Star of the Month: Magic Box's Teaching Artist Jon Appel

The intention behind the documentary film Melmilap is to tell a story that reimagines and interrogates the common narrative of a white guy going to a faraway land and coming home to tell tales about his journey. It strives to look beneath the surface of this well-trodden trope and uncover the complicated motivations behind it. A kind of privileged first-world cultural “emptiness” and quest for a high-flown “search for meaning” that too often traipses across lands, cultures, and ways of life, perpetuating unintended consequences, explains filmmaker Jon Appel.

As white American both enables, and in some sense hinders this attempt, allowing for the emergence of a new narrative that is willfully complex and avoids neat, conclusions. The film opens up space for discussion of race, class and cultural tourism.

An important aspect of the film is its focus on friendship as a connective and corrective force. Jon’s friendship with Guman, his former roommate, as well as his friendships with his language teacher Sarita and with his college friends Milap and Larry, help to structure the film within a context that is comfortable and grounded.

Jon Appel is an artist from Pleasantville, NY. He studied fine art and hand-drawn animation and went on to work under acclaimed animator Paul Fierlinger and documentary filmmaker Vicky Funari in Philadelphia. He currently resides in New York City and works as a teaching artist, teaching film and stop-motion animation in NYC public schools. Jon aspires to create visually compelling films that subvert oppressive social trends while instilling feelings of connectedness and kinship in human viewers.

Click here to watch the trailer