Filmmaker Sasha Lebedeva talks new film ‘Hex & Rage’

Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Sasha Lebedeva has taken Hollywood by storm. At only 23 years of age, this award-winning writer and director has achieved what many take their entire careers trying to attain. 

First and foremost a storyteller, Lebedeva’s work has been appreciated at an international level. Her 2019 film Rebound saw great success at many prestigious film festivals around the world, such the Other Venice Film Festival, the Lift-Off Film Festival, the AltFF Alternative Film Festival, and the Accolade Global Film Competition, where she took home two awards including the Award of Recognition in the Best Women Filmmakers category. Other winners of the Accolade have gone on to win Oscars, Emmys, Tellys and other major awards. She has seen continued success with her other works, including the film STAY AT HOME movie, a pandemic short film that was premiered on NoBudge, featured on Girls In Film and screened at the Chicago International Film Festival’s CineYouth 2021. It also received the Best Comedy award at The Luna Collective Digital Film Festival and Best Editing Nominee at 2020 SFTV Awards, and her music videos such as “When It Ends” by Avery Lynch ft. JORDY, a recent TikTok sensation, and “Get Enough” by Volumes have been immensely popular. Just this month, the video for Jenna Raine’s hit song “see you later (ten years)” featuring JVKE was released. The music video was commissioned by Warner Records, with the song hitting number one on Spotify globally on October 19, 2021, and Lebedeva as honored to lead the prolific project.

“I like the freedom of filmmaking. You never know where your next job will bring you. It’s one of those professions where you’re actually growing creatively,” she said.

Lebedeva’s recent project is what she deems the highlight of her esteemed career thus far. Hex & Rage, which she co-wrote and directed, follows two teen witches who avenge their stripper friend by hexing the man who assaulted her. Starring Clara McGregor and Riel Macklem and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Alyson Feltes, Hex & Rage presents audiences with an authentic depiction of female characters that display flawed and complex personalities. 

“I wanted to explore the power imbalance and how those in power can get away with many things. I find that the majority of young people today are growing incredibly frustrated with all of the injustices of the world, and they are taking real actions to change them. Amber and Gia don’t want to be passive viewers, instead, they strive for change,” said Lebedeva. 

Lebedeva strives to create absurdist dark comedies with surreal elevated visual style, and this was exactly what she was going for on this project. She wanted to confront the traditional male gaze while making a story about witches. It is wildly entertaining, while promoting change and challenging unacceptable societal norms. 

“Jacaranda, the sexual assault victim and a sex worker, was the character that needed to be handled very carefully. She is in a very vulnerable position, so I wanted to acknowledge her trauma but at the same time give her the agency of a person who doesn’t need to be saved.

Amber and Gia understand that as a Latina trans stripper, Jacaranda has little chance of achieving justice if reported to the police. But at the same time, blinded by their own privilege, they see her situation as a call to action and decide to avenge her. They may not have a good plan, but in their eyes, the world could do with one less rapist. And with amateur magic, anything can go wrong,” said Lebedeva.

Lebedeva took a very hands-on approach to her directing while making Hex & Rage. The aesthetics were extremely important to her, going so far as to pick out her own props. She created detailed aspects of the background that may go unnoticed while watching the film for the first time but were essential in transporting audiences from their chairs into the world she had created. This greatly impressed the team she worked with, who are keen to work with her again.

“It was incredible working with Sasha; she is a creative force to be reckoned with. Sasha has an extensive knowledge of cinema, a unique eye and creative mind. Her work stands out from other young filmmakers due to her intuition and vision,” said Clara McGregor, one of the stars of the film.

Hex & Rage premiered in October 2021 at the Nashville Film Festival, the oldest running film festival in the South and one of the oldest in the United States. Most recently, it has been selected for the Cinema Femme’s Short Film Festival, taking place April 28th to May 1st on the Filmocracy festival platform among 22 movies. The short film is in its festival run, with many more prestigious festivals expected throughout the year. It will then be distributed to the masses, so be sure to keep an eye out for it. It’s one you won’t want to miss.

Photo by Bryan Octaviano

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