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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Interviews

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Jeremiah Zagar (We the Animals)
Desiree Akhavan (Mis-education of Cameron Post)
James Ivory (career)
Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)

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Entries in interview (211)

Thursday
Aug162018

Interview: We the Animals' Jeremiah Zagar

by Murtada Elfadl

We the Animals has been compared to Moonlight (2016), The Tree of Life (2011) and Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). While the comparison is reductive it provides a shorthand for describing this film. It’s a story of three young brothers - one of whom is queer - and their relationships with each other and with their unpredictable parents. There are elements of magical realism in a story grounded in the economic desperation of a working class family in upstate New York.

Raul Castillo (HBO’s Looking) and Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) give perceptive performances as the adults. However it is newcomer Evan Rosado, playing the central character of Jonah, who’ll take your breath away. More sensitive and conscious than his older siblings, Jonah increasingly embraces an imagined world in the secret journals in which writes and sketches. It is an assured narrative debut from documentary filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar. We loved the film when it played Tribeca last spring. We had the chance to speak to Zagar recently in New York.

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Murtada Elfadl: You've said that you read the book in one sitting while still at a bookshop, before even buying it. What popped in the book for you and made you want to make it into a film?  

Jeremiah Zagar: Literally the first page of the book is so visceral, rhythmic and immersive that I couldn’t stop reading it. Beyond that it felt like something I knew how to visualize. I read a lot of books but very few where I feel that I know how to make them into a movie. Somehow I felt this connection to the material that wasn’t only emotional, it was technical almost. I didn't want to change it at all, I just wanted to figure out how to put it on screen. I could see it, I could hear it, I could feel it in my head before it happened...

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Saturday
Aug042018

Interview: Desiree Akhavan on Queer Desire, Americana and One Scary Mustache

by Murtada Elfadl

The Miseducation of Cameron Post takes place in the 90s and is about a young queer woman who is sent to a gay conversion center after getting caught having sex with the prom queen at her high school. Once there she bonds with her fellow “inmates” (played by American Honey’s Sasha Lane and The Revenant’s Forrest Goodluck among others). She is forced to contend with the strict brother and sister team (Jennifer Ehle and John Gallagher Jr) who run the center and pretend they can "cure" her. The film is based on a novel by Emily M. Danforth and was adapted for the screen and directed by Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior). It won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance and has been making the festival rounds since January. We recently spoke with Akhavan in New York as she geared up for the film's release. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Murtada Elfadl: The book is longer and has much more detail, how did you arrive at the story for your film?

Desiree Akhavan: I always knew that I only wanted to focus on the last 200 pages; Cameron's time at God’s Promise. I think that when adapting a book it’s about whittling down for yourself what the kernel of inspiration is. What you loved about it and wanted to translate to the screen. And what you think you tangibly can translate into a different medium. To me that was the tone. My co-writer and I were always working in service to maintaining that tone... 

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Thursday
Jun142018

In New York, A Repertory Film Renaissance

by Murtada Elfadl

The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant

A film I desperately wanted to see that had eluded me for a long time was Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972). I promised myself that I wouldn’t succumb to watching it at home;  I’d wait and hope that it would eventually appear soon in a repertory theater. And sure enough it did, three months later. I got the full theatrical experience of the classic film, screened in celluloid glory. I’m glad I waited. My first screening of A Place in the Sun (1951) happened only last year, and was so exhilarating it was my favorite film I’ve seen in a cinema in 2017. Ditto Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1999). I enjoyed all these films and more without distraction, in the dark, projected big and among fellow cinephiles...

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Wednesday
May232018

Interview: Director Haifaa al-Mansour & Actor Douglas Booth on "Mary Shelley"

by Murtada Elfadl

Douglas Booth and Elle Fanning as the Shelleys in "Mary Shelley"

The new biopic Mary Shelley is about the famous writer, played by Elle Faning, while she’s in the throes of writing the Gothic magnum opus Frankenstein, at only 18 years of age. The film tells the story of the events that led her there. Those include her tempestuous relationships with renowned romantic poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth) who would become her husband, and with her half-sister Claire (Bel Powley). The film takes us to the trio’s fateful stay at Lord Byron's (Tom Sturridge) house at Lake Geneva, where the idea of Frankenstein was conceived.

This is Haifaa al-Mansour’s second directorial project after the 2013 festival hit Wadjda. Wadjda was the first feature shot entirely inside Saudi Arabia, and the first ever directed by a Saudi woman, making al-Mansour a true trailblazer. It''s not surprising then to find her drawn to the story of Mary Shelley, another pioneer. I found a through line, despite the period setting and different locations, between the two films. Both stories of young women determined to chart their own destiny. So that was where I started my conversation with al-Mansour and Booth when they were in New York last month for the Tribeca Film Festival. THE INTERVIEW IS AFTER THE JUMP...

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Tuesday
Feb272018

Interview: James Ivory on "Call Me By Your Name" and the Merchant Ivory Legacy

by Nathaniel R

Highlight of 2017: Meeting one of my true gay heroes, James Ivory.

They say you should never meet your heroes. But "they" haven't met James Ivory. The legendary director, currently nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars for Call Me By Your Name (2017) is 89 years old but you wouldn't know it. He's sharp and talented and thoughtful as ever. It's his fourth nomination in a rich career that extends way back to the late 1950s though he's best know for the popular costume dramas he made in the 1980s and 1990s with his producer and life partner, the late Ismail Merchant (1936-2005).

I had the pleasure of meeting with Ivory at the Middleburg Film Festival earlier this season.  I didn't quite intend to begin gushing but it couldn't be helped. He was deeply formative in my life, one of the first two or three directors that made me fall in love with the medium that became my whole life. I groused about his lack of an Honorary Oscar and I eagerly told him about a couple particularly memorable trips to see his movies with my parents. He shared a few amusing stories he's heard from other fans. Then we settled in for our discussion of his rich career, the restoration of some of his films, and Call me By Your Name. Our interview is after the jump...

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Monday
Feb262018

Interview: Greta Gerwig on what kind of filmmaker she's going to be

by Nathaniel R 

Greta Gerwig directing the prom scene in Lady Bird. Look, she's even dressed for the occasion!The first time we spoke to Greta Gerwig in 2013 for Frances Ha it was over the phone. Her voice was so animated it felt like an in person interview. She was learning the accordion because of that seismically magical moment in the French film Holy Motors and revealing to me that she didn't think being an "actor-for-hire" in other people's work would be her path. Little did I know -- though perhaps she did -- that the exquisite Lady Bird was coming. In between she wrote and starred in Mistress America (2015) and gave what is arguably her best performance in Mike Mills 20th Century Women (2016). The rest is of course current celebration and future history: Lady Bird proved a mainstream breakthrough as a writer/director. It's up for five Oscars including two for Greta Gerwig herself as a writer and as a director.

This time, speaking in person, that familiar voice is just as lively but her laughter even more infectious. She radiates as much joy from talking art in real life as she often has creating it onscreen as a performer.

When I ask her her how the accordion is coming, she admits she's "rusty" and that it hasn't been a movie that inspired her lately but 'certain books' though she leaves them unnamed. Whatever feeds your soul as an artist, that's where you go.

on set directing Timothée and Saoire in Lady Bird (2017)

I reminder her about that comment about acting for others not being her path and she says "I know..." in a goofily apologetic way, like she always knew where she was heading but just hadn't told us.  Our interview is after the jump...

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