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Aashish D'Mello talks storytelling through editing and acclaimed LGBTQ film 'Magic '85'
Editing, for India's Aashish D'Mello, is like sculpting. He takes raw material and carves it into something interesting and engaging. He is an artist, but rather than taking a pen to paper, he sits in a studio, watching endless hours of footage and turning it into a cinematic masterpiece.

As a film editor, he wears many hats, but none are more important than storyteller. It is up to him to finally execute a director's vision, using his innate talent to share a story with audiences around the world.

"I find joy in being able to bring shots and scenes that tell a limited story on their own, together to establish and contribute to a larger narrative. Editing is storytelling and the editor is, in a sense, the final writer of the film. You identify certain areas that don't work or don't add much to the concept, and try to work around them so that your movie has the impact that the director envisioned. Editing involves creating moments, diagnosing problems and solving them, all at the same time," he said.

Throughout his career, D'Mello has shown audiences time and time again just why he is such an in-demand editor in his home country and abroad. This award-winning editor is known for films like Sin CieloOur Way HomeNotesSanzaru, and more, receiving special recognition for his contributions to his craft.

"I enjoy the freedom that editing gives me. I consider myself more of an introvert, and the editing process appeals to my personality. I'd rather be in a dim, quiet room with the footage than be on set. The editing environment helps me think better," said D'Mello.

When looking through his decorated resume, D'Mello fondly recalls working on the 2017 drama Magic '85, as it tells an impactful and important story. The film takes place in the height of the AIDS epidemic in Los Angeles, where Gabriel, the lead character, opens his home as a hospice to men dying of the disease. He cares for and helps guide his patients to a peaceful death while battling his own needs for life affirmation through anonymous sex in the vibrant bathhouse scene. It was this powerful subject matter that drew D'Mello to the project, as he is passionate about working on films that tell unique stories about underrepresented and under-portrayed sections of society. The film was the recipient of a prestigious production grant from the Sloan Foundation.

"I think the story is important because it focuses on a relatively unknown and widely overlooked part of recent history - the AIDS scare of the 1980s and the accompanying persecution of gay individuals. Even 30 years later, members of the LGBTQ community face challenges, though for different reasons than before. Magic '85 deals with prejudices, stigmas and overcoming them. In an increasingly global world, it's essential for us to understand more about each other and be more accepting. Magic '85 urges us to do so, and even though the story is specific, the themes are universal," he said.

As the editor for the film, D'Mello used his discretion to tell such a heavy and emotional story in the most impactful way possible. While filming, the footage looked incredible and the actors' performances were strong, but he ended up rearranging scenes and finding more efficient ways to tell the same story in a limited runtime. Whether it was adding off-screen lines for characters, or even taking out dialogue that seemed unnecessary, the balance of information and emotion came from the editing process. Stylistic elements, such as slowing down time and ramping it up when necessary, also were determined by the editing.

"The team on this project did an incredible job in telling the story, and the film is one of the most unique projects I've worked on for a number of reasons. It has a unique visual style, has great actors, employs very specific, emotional subject matter, but most importantly, tells a complete story that has not been told before," he said.

With the help of D'Mello's extraordinary editing talents, Magic '85 has seen massive success both critically and commercially. Not only was it an Official Selection at several prestigious film festivals around the world, but it has received many award nominations, including Best Live Action Short Film at AFI Fest 2018, and Best Narrative Short at the 2018 Atlanta Film Festival. It has also screened at the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival - one of the largest in Asia. The accolades are always the cherry-on-top of a project for D'Mello, but the most fundamental aspect of success for him is how the audience has reacted to the film.

"Magic '85 has been welcomed by not just the LGBTQ community, but the filmmaking community as a whole. We have had people describe how the film reminded them of that particular time and of friends or loved ones who were victims of the virus as a direct or indirect result of the lack of information, the fear, paranoia and the prejudice towards members of particular communities during that time period. I feel proud and grateful to have been part of a project that means so much to so many people," he concluded.

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