In Conversation with Film Director Oren Moverman – Sarasota Film Festival 2015: Day Two

In Conversation with Oren Moverman

On my schedule for The Sarasota Film Festival’s second day was an afternoon In Discussion with Film Director Oren Moverman who had directed the festival’s opening night feature film – Time Out of Mind. The venue was the John C Court Cabaret Theater which is a part of the Florida Studio Theater located at Coconut and First Street, within a few blocks of the Sarasota Opera House.


It is an intimate setting with tables and chairs, rather than theater style seating.

You can see how close I was to the stage from my photos.

Moverman was going to be interviewed by Mike Dunaway, the Festival’s Creative & Programming Director, which would be followed by a short Q & A.

Oren Moverman seems to be on the fast track in the movie business. He was born in 1966 in Tel Aviv, Israel, His father worked for an Israeli bank, and in 1978, the elder Moverman was transferred to work for the bank in New York. They settled in Brooklyn. Oren was 12 years.

Dunaway is in the white shirt and beard. Moverman is clean shaven and wearing dark clothes.

Dunaway is in the white shirt and beard. Moverman is clean shaven and wearing dark clothes.

With some prodding from Mike Dunaway, Moverman told us that the first film he ever saw, beyond that which aired on Israeli TV was The Wizard of Oz. This is the one that captured his imagination, giving him his first clue about what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Moverman went to Brooklyn College and managed to get some non-paying jobs on movie sets – you know like the assistant to the assistant of the Assistant Movie Director. As we all know and have heard repeatedly, some of the most successful people in the movie biz started at the bottom.

Moverman has now directed three feature Films – The Messenger in 2009 was nominated for two Oscars – Woody Harrelson for Best Supporting Actor, and Mr. Moverman along with Alessandro Camon as the co-writers of the Original Screenplay. His second directorial effort was the feature film, Ramparts, also starred Woody Harrelson. And now, Time Out of Mind starring Richard Gere.

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The Forgotten Kingdom – @ 2013 Sarasota Film Festival

The Forgotten Kingdom was screened at the 2013 Sarasota Film Festival on Thursday April 11th, and Saturday, April 13th. Set in Johannesburg South Africa, and then mostly in the country of Lesotho, this is a remarkable film. Directed by Andrew Mudge, this film won the SFF’s Audience Award as Best Narrative Feature. This means that by post-screening paper ballots handed in by those who just saw the screening, The Forgotten Kingdom got the best score of all those films in the Narrative Feature Film category. This was not a Jury Selection award given by industry people selected as the Jury.

Mudge told the audience at the Sarasota Opera House on Saturday night that he lived in Lesotho for two years while making the film.

The film is visually gorgeous, and behind the visuals we often hear some wonderful African Reggae, while in Jo’berg, or some more traditional African vocals while in Lesotho. But this film is so much more than pretty images and foot tapping music.

There’s a strong narrative story in this film. In fact there are two stories which merge and become one unified and dramatic tale.

Joseph also known as Ateng, lives in rough and tumble downtown Johannesburg. He lives in a high-rise. The streets are active, alive, noisy, dirty, and dangerous. From a helicopter view we also see that Jo’berg is a very big city. Joseph is recognized by a local merchant who knew Joseph’s father back in the day when they worked together as miners. This merchant makes a point of telling Joseph that he recognized Joseph not only because of the facial similarities but also by the anger in Joseph’s eyes which was so similar to that of his father. He tells Joseph that he had heard that Joseph’s father was sick.

Joseph and his friends drive out to a township, an area that is more accurately described as a shantytown. But Joseph is too late. His father has already passed on. He finds a document and discovers that his father had already arranged and prepaid for a funeral back in his homeland, Lesotho.

Joseph is obliged to take his father’s body back to a small town in Lesotho. This is where Joseph grew up – only to have been uprooted when his father decided to get Joseph out of Lesotho as a small boy and get him set up in Jo’berg. Only Joseph did not live with his father. He was shunted from home to home, from this uncle to that aunt. He felt abandoned by his own father. And he was. But as Joseph would find out as an adult, the reason wasn’t just abandonment. It was the disease, known in the area as the virus, and known in the rest of the world as AIDS.

Joseph returns to Lesotho for the burial. He stands out with his worn city clothes, a threadbare suit and tie, and a leather jacket. The villagers all wear locally crafted blankets. Joseph will meet a girl, Dineo, who he went to school with long ago. She’s now a teacher at the very same school.

What Joseph experiences is the strong pull of the traditional life he had left so long ago. The clothes, the customs, the attractive girl Dineo. But he resists and decides the country life isn’t what he wants.

But the country life isn’t all that you might have thought. There, deep in the country, they have to come to grips with this very same virus, the AIDS virus. Dineo’s sister has contracted the virus and has brought deep shame to her father. He keeps her in seclusion at his home, but he’d do anything rather than care for her.

And this brings up to the second story of The Forgotten Kingdom – old Africa and the new modern Africa collide over the AIDS disease right there in this small Lesotho town.

There’s your set up.

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Frances Ha – 2013 Sarasota Film Festival – The Closing Night Film

Frances-Ha_510x800Guy at Dinner: What do you do?
Frances: It’s kind of hard to explain …
Guy at Dinner: Because what you do is complicated?
Frances: Because I don’t really do it …

And that my friends, is the essence of Frances Ha. As IFC Films tells us:

Frances lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but she’s not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness.

Later Frances will tell us: Sometimes it’s good to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.

That’s our girl, Frances Ha. She’s wonderfully portrayed by Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Noah Baumbach who also produced and directed this gem of a film in pure black and white. With Frances – awkward is the new beautiful. Putting her foot in her mouth is an every day event with her, and guess what – from the beginning of the film to the end – and even when you go WTF – it’s still endearing.

Remember when you were a kid, and your aunt or your uncle asked you, What do you want to be when you grow up? Well Frances is 27 and even now, she has no more idea about what the answer to that question might be than she did when she was 7.

The hits, or should I say the laughs just keep on coming at you. Frances and her best friend Sophie have shared an apartment since their college days. They describe themselves as “an old lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex any more,” and they’re straight not gay. Or “the two of us are like one person only with different hair.” Or the best one – Frances describes herself as being “almost a real person.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the premise. While her friends make plans, make decisions, struggle and ultimately find their way, Frances isn’t even able to hold her present position. While others succeed and move forward, she’s slowly and surely slipping backward.

But despite all of her all too obvious shortcomings, her awkwardness, (she even says that she’s too tall to get married) the fact she’s frustrating and embarrassing, Frances, as well as the film, keep their heads up. Gerwig’s smiles are infectious. Frances has this zest and the positive outlook that keeps her going. No apartment – no problem. No money? She’ll still pick up the check at dinner. No job, no worries – she’s working on it.

You’ll just love her.

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Pasadena – Day 9 – 2013 Sarasota Film Festival


Pasadena is a brand new film from Director Will Slocombe. It is so new, that they called its screening at the 2013 Sarasota Film Festival its World Premier. So new that they don’t even have a trailer out yet. How new is it Mike? So new that they don’t even have a full-fledged movie poster out yet either. What you see is more akin to a graphic design than a movie poster.

Starring Peter Bogdanovich, Cheryl Hines, Alicia Witt, Sonya Walger, Amy Ferguson, Ashton Holmes, Ross Partridge, and Wilson Bethel, the film is best described as being about an hour and a half of emotional terrorism, the kind that can only happen within a family, over a series of days around the time of the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. People sit down for dinner, but what is served at this dinner is not an overcooked turkey, or some poorly prepared food – instead, what we are served is nonstop nastiness.

Your cast

Your cast

It’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie only without the surreal overtones. It is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf but with eight people instead of four.

Peter Bogdanovich plays Poppy, the family patriarch. He’s married to Cheryl Hines who is his second wife. They have one young son. Poppy has two grown daughters from his first marriage – Lindsay and Nina who is the black sheep of the family and no one has seen her in 15 years. Hines as Poppy’s wife Deborah has her own adult son and he’s there with his wife. Lindsay is there with her husband and son. And when Nina arrives, dreadfully late, with her boyfriend and dog in tow, only then do they sit down for dinner. But things go downhill rather quickly.

This is one hell of a dysfunctional family. Poppy’s wife Deborah snores like you wouldn’t believe. Poor Poppy wakes up at the crack of dawn only too eager to leave his marital bed, and escape the din of Deborah’s snores. And to pour himself a nice tall vodka on the rocks.Yes, even at the crack of dawn. This is a running theme for Poppy – he always has a drink in his hands. Always.

Pretty soon Nina and Lindsay start sniping at each other. There is some humor here and there in all of this, but it is spread out so thinly, and so infrequently, that you might miss it, and it seemed that most of the time, when some folks laughed, they were in a distinct minority.

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Day Nine – A Very Busy Day at the 2013 Sarasota Film Festival

Let’s see. It is April 13th, and I’ve got a lot on my plate today. Really.

1) My Name is Faith – a documentary about Reactive Attachment Disorder.

2) The Forgotten Kingdom – From the streets of a crime infested neighborhood in Johannesburg, South Africa, a man returns to his ancestral home in Lesotho to bury his father.  There, it is a far different pace than the hurly-burly, rough and tumble life style he experienced in Jo’berg. He will revisit the place of his childhood and rediscover the power of the past that he had left behind.

3) Nor’easter – a feature film set on a small island off the coast of Maine, where a young priest brings about an answer to a local mystery – a boy has been missing for five years – and what follows brings on a crisis of faith for this priest.

4) Pasadena – The Word Premiere of this film directed by Will Slocombe is being screened as a Special Spotlight Film by the SFF. Starring Peter Bogdanovich, Cheryl Hines, and Alicia Witt. Like Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, the film takes place over a series of meals. But rather than being surreal as was the Bunuel film, this film is about the emotional terrorism than can only exist between family members.

5) The Filmmaker Awards Ceremonies and the Closing Night Film – Frances Ha starring and written by Greta Gerwig, and directed and written by Noah Baumbach. This event will be held at the Sarasota Opera House. The film also stars Mickey Sumner and Adam Driver.

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The Hunt – Day 8 at the Sarasota Film Festival

The Hunt aka Jagten, arrived in time for the 8th day of the 2013 Sarasota Film Festival. The film carried with it a billing as a top flight movie, and had a number of distinct film awards in its kit bag. Among the baubles were a Best Actor Award for Mads Mikkelsen from the Cannes Film Festival and a couple of major European Awards for Thomas Vinterberg who directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Tobias Lindholm. So my expectations were high, as were those who were lucky enough to land a ticket. The theater was sold out.

The film is set in the present and Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a kindergarten teacher in a small Danish community. That’s right – a kindergarten teacher. And I’m not kidding. The man who delivered an unforgettable cinematic blow to the Bondian jewels belonging to Daniel Craig, plays a school teacher.  Ah-nuld played one too, and now Mads. Get over it.

He’s pretty much of a normal and regular guy as the film opens. He’s off on a weekend of hunting, drinking, smoking with his pals. You know – boys will be boys And Van Morrison provides the music with Moondance. Lucas is as much loved by his male pals, as he is loved by the youngsters in the school. He’s separated from his wife and they’re going through some coordination difficulties over visitation rights for their teen-aged son Marcus. Lucas is a good-looking guy, and another teacher (Nadja) at the school sets her sights on him.

But then something happens, and based on what one of Lucas’s students, Klara, reported to Grethe, the school’s headmistress, Lucas quickly falls under a cloud of suspicion. The charges are dark, disturbing, and totally untrue. We know that he is innocent, because we know exactly where little Klara got her information from.

The film is not about an investigation, and is not about any kind of prosecution. What the film is about is the fact that an innocent man’s life is about to be ruined. Not by the law, or the cops, or the courts – but by public opinion.

Mikkelsen is simply superb in his role. He broods, and often his silences are so very telling. He underplays his role. There are simply no histrionics. He will suffer mentally as the townsfolk first look at him askance, then with disgust. He goes from being if not a pillar in the community, then he is at least a well liked and respected man – to a pariah.

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Nothing Without You – Sarasota Film Festival Day Two

 Nothing Without You, co-written and directed by Xackery Irving hit the screens on the second day of the Sarasota Film Festival. Despite having basically a no-name cast, Irving and his co-writer and producer Rick Santos, have crafted a psychological suspense thriller which is described as being about a psych-patient, accused of a violent murder.

She turns to her court-appointed psychiatrist to prove her innocence and sanity. Her psychiatrist must help her decipher delusion from truth to unravel the mystery of her reality.

There are some problems, the shrink is being pressured by her defense attorney who is looking for an open and shut psych defense that she’s not competent to stand trial.

The second problem is that from what we’ve seen, it looks like she is innocent. But we aren’t certain that what she saw was reality or was it a hallucination.

In an interview on the website, Xackery Irving stated that his main influences and inspiration came from watching the work of directors René Clément, Carol Reed, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock. In fact we see a Hitchcockian influence early in the film.

In Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, Roger O. Thornhill, played by Cary Grant, has a man who was stabbed by someone else die in his arms in the lobby of United Nations Secretariat building in New York. He’s even photographed with the knife in his hand. In Nothing Without You, the main lead, Jennifer Stidger, played rather convincingly by Emily Fradenburgh, watches from across the street as her lover’s wife is followed into a house, and moments later the man who followed her in, comes rushing out.

Suspecting something, she crosses the street and even breaks into the building (she has a lock-pick tool) to discover that this woman has been stabbed and is about to die. Of course she is suspected by the police. Just like Hitchcock’s protagonist Roger Thornhill.

That’s your set up.

Irving has successfully mixed elements of political skull-duggery, a philandering husband, rather excellent police work which includes chases on cars and foot as well technical elements like the following of a suspect by real-time cell phone tracking into an engrossing film.

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Brother and Sister (Dos Hermanos)

An Unexpected Delight!

A film called Brother and Sister (Dos Hermanos) dropped into the Sarasota Film Festival on Sunday. The show was most likely sold out as the theater was packed. In the festival’s program, the film was described this way: “Acclaimed Jewish/Argentinian Director Daniel Burman takes another look at family politics in this comic charmer.”

IMDB had no reviews in English for me to glance at. Would I be seeing a Woody Allen-ish family drama? Would there be laugh-at-loud jokes a la Neil Simon? Well the answer to those questions is that neither Allen or Simon came to mind as I watched. Besides that the characters weren’t the least bit ‘Jewish’.

As the film opens we find ourselves at a meeting of an apartment house’s residents. One of the apartment dwellers had just died the day before, and the topic under discussion was should they send flowers, or a palm, or make a donation. The discussion was not quite heated but there were many differences of opinion. Then she entered.

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