Grasshopper Film Acquires ‘Holding Back the Tide,’ Queer Hybrid Documentary About Fate of New York’s Oysters (EXCLUSIVE)

Grasshopper Film has acquired North American distribution rights to “Holding Back the Tide,” Emily Packer’s meditation on New York’s oysters and their transformations in the face of an uncertain future. The film, which world premiered at DOC NYC last fall, plays this week at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.

According to the official synopsis, “Holding Back the Tide” is “an impressionistic hybrid documentary that traces the oyster through its many life cycles in New York, once the world’s oyster capital. Now their specter haunts the city through queer characters embodying ancient myth, discovering the overlooked history and biology of the bivalve that built the city. As environmentalists restore them to the harbor, we look to the oyster as a queer icon, entangled with nature, with much to teach about our continued survival.”

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Writer-director-producer Emily Packer is a non-binary, queer, experimental filmmaker and editor with an interest in geography and hybrid formats. “‘Holding Back the Tide’ was made with intersectional queer values, queer practices and LGBTQIA+ collaborators,” Packer said in a director’s statement, adding that “our creative choices [were] deeply rooted in our research and incorporate our subjects’ Black, Indigenous, immigrant and working-class histories.”

Packer’s previous work has been screened at film festivals and theaters across the country, including at Anthology Film Archives, the BlackStar Film Festival and DOC NYC.

“As a non-binary queer filmmaker working with a subject that regularly changes its sex as part of its reproductive process, it was important for me to create a vision of the oysters’ cultural economy that celebrated the environmental heroism of the oyster through a queer perspective,” they added. “Not only are most of the characters and actors queer people, but they also come to see that their gender evolution and self-actualization are reflected in nature. The film sees this reflection as necessary for cultural transformation and building a sustainable future.”

Here’s an exclusive look at the film’s trailer:

Production credits for “Holding Back the Tide” include producer and narrative supervisor Trey Tetreault; producer, archival producer and writer Josh Margolis; director of photography John Marty; editor Lindsey Phillips; editor, producer and first camera unit Ben Still; producer Liz Beeson; and second camera unit Lesley Steele.

The film’s music combines an original score and soundtrack made by a largely queer and trans group of musicians. The score was made by music producer Melissa Guion, also known as MJ Guider, and violinist and composer Abby Swidler.

The soundtrack includes selections from Grammy-winning artist Arooj Aftab, multidisciplinary artist Iury Lech, vocalist and producer Holland Andrews, Time Wharp and sqip. The film also features the music of Wael Elhalaby and other New York City artists who performed on location during filming. Ben Wittkugel (Ploeg Arts), an artist manager and co-founder of independent record label Winspear, served as music supervisor, with sound design by film editor and sound designer Kaija Siirala.

The Thessaloniki Documentary Festival runs March 7 – 17.

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