Smartphones Become Royal Shakespeareans in Dazzling ‘R#J.’

GIFs, Memes, and Live Streams become Shakespeare stars in immersive ‘R#J.’

Smartphones become Royal Shakespeareans in dazzling ‘R#J.’ Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The GIFs, Memes, and Live Streams that pull our attention towards our smartphone screens become Royal Shakespeareans in the dazzling ‘R#J,’ a vibrant refresh of the most famous love story, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. ‘R#J’ is making its premiere in the NEXT section at the all-virtual Sundance Film Festival 2021.

Filmmaker Carey Williams keeps the idea of love, at first sight, the core story of his immersive take on Romeo and Juliet. The longstanding feud between two families in Verona, the Montagues, and Capulets, remains the source of the story’s well-known tragedy.

There have been plenty of Shakespeare productions that leap from the wooden stage boards to new mediums. Williams distances himself from other modern-day updates and digital theatre productions with creative risk-taking that’s one-of-a-kind. 

Williams and cameraman Diego Madrigal build a story allowing us to experience Shakespeare in the immersive ways we live our daily lives. Texts, GIFs, IG Profiles, Memes, and live streams shift from special effects into digital supporting characters boosting the attractive leads.   

Granted, plenty of filmmakers reach for their smartphones to produce their stories. Think Sean Baker and his indie drama ‘Tangerine’ (2015). Williams and his cast and crew aren’t blowing up the Royal Shakespeare Company here. Williams and Madrigal maintain best-in-class digital film production models for ‘R#J.’ He’s doing more than shooting a movie on an iPhone. 

What’s transformative about ‘R#B’ is Williams flipping characters’ point of view into the smart screen. 

Williams and co-writers Rickie Castaneda and Oleksii Sobolev make the classic romance a priority. Their film is a feature-length narrative. It stays true to Shakespeare, although with a climactic twist. The simple aim to transform it using the tools we use, sharing our stories with the world. 

Leads Camaron Engels (Romeo) and Francesca Noel (Juliet) bring a fresh, American spin on classic British storytelling. They’re compelling as Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. Siddiq Saunderson (Mercutio) and Diego Tinoco (Tybalt) provide enthusiastic support. Composer Rene G. Boscio boosts the storytelling with a lively musical score. 

Will ‘R#J’ introduce Shakespeare to new audiences? Will other storytellers accept ‘R#J’ as a creative call to action to see social media more than a distraction? I hope so. I know watching the movie has inspired me about storytelling.

DirectorCarey Williams 

Cast: Francesca Noel, Camaron Engels, Diego Tinoco, and Siddiq Saunderson

Production Company: Interface Films

Distributor: TBD 

Unrated

Air Date: TBD

Behind the Curtain: Filmmaker Carey Williams is making his second trip to the Sundance Film Festival following the 2018 screening of his short film ‘Emergency.’

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