When I was twenty, my mother was killed in a helicopter crash with rock music promoter Bill Graham, whom she had recently begun dating after a nearly two-decades courtship. To many rock musicians and fans, Graham was a god; to my brother, my sister, and me, who hardly knew him, it seemed his death was so big it just took our mother with it.
"Helicopter" is a recreation of the emotional aftermath of sudden loss. Nothing could have prepared me for the loss of the person who knew me better than anyone in the world. Nothing could have prepared me for the absurdity of a "famous" death.
My sister Nina performed the answering-machine voice of our mother, and my twin brother Ethan composed the music for the film, but, not wanting a documentary, I used actors (actually friends of mine) to play the three of us on film. The movie combines re-enacted scenes--and a few photos and videos from reality--with several kinds of animation which are close to how I actually experienced the truth. I made "Helicopter" with so many different unreal elements in order to draw a chalk circle around a very personal event, in the hopes that by the last frame of the film, a viewer sees through the circle to his or her own life. I wasn't interested in presenting objective reality--I preferred the subjective reality of a young man, still wanting to talk to his mother about romantic troubles, who suddenly finds that his mother no longer exists. This is the reality of a person trying to comprehend death.
Finally, the film is about the way the mind can filter through any cacophony to find life's core, the one thing that matters: love.
"Writer-director Ari Gold's 21-minute short film, HELICOPTER, recounts in impressionistic detail the aftermath of his mother Melissa's death in the helicopter crash that also killed her boyfriend, promoter Bill Graham. The film has been making an uncommon stir at festivals everywhere, and with good reason--it's an effulgent burst of heartbreak. Employing a narrative pastiche that includes acted vignettes, a black-and-white animated re-creation of the crash itself, poignant answering-machine voice-over and personal photos, Gold deftly conveys the fractured nature of loss: how memory, despair, indignation and even elation surge and recede in the mourning mind." - L.A. Weekly (Pick)