By Miranda Myers & Jamison Province
Nathan’s Kingdom debuted at the Dances With Films festival on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, held at Hollywood’s famed Chinese Theater. Directed by Olicer Muñoz and starring Culver City High School alumnus, Jacob Lince, Nathan’s Kingdom explores the relationship between Nathan (Lince), a young man with Autism, and Laura (Madison Ford), his troubled and pill-addicted sister. When Laura’s difficulties in supporting Nathan come to the attention of the state, Nathan and Laura run away. On this journey, Nathan and Laura challenge each other and their relationship through a combination of childhood-inspired fantastical sequences and grounded, human interactions all in search of a long-imagined kingdom.
The film was honored as the winner of the Sedona International Film Festival.
Lince, who is on the autism spectrum himself, found his passion for acting as a young child in Culver City. “There was this one troupe I was part of, called ‘Delightful Productions’ in Culver City,” Lince explains during the film’s premiere. “It’s a live-acting stage troupe for kids and teens and I got to be in a production of Beauty and the Beast which was fun.”
Now, with his first leading role, Lince says that he’s had nothing but encouragement from his hometown friends and family. “There’s a lot [of support] from everyone and I’ve been making a lot of new friends.”
The director says, As the director, I was very adamant that the lead role of “Nathan” be played by an actor on the autism spectrum,” adding “Jacob had never acted in a narrative film of any kind, but he listened carefully to what I had to say. My gut feeling was that Jacob had a natural ability to take direction well. This needed to be explored.” Further, Munoz adds, “Jacob is one of the first actors with autism to play an autistic character and also carry a narrative feature film.”
Diagnosed with autism at age three, Lince gives credit to his progress to the Culver City School system. Some residents may remember or even attended the 2012 CCHS production of “Sweeney Todd,” which featured Lince.
Lince says he’s happy to see a representation of autism in film, but that his primary goal was to portray the character in the best way possible. “There’s definitely some importance to portraying someone with autism,” Lince explains. “I felt connected to the character. We’re different in many ways, but I felt a kind of metaphysical bond to him. Our experiences and the way we see the world is very similar. I feel like that ‘headspace’ helped me relate to Nathan.”
Lince explained that the movie, which depicts highly stressful and emotional situations, “Definitely has a lot of scenes that required a lot of emotionality, [which was] really hard to do at first.” However, after talks with Muñoz and some internal thinking Lince explains that “I found a place that could make [those emotions] seem genuine.”
Muñoz felt that “The very clear message is, when you stick together, you can overcome all obstacles. At its core, Nathan’s Kingdom is about two young adults who are just trying to overcome their circumstances, and it’s something that’s really universal and it just so happens that one of the siblings is on the autism spectrum.”
Lince admitted he was relieved to be back in L.A. because, Lone Pine, California where they shot a significant portion of the movie was “Very hot. Very, very hot,” but insisted that despite the heat, “It was a really amazing experience and I’m really looking forward to the future.”
Speaking to Muñoz and Lince, the ego or pretension one may expect from a professional director or actor is nowhere to be found. Muñoz makes his passions and intentions clear, in an approachable and humble manner. Lince looked the part of a Hollywood actor during the photo shoots of the premiere, but upon engaging him in conversation, it’s immediately clear that he’s far more honest than you’d expect from an upcoming star.
Myers and Province are both CSF honors graduates of the 2015 class of Culver City High School.