In a large, Golden Globe–inspired room sat 350 talented directors, editors and producers, all nervous about what production would be announced as the winner of the Sedona International Film Festival. The host walked onto the stage and opened up an envelope with the name of the winning production. Everyone was shaking, sweating, breathing heavily. “And the award goes to…BARDO!” The two young directors of the short film made their way to the stage, dumbfounded and in disbelief, thanking the crowd for their support and assistance.
Great Neck resident Scott Aharoni and colleague Dennis Latos, known as The Duo, took first prize at the Sedona International Film Festival in Arizona, as well as at the Snowtown Film Festival in North Carolina for their film Bardo. After months of editing and a premiering at the Dolby Theater in May 2016, Aharoni and Latos entered their film into 12 film festivals, with the goal of sharing their message with other filmmakers.
“We created the best film we possibly could have and we knew we were going to get recognized, but not to this scale,” Aharoni said. “The response we got from our first real film left us speechless at the podium.”
Bardo is about a New York taxi driver, Johnny, who looks to purchase drugs from a dealer, Marco, to escape his depression. Johnny then drives home Lily, who stands knocking on the car window in 30-degree weather. As the ride continues, a strange connection forms between them, with tempers flaring and police sirens sounding throughout the film.
“Through the art of visual storytelling, we have been able to take audiences on a short journey that leaves them with a powerful feeling of catharsis,” Aharoni said. “It comes down to the direction of the characters that allows them to portray the character and emotion correctly all the way to the process of editing the flow of how the story is told.”
Bardo and other films produced by the two young filmmakers were inspired by the deaths of Latos’s father from prostate cancer at age 48 and Aharoni’s grandfather succumbing to dementia. The topics of death and the afterlife have been common themes within their productions in order to both honor their biggest supporters and show that life goes on even in the worst of situations.
Aharoni got into filmmaking at Great Neck South Middle School under the direction of Robert Gluck, who saw that Aharoni had an artistic gift. Latos made short films and music videos as a child outside of school to improve his craft. The two met when they were teenagers and studied together at Hofstra University, learning about each other’s style and approach to filmmaking.
In addition to Bardo, The Duo will be directing, editing and producing the film The Untimely Gift, written by Arthur Panoyan. The film features a young boy with astrocytoma who documents his recovery from cancer with a camera, going through life with a more spiritual lens.
“We expect greater things from this film since we learned so much from Bardo and know how to tell an even more compelling, emotionally driven story,” Aharoni said.
With such success, The Duo hopes to one day be nominated for and win an Oscar for a blockbuster film. With future plans to be represented by an agency, the two want to distribute their films and theatrically produce them worldwide.
With such bold plans, the two hope to inspire others to never stop learning and to be creative and humble, advice that has led to both of their successes in the film industry. “The only person stopping you from achieving your goal is you,” Aharoni suggested. “Always learn from every step you take and better it the next time you try it again.”