Every year, thousands and thousands of Santas gather in Manhattan. Their purpose? Not to give out gifts or spread cheer to little children, but rather, to get piss drunk.
In his short film Santacon, director Austin Peters gives us a close look at one of New York City’s most excessive holiday traditions. Shooting from a ‘man-on-the-street’ perspective, Peters wanders the streets of the Big Apple, documenting revelers being naughty and nice.
However, rather than being jovial about the celebrations, the film highlights dark truths behind the merrymaking and debauchery. That underneath these festive faces and red and white suits are people escaping their problems through heavy hedonism.
It’s more jarring and depressing when you realise that, we as viewers, are the only ones sober in a crowd of intoxicated people revealing their raunchiest, vulgar selves.
We had the chance to talk to Austin Peters to find out more about Santacon. Check out our interview with him below.
Why did you decide to make a short film on Santacon?
“I live in New York City; it was something that I saw happen every year and I felt compelled to document it.”
Are you the type who attends Santacon, or avoids it completely?
“Before making the film I had never attended Santacon. I never really completely avoided it though; I think I probably was always attracted to the big chaotic spectacle of it.”
The film documents the merry-making that happens at the event, but it has dark undertones too (especially with the slow Christmas carols). Could you tell us more about this?
“I tried to make something that was experiential, that felt in some way like being there. The music is all supposed to add to that. The film starts nervous and slightly buzzed and then becomes more sloppy and melancholy as it goes on.”
What was the most memorable thing you witnessed at Santacon?
“30,000 people dressed like Santa Claus.”
What does the film try to tell its viewers? And for you personally, what was your biggest takeaway during the filming process?
“I always wanted to know what Santacon was all about. I walked away from making this film feeling like it was about loneliness. Like everyone there just wanted to participate in something, like if you put on a Santa suit you fit in and that was a powerful thing.
“Also, people love any excuse to get really drunk.”
Lastly, what are you working on next?
“I just premiered a film I directed called Give Me Future at the Sundance Film Festival and I will be taking that to a few other film festivals for the next few months.”