Kevin Haefelin’s short film “The Fuse” creates an enchanting New York City fable out of a story about an unlucky garbageman who rediscovers human kindness in the Bronx.
Following his 2018 short “Tight Spot” and his 2020 short “Trumpet,” “The Fuse” is the third installment in a trilogy about life in New York City made while Haefelin was a graduate student at Columbia University.
“The Fuse” follows Jorge Gabino as Cassius, a garbageman who gets fired from his job and decides to end his life — but each time he tries, he blows a fuse. As he travels to different stores to find replacement fuses, he has an experience that changes his outlook on life.
“It’s probably my most personal story in the trilogy,” Haefelin tells MovieMaker.
“Each of the films I wanted to basically give my vision of New York, and for this, I needed to have a certain style… with the production design and the colors, we wanted to have a palette to create a fable New York, and yet to make it really true to the New York that I experienced while living there.”
It’s a gorgeously shot, impressively acted film — and all with very few lines from Gabino, a first-time actor.
“When I started writing the script, the character had more lines. And then when I met Jorge and we worked on the script together, there was less lines, and then when we were on set, I kept it to even less lines,” Haefelin recalls. “We realized, basically, that just his eyes were enough to communicate, and there was nothing else needed.”
In total, Gabino has only four spoken lines, but his face alone tells the audience everything we need to know about his inner world.
The Idea for ‘The Fuse’ Came to Kevin Haefelin in a Dream
“It started from a lucid dream I had during the pandemic. It was hard to see New York with all those people dying and all this despair and everything, and it was really tough because I had this idea and I wanted to make a story about about hope and about all those forgotten people and the little things in life that you take for granted every day that could change somebody’s life,” Haefelin says.
“Those were the elements that basically sparked the idea of that film. The first image before I started writing the script was about this bird coming back after somebody has released it through a window.”
In order to capture the specific look he wanted for Cassius’ tiny apartment, he worked with production designer Ada Mitchev to build a set on Columbia’s soundstage. The controlled environment made it possible to work with a real live bird on set, and fun fact: it’s the same bird that Brendan Fraser’s character Charlie cares for in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. His name is Tweezer.
Haefelin grew up between Switzerland and South Carolina, where he went to high school. He got a BFA from Geneva University of Art and Design, and stayed in Switzerland for five years working in the industry before moving to New York.
“I went to Columbia to study my MFA in directing and screenwriting, and that really changed so much for me because I got to discover in New York, which is a very different part of the U.S. than the south. And I fell in love with New York City and I wanted to make an homage to the city by doing this trilogy,” Haefelin says. “It’s really a journey of me loving the city and discovering the people and the communities that basically make the city so lively.”
Being from Switzerland, Haefelin was able to get funding to make “The Fuse” from Switzerland’s Federal Office of Culture. It’s a co-production of Haefelin’s company, Kumoshika Productions and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse.
“The Fuse” had its world premiere at PÖFF Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and recently screened at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival in October. The film received the Jury Award at New Hampshire Film Festival, which qualifies it for this year’s Oscars race.
You can watch the trailer for “The Fuse” and find out more about the film on its website here.
Main Image: Jorge Gabino in “The Fuse.”