In her latest short-form fashion film, Choco Hoax (2023), Alice Fassi combines surrealism and satire to take a swipe at capitalist cultures and greenwashing, whilst maintaining her signature silliness and humour. Fassi’s film boldly explores the ways in which marketing exploits the consciousness around the climate crisis in order to continue and increase consumption, ironically worsening that which they claim to be so concerned about. Check it out!
Could you please start by introducing yourself and what it is that you do to our readers?
I’m Alice Fassi, a film director based in Milan. I’m mostly into directing fashion film for work, but I’m always truly driven by creating personal projects that explore various aspects of our world. I love experimenting with genres. One of my recent projects, In Light, delved into the spiritual movement Universal White Brotherhood through a short documentary. This year, I’m excited to present Choco Hoax, a satire on greenwashing. Who knows what’s coming next.
Where, do you think, your passion for film stems from? How far back could you attempt to trace it?
When I was at primary school, I had a massive collection of VHS tapes, thanks to my wonderful grandfather who gifted me one each time I visited him. It was so vast that I needed a rolling ladder to explore it all. The collection was mainly filled with Disney classics, but then I transitioned to Goosebumps, and despite my friends’ terror, I would make them watch them with me – finding some amusement in their traumatised reactions.
One day, I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit and I became obsessed; I watched it hundreds of times and it still remains one of my favourite movies. Later, around the age of 12, I received Cronenberg’s The Fly on VHS, and it was a profound film shock for me. I found the movie deeply moving, and I couldn’t stop crying. For years, I couldn’t bring myself to rewatch it. I think these two films left a mark in me. The first one is like the film I’ve always dreamed of making. And that second one, it showed me the incredible power of cinema. That’s maybe when my passion really began.
You say your “deep curiosity in life is reflected by a special interest in everyday nonsense.” How do you understand or, perhaps, define nonsense and what role does ‘nonsense’ play in the construction of your films?
Nonsense, to me, is an essential aspect of my daily life. I confront it daily and take pleasure in giving it a unique spot in my thoughts. I think that often the term ‘nonsense’ gets misinterpreted, as if life were somehow meaningful, with only occasional ‘system bugs.’ Yet, the truth is that the world itself is a vast expanse of nonsense. For me, creating films becomes a way of exorcising this absurdity in a creative way. In the nonsense, I’ve actually discovered my personal sense.
Your latest fashion film is called Choco Hoax and “offers a satirical critique of greenwashing and the consumerist tendencies of contemporary society.” Could you talk us through the creative process of conceptualising this film and then bringing it to life?
Lately, I’ve had a strong desire to delve into the topic of greenwashing. As a director in the fashion industry, I’m well aware of its significant contribution to climate change, which applies to the production of everyday products as well. I’ve come to realise that capitalism can never truly be ecological. The concept of Choco Hoax came to me while I was grocery shopping and reading product labels. Suddenly, every item seemed to boast about what it lacked: No sugars, no palm oil, no preservatives, etc. It struck me that we’ve grown accustomed to choosing products based on what they don’t have. This embodies the grand promise of contemporary capitalism: buy, consume, and without any risks.
By removing these elements, companies aim to demonstrate that their products are not only healthy but also environmentally sustainable. It’s taken to the next level, making it not just a ‘conscious’ product but something that makes you feel proud because you’ve contributed to something good for the world. They’ve cleverly eliminated the one thing that could hinder us from consuming: guilt. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy, indeed. This was everything swirling in my mind, and I decided to jot down some notes. After a while, I tried to put all my ideas together and I began writing the screenplay for Choco Hoax.
The paradox of selling a product based on the absence of things within that product really lends itself to Choco Hoax’s blend of irony, surrealism and nonsense, as we discussed earlier. What or who influences the technical aspects of how you convey these surrealist elements in your work?
My passion lies in blending genres, and it becomes a great exercise in creating the most unconventional creations. I draw immense inspiration from the witty comical sketches of Monty Python and the genius of Mel Brooks. These influences played a significant role in the storytelling aspect of Choco Hoax, while I opted for a distinct approach in the aesthetics. To illustrate, for the set design, I seamlessly fused the ambiance of 1970s television studios with the iconic Simpsons’ nuclear power plant.
Moreover, I’m a huge fan of French directors Quentin Dupieux and Michel Gondry, who I believe are true masters in portraying surrealism in films. Their impact has greatly shaped my perception of what a movie should be like. Additionally, as mentioned before, the nonsensical elements of daily life also play a vital role in influencing my work.
Within our firmly capitalist society, how do you think near-constant exposure to advertising and marketing has affected our psyches? And how does this manipulation feature in your film?
We are constantly bombarded with information and advertising promotions. Even when we are unaware, our online activities are tracked, and products are offered to us based on our preferences. This leads us to live in a bubble where our judgement loses its power. We are surrounded by so many different products, and we believe that we have greater freedom of choice, but in reality, we are never truly free to choose.
In my film, I attempted to imagine what it would be like if someone invents a way to convince people that nuclear waste can be consumed. It would be a comical portrayal of how nuclear energy, which is actually eco-friendly, could somehow become an edible solution for disposing of radioactive nuclear waste. Naturally, the consequences depicted in my film are paradoxical. However, such a concept would undoubtedly make me laugh.
Are you working on any projects at the moment that you can tell us about?
I will surely jump back in and work on some scripts that I started some months ago. They’re mostly around surrealism and satire. But I’m always up for experimenting and evolving in my craft. Lately, I’m feeling this strong pull to embrace more narrative projects and getting involved in longer collaborations with actors, maybe focusing on longer formats.
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