As a Washington University undergraduate — studying social thought and analysis as well as legal studies in Arts & Sciences — Aimee Lagos tutored kids from East St. Louis and later interned with a neighborhood stabilization project.
Now a film director based in Los Angeles, Lagos will return to campus Monday, April 23, for a free screening of 96 Minutes, her feature-length debut. Loosely inspired by true events, the film centers on four teenagers from two different worlds, starkly divided by class — until those worlds slam together in the course of a carjacking.
“You tell the stories you know,” Lagos writes in her production notes. “Or at least the ones you know you must tell. This film is a tapestry of stories that have touched my life — people I’ve known, places I’ve been, truths that have rocked me and moved me to want to expose them in a new light.
“Everyone has a passion project, one that they work for years to get made,” she says. “96 Minutes was mine.”
Henry Schvey, PhD, professor in the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences, remembers Lagos as a talented actor who starred in his production of S. Ansky’s The Dybbuk, aka the “Yiddish Romeo and Juliet.”
“Aimee played the lead role of Leah, who was betrothed to a young scholar in early childhood,” Schvey remembers. “When her father reneges on this promise, the young man dies, brokenhearted, and Leah becomes possessed by a Dybbuk, or demonic spirit. Her performance was simply unforgettable.”
Schvey and Lagos kept in touch, and last fall Schvey attended a screening of 96 Minutes as part of the St. Louis International Film Festival, where it was named best debut feature.
The film begins moments after the carjacking but unfolds in non-linear fashion, interweaving scenes in the car with scenes from earlier in the day. Audiences witness the harrowing mayhem of abduction, but also learn the characters’ individual stories — where they come from, who they are and how they ended up together on that fateful night.
“I was stunned by the film’s nuanced acting and brilliant writing and directing,” Schvey says. “I have never seen a more powerful film on the subject of race relations in America.
“It is that good.”
96 Minutes will begin at 7 p.m. in College Hall in the South 40 House. Lagos will be on hand to introduce the film and take questions afterward.
The event is sponsored by the PAD, the Office of Residential Life and the Film and Media Studies Program in Arts & Sciences.
For more information, call (314) 935-5858.