When University of Miami journalism alumnus Hunter Stephenson graduated in 2005, he mapped out seven missions for himself. With his new film, “Hot Sugar’s Cold World” he has accomplished two: to pay homage to his own youth, as well as to update the musical head of films of the 1970s.
Stephenson’s film was selected by the BFI London Film Festival, scored an Honorable Mention for Best Feature at Hot Docs in Toronto and screened at Lincoln Center for the New York Jewish Film Festival. In addition to being a movie, his work can also be watched as a series on VICE’s Noisey website. On March 1, it will be available on Netflix.
The film’s subject is an electronic musician, Hot Sugar, who makes music from sculpting sounds from the physical world into off-planet compositions.
“Electronic music oozes from foreground to background as we exercise, party, nap and make out,” Stephenson said.
“Hot Sugar’s Cold World,” Stephenson explained, is as a blend of “scripted reality and documentary.” While Stephenson was working on “Hot Sugar’s Cold World” in 2012, he was concurrently developing a project with Director Adam Bhala Lough, who he decided to ask to join the team.
“Eventually it struck me that he was the right director for this film,” Stephenson said. “It took several months of convincing, but the director came aboard and we got to work.”
The film features a blend of unique characters that reflects Stephenson’s experience at UM, where he met a variety of distinct individuals, he explained.
“In a cool way, I think the film’s cast speaks to the styles and exotic spectrum I encountered there,” he said. “For instance, the rapper Heems and his mom are Punjabi-Indian, Jim Jarmusch is the quintessential silver fox New Yorker, and Hot Sugar explores his French-Jewish roots in the film’s Paris sequence.”
For students who watch the film – or watch it as a series – Stephenson said he believes they will find the story relatable.
“I expect they will find the film’s depiction of love and the sputtering, fleeting breakup that results very interesting,” he said. “Most students can relate to the way a relationship fizzles, and then cue tweets, notes, pics and texts from that relationship that keep reappearing like glitter in a car seat, or like a reblogged screaming skull GIF on the internet. The film explores this.”
The film also explores the balance of life.
“It also examines whether we can simultaneously lead the life we desire, date the person we desire, and create the art we desire,” Stephenson said. “The answer is always ‘no,’ but it’s bounced on a roulette wheel of asterisks. That’s why we’ll always hope and wonder.”
For those unfamiliar with the film’s character, Hot Sugar, Stephenson said they would still be able to enjoy watching.
“If you have not heard of Hot Sugar or been exposed to his music, be it on Comedy Central’s Broad City or on WVUM where he’s in heavy rotation, that’s fine. I actually recommend going into the film deaf and blind,” he said.
To watch “Hot Sugar’s Cold War” visit noisey.vice.com/hot-sugars-cold-world.
Feature photo courtesy Amplify Releasing / VICE Media 2015.