helmer’s string of 14 shorts was capped with his formally inventive “Buy It Now,” which premiered in CineVegas in 2005 and won best short in Cannes’ Cinefondation contest, earning Campos a coveted scholarship to the French festival’s annual artists’ residence program.
“Tony started making films when most of us were fooling around on our skateboards,” says producing partner and fellow director Sean Durkin, who (with Campos and producer Josh Mond), formed Borderline Films soon after the trio met at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. “I think that’s why he has such a strong artistic voice at an early age.”
Mond adds, “Tony has an honesty as a director and collaborator that most people can’t come close to, and he can express it.”
After serving as producer on Durkin’s first feature, provisionally titled “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and now in pre-production, Campos plans to shoot his next film, “Momma,” about a boy and his mother, near the end of 2009.
Home base: New York
Inspired by: Stanley Kubrick. “For me, he reached a place in cinema that no other filmmaker has managed,” Campos says.
Rep: Agent: David Flynn and Rich Klubeck at UTA; manager: Melissa Breaux at Washington Square Arts