“Bottled,” a short film about grief by Christine Sloan Stoddard.

Mourning a great-uncle and a world before quarantine.

“My real-life grief hadn’t vanished, but it felt lighter, more manageable. Then the shutdown hit …”

To view the film, click here or on the link at the end of the artist’s statement.

Artist’s Statement

Sometimes art is an oracle. Two years after the death of my Uncle Bobby, the late geologist Robert Ginsburg, I wrote and directed the short film featured here.

All images are stills from the film.

But I wasn’t ready — logistically or emotionally — to release “Bottled” until March 2020, mere days before New York City’s COVID-19 shutdown. I can’t explain why exactly. I simply followed my impulse. As much as I wanted the film to resonate with others, I was mostly concerned with catharsis. At long last, I would click “export” and it would be finished. My real-life grief hadn’t vanished, but it felt lighter, more manageable. Then the shutdown hit and, much like my parafictional self, I found myself wallowing in bed again.

The film’s earliest viewers told me that the timing was perfect because of the collective grief we experienced in the first chapter of quarantine. Yes, there was our grief for lives lost, especially in my hometown of Brooklyn, the borough hardest hit in terms of confirmed COVID-related deaths. But we also collectively grieved our loss of normalcy. Would shopping at the supermarket ever be the same? Would we ever have live theater or birthday parties or weddings again? Would we ever see sick or elderly loved ones again? And what about those of us who are chronically ill or live with someone who is? Would stillness and withdrawal from public life become the new normal?

As New York City enters Phase 4 of re-opening, the dawn of a new era approaches. The George Floyd protests broke out, lasted for weeks, and have now largely faded away. During the day, summer camps meet and, at night, parties flood the streets of Astoria and the Lower East Side. Yet many of the same questions remain. Will the grief end? What will be our balm?

My film “Bottled” doesn’t directly answer any of these questions; it only lives in the same strange world that they do.

To watch “Bottled,” click here.

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Christine Sloan Stoddard is a writer, artist, filmmaker, and theater-maker based in New York City. Her books Belladonna Magic, Desert Fox by the Sea, and Water for the Cactus Woman have been recognized by editors at Ms. Magazine, Art in America, The Poetry Foundation, Bushwick Daily, and other organizations. Her newest book is Heaven is a Photograph, a meditation on a young photographer’s love affair with lenses. As the founder of Quail Bell Magazine, Christine recently co-edited the anthology Her Plumage, a collection of women’s writings, with Gretchen Gales. She is currently the artist-in-residence at HeartShare Human Services in New York, where she creates artwork for and with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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