5 NIGHTS IN MAINE: Grief & Loss

The stellar David Oyelowo (SELMA) and Academy Award® winner Dianne Wiest join forces in Maris Curran’s exquisite drama FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE, about a widower and his estranged mother-in-law who meet after a devastating loss. Heartbroken after the death of his wife, Sherwin (Oyelowo) drives up to Maine hoping to find some clarity and closure. But Lucinda (Wiest), who he knows to be harsh and cold, is suffering in her own way. In her magnificent debut, Curran balances raw emotions with a tender and atmospheric touch, allowing Sherwin and Lucinda the space to find peace as they become unlikely partners in healing.

Five Nights in Maine

Director Maris Curran talked to Montclair Film Festival about her thoughtful and intimate film.

How do you describe FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE in your own words?

Maris: FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE tells the story of two people coming together who have worlds between them. By focusing the film on a relationship between a grieving husband and his estranged mother-in-law, there is an obvious initial disconnect. The thread that binds them has snapped. To me, the most interesting aspect of the story takes place in that space, in the room where these two people negotiate how to treat one another and determine what type of a relationship, if any, they will have. FIVE NIGHTS is a story about worlds colliding at the kitchen sink. It is about loneliness, frailty and connection, and ultimately, the compassion that comes from opening your eyes to another’s pain in precisely the moment you hurt the most.

What drew you, as the writer/director, to tell this story focused on a husband and his mother-in-law after the unexpected death of his wife/her daughter?

Maris: I gravitate to stories that examine the joys and trauma of everyday life – particularly emotional stories that form the fabric of our lives, but are rarely discussed. For FIVE NIGHTS, I was interested in the ways that loss can bind people together rather than isolate them. I’ve found that in the U.S., we treat grief as an individual experience meant to happen behind closed doors. But there is little more universal than caring for someone and losing them – even if that loss is not a death. In making this film, I was interested in putting two people who are grieving quite differently together to spark conversations that will hopefully continue beyond the film.

The setting of rural Maine seems so visually and thematically important. Why does the husband Sherwin (played by David Oyelowo) decide to go visit his mother-in-law Lucinda (played by Dianne Wiest) at such a difficult time, when his wife never had a good relationship with her?

Maris: Maine is a character in the film. It is a place where you can imagine Sherwin, the lead, finding solace and at the same time feeling completely out of place. Maine is a place of incredible rugged beauty where Sherwin can feel close to parts of his wife he did not have access to.

So many of the film scenes involve extreme close-up shots of the main characters, creating almost an intimate knowledge of them and their emotions. Some scenes have barely any dialogue, other scenes use sparse dialogue. I read that many scenes in the film used hand-held cameras. What were you trying to achieve with that style of filming?

Maris: FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE is a sensual and intimate film. It is challenging in cinema to pull the audience into a singular emotional journey. By narrowing the frame and working with a handheld camera, we attempted to create the claustrophobic and uncomfortable feeling of grief. The film is shot by Sofian EL Fani, who previously shot BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR and TIMBUKTU. Sofian has a keen eye not only for composition, but also for emotional truth.

Montclair Film Festival attracts young aspiring filmmakers. What advice do you have for them?

Maris: The best advice I can give to a young filmmaker is – take the time to develop your voice and honor what is unique about you. And once you have, be true to that voice. Push forward, be kind, and help other filmmakers. We all always need a mentor and a mentee.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away after watching FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE at the festival?

Maris: In making FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE, I set out to make a film to move an audience – to create an emotional experience. I have found in the entire process of making the film that people want to share their stories of loss, which are stories of connection. It is my hope that the film will inspire cathartic conversations.

For more information about FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE check out the film’s websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Director Maris Curran and producer Carly Hugo will attend the screenings below.
Bellevue Theater 1, Sat, Apr 30 3:00 PM, STANDBY
Bellevue Theater 1, Sun, May 1 12:45 PM, STANDBY

Don’t be discouraged by Standby Lines – they work!

Interview by MFF blogger Nancy VanArsdale.

THE PEARL: Courage To Be

THE PEARL, an immersive documentary from the filmmakers Jessica Dimmock and Christopher LaMarca, explores the lives of four transgender women as they find the courage to express their true identities. Set in the postindustrial logging towns of the Pacific Northwest, THE PEARL delivers a gentle and honest story of transition, as told through the lives of Nina, Amy, and sisters Krystal and Jodie. Over a span of three years, their lives are transformed as secrets are revealed, marriages are shaken, and a new home is assembled in this intimate portrait of love and fear, rejection, and acceptance.

The Pearl

Director Jessica Dimmock talked to Montclair Film Festival 2016 about her thought-provoking film.

How would you describe THE PEARL in your own words?

Jessica: THE PEARL is the story of 4 transgender women who have come out late in life after living their entire lives as men in small towns through the pacific NW.

What drew you to this topic and want to tell this particular story?

Jessica: We found the story very much by accident. Several years ago I went hiking in the northernmost town in Washington and checked into one of the last rooms in a budget motel. The Esprit Conference, which attracts transgender women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, most of whom do not live full time as female, was going on there and I had walked into the center of it by accident. After meeting some of the women, and hearing their stories, I realized that I had stumbled upon a very interesting and underrepresented corner of the transgender experience. For these women, who had done such a good job of being men, the stakes were especially high. They have fully formed male identities that their spouses, loved ones, work colleagues and friends expect of them, and to take that off in order to be who they truly are is very complicated and risky.

Was there a casting process? If so, why were these women selected?

Jessica: We gravitated to women who had unique and compelling stories, and ones that we felt we did not often see in the media. We chose people who were not necessarily out to their families and had a significant journey ahead of them.

Each woman’s story was so different; can you let us know what they are doing now?

Jessica: Amy continues to live in her home, and has kicked out the younger women other than Alison, who very much respects her home and how they both want to live. Krystal, as we see in the movie, got an apartment in Portland and is going to PSU, while Jodie continues to travel and be on the road. Nina fully came out to her family after filming was complete, and had sexual reassignment surgery several months ago. She is doing great.

As a first-time feature director, do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Jessica: I’d say my biggest piece of advice is always to work on projects that you truly feel passionate about. These things are always labors of love and it is important to feel emotionally and creatively invested in them so that you can come back to them day after day.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Jessica: We genuinely hope that people are able to connect to some of the universal themes of the film – the need for acceptance, the desire to live as we truly are, the strength and courage and bravery it takes to live honestly as yourself. We hope that by the end of the film people will feel not as though they’ve seen a trans film, but instead have gone on a journey with some women that they have fallen in love with as much as we have.

What are you most looking forward to at MFF16?

Jessica: I’m really excited to see how audiences react to the film. This is our directorial debut and it’s been really interesting to see how audiences connect and react to the film. And most importantly, we are excited to be in the company of such excellent films.

For more information about THE PEARL, visit the film’s websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Director Jessica Dimmock will be in person at the screenings below:
Clairidge Cinema 2, Sat, Apr 30 1:15 PM, Buy Tickets
Clairidge Cinema 2, Sun, May 1 2:00 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Africa McClain.

THE SEER: Beauty in Rural Life

The family farm, once the essential source of food production in this country, has all but disappeared from the national landscape, creating an irreplaceable cultural void in the social fabric of American life. The award-winning writer and teacher Wendell Berry, heir to a small Kentucky farm, has created a body of work dedicated to preserving the beauty of life and labor in quiet, rural places. In her gorgeous, contemplative examination of Berry’s ideas, THE SEER: A PORTRAIT OF WENDELL BERRY, director Laura Dunn traces the distance between the reality of modern, corporate farming and the remnants of a vanishing way of life.

The Seer

Montclair Film Festival had the opportunity to interview director Laura Dunn about her engrossing and affective documentary.

How do you describe THE SEER in your own words?

Laura: I think of THE SEER as a portrait of my favorite writer, Wendell Berry. Its composition, as it reflects the nature of Berry, is necessarily contrarian in that the film is much less about how the world sees Wendell than it is about how Wendell sees the world. Rootedness to place is a key theme that weaves throughout all of Berry’s work – fiction, non-fiction and poetry – and so THE SEER ethnographically documents Wendell’s home of rural Henry County, Kentucky. Family farmers, young and old, reflect both a love for land and the complex economic/idealogical struggle to stay there. Hundreds of intimate and never-before-seen photographs of Wendell and his family through the years, archival footage documenting the rise of industrial agriculture, excerpts from various Berry writings and a series of original wood-engravings poetically frame the landscapes and farmers’ stories, ultimately asking the viewer to wonder how to more deeply engage the quiet and the old.

What made you want to tell this particular story?

Laura: I’ve known Wendell Berry’s work since high school. But it was at my EP Terrence Malick’s urging, when working with him on my first feature, THE UNFORESEEN, that I revisited Berry. I ended up choosing a poem of his to use in that film, and he so graciously allowed me to record him reading it. We interleaved that poetry reading throughout that film. And when we toured the film to festivals and beyond around the world, I was surprised to learn how few people had heard of Berry. So I wanted to make a film that would point folks to his books.

What led you to the works of Wendell Berry, and to infuse his poetry, prose and voice throughout the film?

Laura: Wendell has long been one of my very favorite writers. He conjures up a world in which I’d like to live – real, unvarnished, imperfect, organic and beautiful. I’ve been making social issues documentaries for a good long while now, and if you do the math, despair is a natural conclusion. However, Wendell’s writing soberly points at the painful realities around us while, through an artful lens, inspiring us to hope, perhaps against all odds, for something better. So since THE SEER is, in effect, a portrait of Wendell, his literary voice frames the larger narrative.

Why did you decide to segment the film into chapters?

Laura: I do not have a script before we shoot. I immerse myself in the material – in this case, I read everything I could find that Wendell has written – and then step into that world and respond to what comes. We collected a lot of different stories in Henry County, Kentucky, across all four seasons. I had a lot of themes form Wendell’s work playing out across these vignettes, both personal and visual. And, in the editing process, I like to try to find the natural seams in the collected material rather than impose an arbitrary structure. I do this for as long as possible. But inevitably, at some point, I have to work through the medium and impose some kind of narrative frame.  As I struggled with this in the editing room one night, I started looking through the many Wendell books on my shelf and realized that the way he organizes his books, with poetic chapter headings to group stories or essays thematically, could work with our film as well. I wanted the film, in a sense, to feel like a book.

Why did you include interviews within your film?

Laura: Interviews, for me, are the heart of a documentary.

What led to your decision to use archival footage within your film?

Laura: Wendell writes at length about his place, and the history is a key part of understanding where you are and where you are from. And since this film is, in effect, a portrait of Wendell, representing his past and his arc visually is key to rendering an intimacy to his story. I also used archival footage from the US Dept of Agriculture to document the beginnings of Wendell’s thinking on culture and agriculture – his response to the trends of industrial agriculture as they took root in the 1970s.

What is your connection to agriculture and the farming industry?

Laura: My mother is a maize geneticist who has long been searching for the origin of corn. I grew up in greenhouses, experimental corn fields and university Botany and Biology departments. My grandparents owned a Camellia nursery, and my great-grandfather owned and ran the largest pecan orchard in the world at one time. My roots are all from the deep South, and there is a long line of horticultural people.

As a documentary filmmaker, do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Laura: Begin.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Laura: I want them to want to turn off or away from the screen and go outside for a walk. I want them to want to read more (especially Wendell Berry books). I want them to be inspired to slow down and spend more time with their children, teaching them to “look and see” all that is around us. The last thing I want them to be thinking about is the film-making… My hope is that the film would make them engage in their own home landscape.

Are you attending this year’s Montclair Film Festival?

Laura: I wish! We have six young children at home, including a new baby, so travel right now is very hard for me personally. However, our cinematographer, Lee Daniel, will be attending Montclair and will be a fabulous representative of the film.

For more information about THE SEER, visit the film’s website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Showings:
Clairidge Cinema 2, Sat, May 7 12:00 PM, Buy Tickets
Clairidge Cinema 2, Sun, May 8 12:30 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Tanya Manning-Yarde.

SILICON COWBOYS: Tech Revolution

Jason Cohen’s SILICON COWBOYS tells one of the great David vs. Goliath stories of the digital age—the birth of Compaq Computer, a small, upstart company from Houston, Texas bound and determined to revolutionize personal computing. Standing in their way? IBM, one of America’s biggest and most valuable corporations, whose dominance of the computing sector was unrivaled. The creation of Compaq, its innovations, and its three maverick founders is the story of a revolution that reshaped technology forever.

Silicon Cowboys

Montclair Film Festival 2016 was delighted to interview producer Glen Zipper about his nostalgic and illuminating film.

How do you describe SILICON COWBOYS in your own words?

Glen: A techno-drama David vs. Goliath story that takes audiences on an unexpected journey back to the dawn of the personal computer revolution.

What drew you to this particular story? What qualities does SILICON COWBOYS possess that you appreciate the most?

Glen: Growing up in the 1980s and being one of the original “computer geeks,” I jumped at the chance to be part of telling this story. Also, the opportunity to work with Jason Cohen, a friend of over twenty years and fellow New Jersey native, was an equally exciting opportunity. Not only did Jason and I both grow up in New Jersey, we also attended the University of Wisconsin together where we shared many good times (and probably a few too many beers). It’s really hard to believe we’ve come full circle all the way back to New Jersey as collaborators on a feature film. And to be able to make this film with my friend and frequent documentary collaborator Ross Dinerstein was icing on the cake.

SILICON COWBOYS has a laundry list of qualities that I appreciate, but the two most prominent have to be the journey of discovery it takes audiences on and how Jason has so adeptly captured the nostalgic essence of a time and place.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Glen: Probably every single person in the audience at our screenings will have an iPhone. If you were to ask them who is responsible for that magic in their pocket almost every one of them would answer, “Steve Jobs.” This, of course, is true – but it’s not the whole story. Without the groundwork that was laid by Rod Canion and his team at Compaq, the iPhone may never have come into being. In fact, strange as this may sound, without Compaq we might all have “IBM-phones” in our pockets instead of iPhones.

So, when all is said and done, it would be hugely gratifying if this film helps to resituate audiences in their understanding of how we got to this moment in personal computing history.

What does it mean to you to be screening your film back in New Jersey?

Glen: It means the world. I grew up in New Jersey, and the chance to come home and (hopefully) make my friends, family and fellow New Jersey natives proud is incredibly exciting. In fact, to all my fellow New Jersians out there coming out to your festival – drinks on me after the screening.* (*one per audience member, offer only good while limited supply of cash in wallet lasts.)

How do you think growing up in New Jersey affected your taste in film and storytelling both in general and in SILICON COWBOYS?

Glen: Growing up in New Jersey and a stone’s throw from New York, I was reared on films and filmmakers rooted in my own geography. Filmmakers like Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith are a few of the obvious names that immediately come to mind. Overall, it seems to me that New Jersey and New York natives make (and want to see) films that represent and accurately portray the granular nuances of our environments and are less inclined to be drawn to hyper-stylized, embellished interpretations of reality.

With SILICON COWBOYS, I think Jason Cohen definitely brings that kind of granular nuance to the table. Using a very surgical narrative and emotional aesthetic, he throws us back into the 1980s and everything we see and experience feels authentic to the film’s time and place. In a time when documentaries are starting rival big-budget scripted features in terms of flash and sizzle, Jason took a big risk dialing back on such choices so as to keep us wholly immersed within the four corners of the film’s historical context.

Finish this sentence: SILICON COWBOYS is…

Glen: the greatest film ever made about three cowboys from Houston who started a computer revolution after almost opening a Mexican restaurant instead.

Director Jason Cohen, producer Glen Zipper and subject Rod Canion will be in person at the showings below.

Clairidge Cinema 2, Sun, May 1 4:15 PM, Buy Tickets
Bellevue Theater 1, Mon, May 2 7:00 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Amy Lynn Muniz.

BETTING ON ZERO: Fraud & Dreams

In December 2012, billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman announced that his company, Pershing Square Capital, had made a “billion dollar” short bet against the stock of the nutritional supplement company Herbalife. Ted Braun’s thrilling BETTING ON ZERO follows the incredible story of Herbalife’s battle with Ackman, tracing their conflict over the company’s business model and how that model affects communities around the world. But this isn’t just another Wall Street morality tale; like any great story, BETTING ON ZERO is one that weaves together uncertainty, deception, hubris, intrigue, and greed, creating an unexpected, deeply emotional impact on its audience.

Betting On Zero

Producer Glen Zipper talked with MFF about his stirring documentary and passion for producing films with stories worth telling.

How would you describe the film to those not in the financial know?

Glen: Money, fraud and the American Dream are in play in this deep dive into a high stakes, billion-dollar battle over the future of global nutritional products company, Herbalife.

What drew you to this particular story?

Glen: At Zipper Bros Films we ask two fundamental questions before deciding to get involved in a film: is it a story worth telling and is it a movie worth making? The questions may seem similar on the surface, but they speak to two very different criteria. The “a story worth telling” question asks if the subject matter at issue could, in some way, shape or form, contribute to a thoughtful, productive public discourse. The “a movie worth making” question asks, quite clinically, if we think people will actually come out and see the film. In the case of BETTING ON ZERO the answer was yes on both accounts almost instantly.

Director Ted Braun has been quoted as saying the film “has a lot of grey area.” Considering the zeitgeist surrounding the financial sector since 2008, was there ever any hesitancy on your part in getting involved in a story where a hedge fund manager is portrayed as a hero?

Glen: I’m not sure I would agree with the assessment that our film portrays a hedge fund manager as a hero. Rather, I think it would be more appropriate to say that BETTING ON ZERO tracks the story of a hedge fund manager on a moral crusade who aligns himself with a cause that most would regard as having heroic underpinnings. I’d rather leave it to audiences to decide for themselves if they believe this character is a hero or not.

What was your first impression of Bill Ackman?

Glen: As I’ve never met Bill Ackman personally, my understanding and impression of him was formed throughout our editorial process. So, to the extent I was able to form a “first impression” at a distance, I think it would be fair to say I found him to be a very driven, intelligent and complicated man. Which, as a documentary filmmaker, is exactly the type of character you hope to have when telling a story.

What would be the one piece of advice you would offer to aspiring filmmakers?

Glen: Making a film is like going on a crusade. If you don’t have religion for the story you’re telling, odds are you aren’t going to be able to see it through – and, even if you do have the necessary passion for telling your story, the odds are still stacked against you. That’s why it’s critical to be just as focused on the journey as you are on the destination. Even if your film doesn’t attain all your highest ambitions, there is so much to be learned, earned and enjoyed throughout the filmmaking process. Not the least of which are the friendships you make with your collaborators along the way.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Glen: The same thing I hope for with every film I make. First and foremost, I hope audiences enjoy the film and are happy to have given us ninety some odd minutes of their valuable time. Second, I hope the film sticks with them and contributes to a thoughtful social discourse going forward.

You will be attending the screening of your film at MFF. What are you most looking forward to about this Festival, and why did you choose to have your film screened here?

Glen: I am a proud New Jersey native, growing up not far from Montclair in Fort Lee, NJ. The opportunity to come home with a film and share it with my fellow New Jersey brethren was one I couldn’t pass up. Also, I’ve heard so many good things about the Montclair Film Festival; I’m very excited to finally experience it for myself.

Director Ted Braun will also be in person along with Glen Zipper at the showings below.

Clairidge Cinema 2, Sun, May 1 6:15 PM, STANDBY
Bellevue Theater 1, Mon, May 2 9:00 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Kevin Walter.

NEWTOWN: Pain and Perseverance

Filmed over the course of nearly three years, Kim Snyder’s NEWTOWN is the story of the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. The film details the experience of parents, children, and educators whose community was forever transformed and fractured, driving them toward an unforeseen sense of purpose. The resilience of the film’s subjects provides hope for the possibility of substantive change. At a time when mass shootings happen on an almost daily basis, NEWTOWN eliminates the noise and cynicism of the national conversation to focus on the power of human perseverance in the face of unfathomable tragedy.

Newtown

Montclair Film Festival 2016 interviewed Director Kim A. Snyder about her heart-rending, yet inspirational film.

How do you describe NEWTOWN in your own words?

Kim: NEWTOWN is a story of collective grief, human connection and community resilience. It is an intimate portrait of aftermath that bears witness to a horrific watershed event in American history – one that challenges us to question our national values and experience the fallout of gun violence long after the news cycle has come and gone.

What made you want to tell this particular story?

Kim: I was drawn to the profound effects of collective trauma and the need for many in Newtown to be heard on their own terms in an effort to make meaning out of the unthinkable. I wanted to pierce through a growing desensitization to these escalating incidents of mass gun violence through creating an emotional experience that humanizes the issue in a universal way.

How difficult was it for the people of Newtown to talk about the incident?

Kim: Of course difficult, and yet for those who participated, extremely cathartic and seemingly necessary in their process of grieving and healing. If they were not utterly compelled to bear witness to what they experienced that day, we did not go near it.

Did your vision of the film change, or evolve, over the three years it took to film? Did you end up where you thought you would?

Kim: Yes, it was like peeling an onion. The vision changed only in that in that first year, I did not feel comfortable penetrating the privacy of those most affected. My first connections were with the interfaith community, which informed an intimacy and framing that was at once philosophic, existential, spiritual to some extent, and lent a holistic approach to a community wrestling with the darkest of journeys. Fr. Bob, the priest who buried eight of the twenty children, was one who was among those severely affected in terms of trauma.

As I organically developed relationships with others through careful trust building, I began to develop a story of a town through a number of prisms including that of parents of loss, educators, first responders, neighbors, youth… faces that render a portrait of any town and one that would redefine victim and explore the profound effects of survivor guilt and the resilience required to repair the social fabric of the entire community in the wake of the tragedy. In this latter sense, the vision was in fact what I’d strived for at the outset.

On a personal level, what did you learn from the people in your film?

Kim: Wow, much more than can be rendered here… the dignity and strength that I have been privileged and humbled to experience and observe has been life changing. To put this into words is difficult to avoid cliche, but among some of the things that have given me deep thought in the course of making this film:

  • As community, we are indeed a collective and we cannot get through these things without that glue – to work diligently in one’s life to fortify those foundations of family and community.
  • That we are capable of unimaginable strength and dignity in the uncertainty of fate and as bereaved father David Wheeler describes, “the chaos of life.”
  • That creating a sense of purpose in the midst of pain and adversity is what defines human resilience – and the mission and unfettered determination, often fueled by anger, to do so can move mountains. In the midst of the Newtown story, each day one is lent the perspective that arises from “there but for the grace of G-d go I.”
  • That despite the natural desire to strive for “closure” for those things that bring us trauma, healing is more about integrating those experiences into the new person you must become.
  • That we cannot simply accept the fallout of gun violence in this country. We are all Newtown.

As a seasoned documentarian, do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Kim: To learn to flex the muscles of uncertainty and listen to instinct. To not become attached to anything too closely – not to your initial convictions of what you scripted, your temp music, etc… and try to marry rich!

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Kim: A profoundly emotional but rewarding journey to experience among community.  Perspective, anger, and uplift from a community that offers profound truth and life perspective. Most importantly, the conviction to participate in affecting change.

What are you most looking forward to at MFF16?

Kim: Seeing my friend and talented programmer Tom Hall and experiencing his line-up of filmmakers and work that is always such an intelligent and inspired mix. The Q&As.

What does it mean to you to be screening your film close to home?

Kim: After 3 years, I can experience the film with some of my community for the first time and in the tri-state area where there has been diligent focus on issues of gun violence. The attendance of some close and dear to me means the world to me – my college roommate! Because of proximity, we will also have the opportunity for some Newtown friends/film subjects who will participate in Q&A for the first time.

For more information about NEWTOWN and Director Kim Snyder, visit the film’s websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Director Kim A. Snyder and Producer Maria Cuomo Cole will be in person at the following screenings:
Clairidge Cinema 2, Sat, Apr 30 3:30 PM, Buy Tickets
Clairidge Cinema 1, Sun, May 1 7:00 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Michael Pilla.

THE ARBALEST: Inventive Comedy

When an unexpected tragedy befalls an amateur game inventor, his wife and a rival make a pact to share in the spoils of his invention. But when that invention becomes an international sensation, the pair chart different courses in their own lives, until desire brings them together again for one final game. Adam Pinney’s THE ARBALEST is a wildly inventive comedy that takes the details and design of the 1960s and 70s to new heights, turning a tale of unrequited love into an alternate reality where a beloved toy brings wild success and never-ending suffering.

Winner: SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature

The Arbalest

Director Adam Pinney talks candidly with Montclair Film Festival 2016 about the inspiration for this film and the creative process behind it.

Reviewers have been hard-pressed to describe your film or pigeonhole it by genre. How do you describe THE ARBALEST in your own words, and what genre, if any, do you feel would best represent the tone of the film?

Adam: I do think this is a rare sort of film that is a different genre to different people, and at this point, I enjoy the reaction that it gets, and how it takes away certain expectation from an audience. When you are told something is a comedy, then you go in expecting to laugh, or if you go in thinking it’s a drama, you expect to be moved in some way, and different people react so differently to the same situation. The way different ideas and moments hit you in this film offer so many varied reactions, and I think that makes for interesting cinema.

What made you want to tell this particular story and why did you choose to set the story during the late 60s-70s?

Adam: I wanted to tell a story about male entitlement and the dangers that leads to. Foster Kalt, the main character, is an adult who treats his feelings and obsessions in a way that an adolescent would and, for me, that was a fitting analogy to how the broader views of power and control seem to work.

It takes place in the 60s and 70s because a lot of my influences for the character stem from this period. It also is a sort of alternate-history piece, so putting it in the past allows opportunities to subvert the world you think you know. It also was just fun to be able to create sets and costumes and play in that space for a little while.

You’ve said that THE ARBALEST was a highly personal project. What feelings and/or personal experiences did you draw upon to create the storyline/characters?

Adam: I think this is one case where I might have been misquoted. While any project of this magnitude is going to be personal, based solely on the effort and time put into it, I wouldn’t say it’s something that comes from a very personal place for me.

Most of the feelings I put into the character come from the way I felt when I was 14 or 15, and I know many men who also felt this way when they were teens – that they were owed this returned affection from the girls they liked. Foster presented an opportunity to see those feelings from an outsider’s perspective, or from the perspective of someone who has matured in their thoughts about how we treat women in society.

The predominant theme of THE ARBALEST is that of obsession. As the creator of these characters, why do you feel that Foster is so obsessed with Sylvia?

Adam: When I was about 15, there was a girl in my neighborhood who I was in love with. We had never talked. I just thought about her all the time and every time I was around her, I would get butterflies in my stomach. She was a cheerleader. I was not anything close to a person who would be with a cheerleader. I still got the guts up to ask her out one day, and she said yes. I took her to McDonald’s. We sat by a lake. She let me borrow her Green Day CD. For me, this meant that we were going to make out all the time and get married and that was it. Of course, we never went on a second date. Her dad answered the door when I returned her Green Day CD, and he told me I should just go home. It made no sense to me. And my teenage obsession with her continued for about a year. That is the type of obsession I wanted Foster to have. One that was based solely on how I felt about the situation, and one that is so immature and unfounded.

How did you go about casting this film, and how much input did you allow the actors in developing their individual characters? Did you find that the characters changed/evolved during filming?

Adam: We cast the two leads because I either knew them or was familiar with their work. While we did talk a bit about character, I really wanted everyone to bring their own ideas to what they thought their character was like. Foster Kalt is a bit of an enigma and I wanted him to be uncomfortable to watch. Mike Brune brought so many odd tics and weird mannerisms to the character and it felt very organic and strange. It put me on edge, and that’s how Sylvia would feel being around this guy. I love his performance, and I love the take-no-shit attitude that Tallie Medel brought to Sylvia.

As a first-time feature director, do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Adam: Find a small group of people that you love and trust and make movies. Help them with whatever they need and allow them to help you with whatever you need. It takes a team to make a film and finding great collaborators is essential.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Adam: At the end of the day, I hope they are entertained and feel they watched something interesting and different. That’s what I love about film festivals. You can watch something that you are not likely to see otherwise and you can be exposed to varied forms of cinema.

What are you most looking forward to at MFF16?

Adam: Is it super lame to say EVERYTHING? I am beyond thrilled to be a part of this particular festival and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the films and meeting other artist and filmmakers! It’s also close to our lead actress, Tallie Medel’s, home, so being able to show it to her friends and hang out with them is going to be a blast!

Director Adam Pinney and actress Tallie Medel will appear in person at the following showings:
Clairidge Cinema 2, Thu, May 5 8:45 PM, Buy Tickets
Clairidge Cinema 1, Fri, May 6 9:00 PM, Buy Tickets

For more information about THE ARBALEST, visit the film’s websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Interview by MFF blogger Christine Rohloff-Gossinger.

JOE’S VIOLIN: The Power of Music

In her beautifully crafted short documentary JOE’S VIOLIN, Kahane Cooperman tells the story of Joseph Feingold, a 91-year-old Polish Holocaust survivor who donates his violin of 70 years to a local instrument drive. When the violin lands in the hands of a 12-year-old schoolgirl from the nation’s poorest congressional district, their lives intersect, changing both of them forever.

Joe's Violin

We asked Kahane and producer Raphaela Neihausen, both Montclair locals, about the creative process behind their touching documentary short and what it means to them personally and professionally.

How do you personally describe JOE’S VIOLIN and what made you want to tell this particular story?

Kahane: A 91-year-old Holocaust survivor, Joe Feingold, donates his violin to a local instrument drive, changing the life of a 12-year-old schoolgirl from the south Bronx, and unexpectedly his own. That’s our in-a-nutshell description. But at its heart, JOE’S VIOLIN is a story of the immense power of music to transcend age, history and cultural backgrounds and its ability to connect the most unlikely of people.

I had been wanting to make another film for a long time. I got the idea for JOE’S VIOLIN when I heard a promo on my car radio for WQXR’s instrument drive. I was driven to tell this story by pure emotion and a gut instinct that there could be something truly beautiful in the idea of two strangers sharing one musical instrument.

Raphaela: I’ve always been fascinated with stories of survival. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who immigrated from Eastern Europe, Joe’s story really resonated with me. My family similarly immigrated to NYC and music was (and remains) a key to our past, especially as my mother is a singer who still sings the melodies her grandparents taught her.

This film combined all my interests: pre-war Eastern Europe, Jewish traditions, immigration to America, the power of music to evoke the past and connect strangers, the magical city of New York where anything is possible, how small acts of generosity can fundamentally change the world. When Kahane told me about the film, I just had to work on it!

What was your relationship like with the subjects of your documentary?

Kahane: Since we began filming very early in the process, all of us experienced this story together, as it unfolded. When I first started, WQXR (the radio station who ran the instrument drive) had just received Joe’s violin, which was one of 3,000 instruments they received. I was able to follow the process as The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (MHOF) selected The Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls (BGLIG) and then the teachers and principal at BGLIG selected student Brianna Perez as the recipient of Joe’s violin. Our whole filmmaking team became close not just with Joe and Brianna but also with their families, the teachers, school administrators and folks at WQXR and MHOF. Let’s just say it’s been a bit of a love fest – we have all shared this moving experience and that is a real catalyst for bonding.

Raphaela: We were lucky to be following such wonderful people. Brianna was wise beyond her 13 years, thoroughly charming and absolutely lovely. Joe was soulful, genuine and incredibly sharp with his recollections. Brianna’s music teacher Kokoe Tanaka-Suwan was all heart – hearing her speak about her students was inspiring. Pretty much everyone we were fortunate enough to film or work with was really great.

What is your filmmaking background and do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Kahane: I’ve always loved the kind of storytelling that film allows. I went to film school at Columbia, worked for the documentarian Albert Maysles for several years and have made three of my own films – all documentaries. I have also enjoyed a long and wonderful career in television production but nothing ever replaced the joy I get from filmmaking.

It’s not an easy road and it takes a long time, so make a film about something you are passionate about. That passion will power you through the process and show in the final product.

Raphaela: Previously, I produced a feature documentary called Miss GULAG (www.MissGULAG.com). I made it with two dear friends – all three of us were first time filmmakers and operating purely on intuition and common sense. Despite it being our first feature, we wouldn’t let ourselves be intimidated. We pushed through and received grants from the the Ford Foundation and Sundance Doc Fund, had our world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and then went on to have the film be broadcast around the world. My advice to aspiring filmmakers: choose a topic you love because it will be tough! Your dedication to the subject matter will get you through the hurdles. More than you choosing a story, it has to feel like the story has chosen you!

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Kahane: I hope they are as moved by the story as I have been – that they see how one small act can have a huge impact.

Raphaela: I hope they’ll have two takeaways:
1) Small simple actions can have tremendous life-changing impacts.  Something that may seem insignificant to you, can actually change someone’s life forever.
2) Music is the world’s universal language.  It transcends time, culture and age to unite strangers; keeps memories alive across generations and provides hope in times of darkness.

What does it mean to you to be screening your film in Montclair where you live with your families?

Kahane: All screenings with an audience are an exhilarating experience but showing in my hometown has very special significance for me. Many of the people who worked on this film live in Montclair including my stellar producer Raphaela Neihausen and our Director of Photography Bob Richman – we also had other Montclairions adding their talents to the mix, including Eric Baker, who contributed to our graphic design, and Jim Black, who helped us secure music rights. Also, this film was fully funded through crowdsourcing and a large number of Montclair friends and neighbors contributed to our kickstarter campaign. This community truly helped make this film – so I think the screening at MFF will be a true community experience.

Raphaela: Screening JOE’S VIOLIN at MFF is incredibly moving for me. My husband and I came out to Montclair in 2012 to run the Montclair Film Festival and loved the town so much, that we decided to make this town our home and raise our son here. To now be attending the festival as a filmmaker is an absolute treat. I am so proud of how the festival has grown over the past few years and look forward to screening this very special film for a community of dear friends and neighbors.

Click here to view the film trailer.

JOE’S VIOLIN will be presented at the Wellmont Theater on Saturday, April 30, 11 AM. This special screening will feature a musical performance and extended Q&A with the filmmakers and subjects. BUY TICKETS FOR JOE’S VIOLIN NOW!

SLASH: Modern Teen Angst

In this surprising, heartfelt coming-of-age story, Neil (Michael Johnson) is a lonely teenage boy who spends his days avoiding eye contact and his nights crafting erotic fan fiction about his favorite science fiction hero, Vanguard (Tishuan Scott). But when Neil learns that his schoolmate Julia (Hannah Marks) shares his passion for unorthodox storytelling, the pair’s ambition to reach Comic Con and meet their fellow writers brings them together in unexpected ways. Clay Liford’s SLASH is a winning tale of self-discovery, finding your passion, and learning to love your inner nerd with everything you’ve got.

Slash

Director Clay Liford gives us some fun details about himself and the creative process behind the making of SLASH.

How do you describe your film in your own words?

Clay: SLASH is the story of a teenage boy who, in trying to figure out his own sexual identity, turns to the world of erotic internet fan fiction.

What made you want to write this particular story?

Clay: I’ve never seen a coming-of-age film truly immersed in the internet. It’s such a huge part of modern life, and I wanted to reflect that. Plus, kids like the ones portrayed in the film, questioning kids, don’t really have a movie of their own. I wanted to provide that. Being a teenager can be really tough! Maybe this movie can make it 2% easier for a few kids.

Growing up, were you a comic book fan? How do you relate to the main character?

Clay: I was a comic convention kid. My dad would drop me off at the local con with twenty bucks in my pocket and I’d go adventure seeking. It was sort of the first thing I really did without adult guidance. I think Neil, my protagonist, is sort of without a net in the same manner. We share a lot of similar qualities.

What was the casting process like?

Clay: We had a terrific casting director, JC Cantu. We found our leads through him. It was really a night and day experience based on the ramshackle way I usually cast my pictures. Finding Michael Johnston and Hannah Marks was a godsend. They really are the heart and soul of the movie. If they didn’t work, the whole thing would have crumbled to dust. Thankfully, they worked. And much better than I ever could have hoped.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?

Clay: Learn how to do it all. A jack of all trades is NOT a master of none. That is horsecrap. The self-sufficient filmmaker doesn’t need anyone to give them permission to make their movies. They just do it. Ironically, the better you get at being self-sufficient, the more people will want to work with you. So now, I pretty much have a full crew and I just get to direct. I love irony.

What is your favorite movie genre? Why?

Clay: I love genre films of all sorts. Horror, scifi, comedy. I like a bit of flavor-text. Something other than just DRAMA. But I do love historical dramas. But see, again, that’s a flavor!

Are there any particular movies you find influential towards your work?

Clay: I’m a huge fan of guys like Hal Ashby and, more recently, Todd Solondz. There’s something not necessarily dark, but subtle about the comedy in their movies. It’s stuff where one person can see it as a drama, and the person sitting next to them is laughing their ass off.

Have you always wanted to be a director? How did you get started?

Clay: This is a lame answer, but I’ve always wanted to tell stories. I tried my hand at (bad) playwriting. I sort of came to film a tad later than a lot of my peers. Oh, I did really want to be a stop-motion animator like Ray Harryhausen when I was a kid!

I went to UT Texas for film studies. I ended up shooting anything and everything I could while I was enrolled there and had access to equipment. By the time I graduated, I actually served as the Director of Photography on two feature length films. After that, it was off to the races. And I pretty much never had a “normal” job. Again, that jack of all trades thing.

What do you think MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Clay: Hopefully, they’ll have a few laughs and learn about a type of creative outlet (slash fiction) they either have never heard about before, or only heard about derisively. I don’t think anyone can watch this movie and not feel empathy with our characters. That’s not me. That’s Michael and Hannah.

What are you most looking forward to at MFF16?

Clay: I love meeting filmmakers I haven’t connected with before. I love seeing films that are not on my radar. Fresh discoveries!

For more info on SLASH, check out the trailer below, and visit the film’s websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Director Clay Liford will be in person at the showings below.

Showings:
Bellevue Theater 2, Sat, May 7, 4:45 PM, Buy Tickets
Bellevue Theater 1, Sun, May 8, 2:15 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Bridget Cunningham

TRANSPECOS: Border Patrol Noir

Deep in the heart of the American desert, three officers— Davis (Johnny Simmons), Flores (Gabriel Luna), and Hobbs (Clifton Collins Jr)— patrol a remote border crossing. On a typical day, their routine consists of a few minor stops, an arrest now and then, and a whole lot of boredom. But when a single car stop throws the trio into crisis, their allegiances shift, forcing them into an unexpected conflict, uncovering secrets roiling just beneath the surface. Greg Kwedar’s award-winning TRANSPECOS is a sun-drenched noir that will pin you to the edge of your seat.

Transpecos

Read MFF’s insightful and inspiring interview with Director and Screenwriter Greg Kwedar below.

How would you describe TRANSPECOS in your own words?

Greg: TRANSPECOS follows three U.S. Border Patrol agents, best friends and partners, during one day on the job in a lonely section of the desert. What begins like most days, where the boredom and heat is so severe it can choke you, becomes a violent journey into the strange heart of the border. My writing partner Clint Bentley and I spent over four years researching and writing this script. Border Patrol is a very insular agency, and to push past the bureaucracy and into the hearts of the men and women who do this job we had to venture out into the desert ourselves. There we’d often find agents bored out of their minds eager to talk to anyone with a pulse, and we’d pretend to be lost tourists with an upside down map. As soon as they saw us as people who were genuinely curious about their work and not there to judge them – the stories started to flow. This evolved into closing bars in one-stoplight towns with agents, and from there we started to build these characters, and this world.

What made you want to tell this particular story?

Greg: In college I started an organization that took college students down to the Texas/Mexico border almost every weekend to work in underserved areas. We were trying to understand what it means to be a global citizen and connect with families who were torn apart and stuck in limbo in this border land. It wasn’t completely altruistic; we drank beer every night and ate a lot of tacos. But I started making my first videos down there to capture what I was seeing, and knew that when I made my first film that I’d come back to the border and tell a story there. I never thought it would be about Border Patrol because all I knew of agents was when they’d lean in my car window at the border and ask if I was an American citizen. But once I started researching Border Patrol and started to learn more about the agents who do the job I became fascinated. It’s our nation’s largest law enforcement agency and I believe it’s least understood. Over 60 percent of agents are Hispanic and do a job that is complex and dangerous. But we were most excited to tell the human story behind the uniform.

What do you think TRANSPECOS says about our current political environment?  Do you like the idea of a wall on the US-Mexico border?

Greg: Oh boy. This is a loaded question! While this is an issue I care deeply about, we worked very hard to never explicitly state a message behind the movie. It was our hope that the film could inspire a conversation where the audience can arrive at their own message and become the change agents. We sought to display that the border is vastly complex, with human lives caught in the balance. I’ll say this about the political environment surrounding the issue – I wouldn’t trust any simplistic solution to this conflict, the wall included. It’s been said that the borders we make for ourselves define us. If this is so, our border demands to be examined. Not from a lofty perch insulated by ideology, politics, and morality, but thrust into the deserts, riverbanks, and mountain ranges that contain the border. And deeper, into the hearts of the people who traverse it. We’ve been inheriting and passing on this conflict since the Apaches and Comanches fought over the same land ages ago. It’s my sincere hope that we can interrupt the cycle of violence and despair and once again live up to the poem, The New Colossus, that is inscribed at the base of our Statue of Liberty. And when has a wall ever been a good idea throughout history?

What insights can you share about the people who serve our country at the border?

Greg: In researching this movie over four years and spending a lot of time getting to know agents I could talk your ear off on all the amazing stories and details about the agents who do this job. Like any law enforcement agency in our country there is a spectrum of character and integrity. I was fortunate to work closely with very honorable men who wore the green uniform. Yet, in an era post-September 11th, the agency grew very quickly and a lot of the standards from the old days got watered down. Where agents used to work in the towns they grew up in, coached little league and volunteered at the local fire station – now these communities are infused with new agents from all over the country who were former used car salesmen, Wal-mart clerks, Army vets from Iraq and Afghanistan who were literally recruited by posters that said, “Like the outdoors? Join Border Patrol!” This brewed a lot of distrust within the community and agents became more like an occupying force in a foreign land and only had each other. Literally, some guys I knew would have to drink a beer in the next town over. But on the opposite side of the coin I’ve heard amazing, compassionate stories like the same planes and helicopters that would look for illegal immigrants would drop care packages of candy and gifts over Mexican border towns at Christmas. It’s a strange world down there.

How did you select the actors who play your lead characters?

Greg: First, I worked with a brilliant casting director Rich Delia who came onboard very early into the process and has a track record of putting together special ensembles from SHORT TERM 12 to DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, and he had a wonderful understanding about the characters. You first formulate your decision by watching as much of the actor’s work as you can get your hands on and try to see a thread in there that presents something uncovered that could be discovered. I watched interviews with them – hell, I even read their tweets. But ultimately it comes down to an instinctual leap of faith that is cemented when you get to meet with them face to face. I think you can find everything you need to know as a director from having a meal with an actor. I’m eternally indebted to Clifton Collins Jr, Gabriel Luna and Johnny Simmons for their brave and committed performances. Clifton’s depth of preparation, Gabriel’s soulfulness on and off set, and Johnny’s journey of discovery all lent itself to each character and the overall experience of making the movie. I love them. I really do. I hope we make a lot of movies together.

Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Greg: Stop “getting lunch” to “pick people’s brains” and set a start date to make your movie. Some real, tangible date in the future where you fully intend to finally make your movie starts a whole series of events in motion that creates an authentic sense of urgency around your project. It’s “we’re shooting the first week of June” not “we’re hoping to shoot sometime in the summer.” People want to be part of a train that’s leaving the station. We always said we’d let an outside circumstance shift our schedule but never an internal one. I was guilty for years of the lie that if I can just meet the right people I can make my film a reality. Do yourself a favor and Google Ava Duvernay’s 2013 keynote address from the Film Independent Forum. It’s an important and motivating kick in the ass!

Any advice for writers working on screenplays?

Greg: My writing partner and I like to frame the way we write screenplays as following this path. First we start with a world or setting that fascinates us. Then we ask who are the people that occupy that place and are they in harmony or conflict with the setting they inhabit? And then we build the story to drive our characters through that place. I think it’s a cool way to construct a screenplay that seems counter intuitive, rather than high concept plot hook and then figure out who and where to hang it on we start from the bottom up to ensure our world and characters feel very lived in.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Greg: I hope they have a great time first and foremost. It’s a unique thrill ride into the heart of the border from a perspective I don’t think they will have ever seen. But more than that, I hope they experience the human connection to the conflict on both sides of the line, that the conflict now has faces and names.

What are you most looking forward to at MFF16?

Greg: Experiencing the movie with the wonderful MFF16 audiences and watching my peer filmmakers’ work. Also, I want to have a quintessential “Montclair” weekend – I’m waiting for recommendations of what I must do, eat, and drink! Let’s do this, ya’ll!

www.gregkwedar.com
www.transpecosmovie.com

Also check out TRANSPECOS on Facebook and Twitter.

Showings:
Bellevue Theater 2, Fri, May 6, 7:00 PM, Buy Tickets
Bellevue Theater 1, Sat, May 7, 6:45 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Karen Haas.

FREE IN DEED: Blind Faith

A single working-class mom (Edwina Findley) turns to her faith in search of a desperate miracle in Jake Mahaffy’s award-winning FREE IN DEED. Based on real events and set in the distinctive world of storefront churches, where the disenfranchised unite in search of refuge, FREE IN DEED depicts the desperate attempt by a lonely minister (David Harewood) to heal the mother’s son (RaJay Chandler). With powerful performances and a nuanced observational approach, Mahaffy offers a humane look at community driven towards blind faith when all else fails.

Free In Deed

MFF was excited to interview the director of this engrossing and emotional drama, Jake Mahaffy.

How would you describe FREE IN DEED in your own words?

Jake: Set in the distinctive world of storefront churches, and based on actual events, FREE IN DEED depicts one man’s attempts to perform a miracle. When a single mother brings her young boy to church for healing, this lonely pentecostal minister is forced to confront the seemingly incurable illness of the child and his own demons as well. The more he prays, the more things seem to spiral out of his control.

What drew you to this particular story?

Jake: Back when I used to look at the news I saw an article about a boy who died during a prayer service. I had grown up under similar circumstances, so the situation was not exotic to me. I understood how this might have happened because although I’m familiar with that church environment from childhood, I have not been religious as a man.

What originally sparked my interest was the dramatic irony of someone who wanted to do good, as the only person willing to act for the sake of this child, ending up involved in something tragic. The more he commits to changing circumstances out of his control, the worse the situation becomes.

FREE IN DEED is a film of intense emotionality. What was the process of sustaining and capturing that intensity on a day-to-day basis like?

Jake: It was a very short, fast, rough shoot. That circumstance led its own intensity and desperation to the process. Most of the passion comes from the church scenes where believers were genuinely caught up in the fervor of their faith. Those worship and healing scenes were not deliberately acted. On the first day of filming in the church, Prophetess Libra (who plays Mother) came out and said, “They think they’re making a movie. But we came to have church in here!”

What was the casting process like for FREE IN DEED?

Jake: The two professional actors, David Harewood and Edwina Findley, were suggested by producer Mike Ryan. Their willingness to commit to a risky project like this means that they were the best human beings and best actors for these roles. It means that they understood the project in the right way. I am a determinist in that I believe that people who should not be involved in a project will find a way to stay away. And those who must be involved will find a way to contribute.

The rest of the roles were filled by local Mempheans. We went to churches and asked people to be involved. RaJay showed up to an open call in Memphis and I auditioned him in a car. He was immediately amazing and completely committed. He was the only option and the best option. They all did fantastic work.

Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Jake: There are so many different kinds of people who make films – polar opposites in terms of intentions, politics, interests, backgrounds – I couldn’t generalize enough to say anything relevant. One of the most important things I’ve learned is not to make assumptions about anything. Assumptions involve secondhand knowledge or laziness and lead to clichés – not the best foundation for building any kind of unique, complex perspective on the world.

What do you hope MFF audiences will take away from your film?

Jake: An experience of empathy. Deep questions about how the events in the film first transpired and who or what is ultimately responsible.

What are you most looking forward to at MFF16?

Jake: Meeting with viewers. Film festivals are the only way to connect filmmakers with audiences. Festivals could serve a great purpose.

Learn more about FREE IN DEED by viewing the trailer below and visiting the film’s web site, www.freeindeedfilm.com.

Director Jake Mahaffy and Producers Mike Bowes and Mike S. Ryan will be in person at the showing below.

Showings:
Clairidge Cinema 2, Sat, May 7, 4:30 PM, Buy Tickets
Clairidge Cinema 1, Sun, May 8, 2:00 PM, Buy Tickets

Interview by MFF blogger Hermes Almeida, Jr.