As a genre filmmaker, Elle Callahan uses her art to call attention to the world around her. Her latest feature film, Witch Hunt, is a reflection on witchcraft, magic and a smart commentary on the state of today’s world.
Synopsis: In a modern America where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal, a sheltered teenager must face her own demons and prejudices as she helps two young witches avoid law enforcement and cross the southern border to asylum in Mexico.
In Witch Hunt, we meet high schooler Claire (Gideon Adlon), who is trying to fit in with the ‘mean girls’ in her class. In one of her classes, there is an assignment on writing about the 11th Amendment. This is the latest addition to the Bill of Rights which will deny witches basic human rights that normal people enjoy. Being a witch is not illegal yet, but things are clearly going in that direction. With the federal Bureau of Witchcraft Investigation agents like Hawthorne (Christian Camargo) acting like literal witch hunters, we sense the situation can become very volatile.
Claire lives in a farmhouse with her widowed mother Martha (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her twin brothers (Cameron and Nicolas Crovetti). Her mother is a sympathizer with the witches’ struggles and uses their home as a sort of safe house to help bring witches to Mexico, which is still granting them asylum. Martha allows two sisters, Fiona (Abigail Cowen), and her young sister, Shae (Echo Campbell), to hide out at their home. It is through these young girls that Claire is forced
The persecution of witches serves as a metaphor, for making people outcasts simply for being ‘different’ from mainstream society. The film has a supernatural thriller vibe in that, through the young leads, it becomes a tale about tolerance, about how more alike we all are, and about humanity — all through the use of genre elements.
Without giving much away about the film, I commend Callahan and team for creating a film that leaves one with plenty to discuss. As a genre fan, I am curious to see what Callahan comes up with next. I also want to highlight Adlon and Cowen in their respective roles; their friendship is a strong point in the story.
As well, a nod to Nico Aguilar and Tommy Oceanak‘s cinematography; especially their use of space and landscape. Also a big shout out to Canadian trio Blitz//Berlin for their score work in this film.
Witch Hunt writer and director, Elle Callahan, took time to speak with me about the film in time for its SXSW premiere. Here is our conversation about the film.