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Aruba International Film Festival


 

Aruba International Film Festival Year 5 Kicks Off October 7-11 2015.

The Aruba International Film Festival (AIFF) quickly became the international film community’s “must-attend” summer event after its opening in July 2010. After 4 intensely exciting years, the festival took a break in 2014 for a complete makeover and now is back with full force to celebrate year 5 from October 7th-11th, 2015. 

The festival offers a pleasurable and inviting atmosphere for filmmakers, press and film lovers. It serves to not only develop an understanding and appreciation of the art of cinema and filmmaking, but also to inspire, educate and promote emerging local and regional filmmaking talent. This in turn has helped position Aruba as a center of art, culture and creativity, and as a viable destination for international film and commercial productions.

The AIFF was founded in 2010 by film producers Jonathan Vieira and Giuseppe Cioccarelli, with artistic direction by 30-year industry veteran Claudio Masenza. Previous editions of the festival have showcased a diverse array of critically acclaimed fiction films and documentaries from every corner of the globe, and have attracted such notable industry names as:

Hollywood leading man Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman)
Multi Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, The Aviator)
Mexican writer/director Guillermo Arriaga (The Burning Plain, Babel)...

 

 

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Interview with Filmmaker Zachary Sluser on THE DRIFTLESS AREA (2015)

Interview with Filmmaker Zachary Sluser on THE DRIFTLESS AREA (2015)

Zachary Sluser

Filmmaker Zachary Sluser’s debut feature film “The Driftless Area”, based on the novel by Tom Drury, tells the story of bartender Pierre (Anton Yelkin - Star Trek, Onlt Lovers Left Alive) who returns home to the small Midwest town of his birth after the death of his parents. It is an existential homecoming for Pierre whose mind is filled with memories and imaginings of his past while faced with the real world chaos around him caused by the crime capers of local criminal Shane (John Hawkes- American Gangster, Lincoln). While struggling against the negative space of the “The Driftless Area” and Shane’s antics, Pierre meets the luminous and mysterious Stella (Zooey Deschanel – Elf, 500 Days of Summer) and a weird magical love story evolves.

 

In a recent interview with Zachary Sluser, here is what he had to say about the making of "The Driftless Area".

VM: How did you come across the book and decide you wanted to turn it into a film?

ZACH: I read Tom Drury’s first novel and was immediately drawn to his very spare prose and its Midwestern characters. I found he had very matter of fact dry humor that I really responded to. When I saw he had all that in his new novel, which was more mysterious and ethereal, called “The Driftless Area,” I knew immediately as I was reading it that it spoke to so many things inside of me. The questions it raised about fate, destiny, time and reincarnation; the fact that it deals with all these themes in a very dry matter of fact tone, and not in a pretentious manner, spoke to me and made me laugh. I read it twice in two days and then wrote him a cold email. We met soon after he was coming back from a book tour and I said, “this has to be a film and it has to be me to direct it.” Luckily, he was open to that and we collaborated on the script together. I also made a short film based on one of his New Yorker short stories called “Path Lights.” That’s when we met John Hawkes, who was instrumental to this feature.

VM: Did you do the short to get ready for the feature with Drury?

ZACH: I’d made other short features and taken them to festivals, but when Tom shared “Path Lights” with me it seemed like a great opportunity to showcase what Tom Drury and Zachary Sluser as collaboration would be. Serendipitously I was connected to John Hawkes through that movie, and if I could continue working with John through the rest of my career I would be very lucky.

VM: John Hawkes is great to work with?

ZACH: He’s not only one of our finest character actors but he’s also one of the kindest and most honest people in Los Angeles, and anywhere really. He was instrumental to getting the rest of the cast together with me, and showing that they could trust a first time director. I owe John everything.

VM: Would you consider this movie to be magical realism?

ZACH: Sure. There’s a number of genres at play here and not any one of them on their own are spot on with the movie. Yes, there is magical realism but it’s not a wide-eyed fantasy; it’s a very winking kind of magical realism. Humor is very much the tone not a normal fantasy. It also has elements of noir, crime, romance and drama.

VM: It has that Mid-American empty mood that something is missing and has gone wrong or some kind of obsession with controlling the natural environment that can’t be controlled. Was that intended?

ZACH: Yeah, there are many things gone wrong and many people trying to have them align with their own interests if the universe would let them.

VM: Can you tell us what it was like to work with Zooey and Anton?

ZACH: Anton was my first choice for that role and luckily he responded to the script. He was wonderful to work and he’s a very deep thinker. We’d spent hours asking different questions both about Pierre and his background and the themes that the book brings up. Anton would buy books on quantum physics and was reading some very heady stuff. But Anton is also a very silly and playful person as well, and has that balance. He’s a very hard worker and a very sweet and sincere person, which shows in his work. The moment I met with Zooey, I could tell she had the right kind of inquisitiveness to take on the role. She was excited to try something different than the TV show she’s been doing recently and get back to the indie films she was making at the beginning of her career. I was excited to introduce her new audience and remind her old audience the versatile performer that she is. I think she turned this into nuanced and soulful work in the role and still quite funny as well. She’s very naturally stunning.

VM: Do you have any memorable moments during filming that you can share from the shoot?

ZACH: When we were shooting all the scenes near the end of the movie in the orchard, a torrential rainstorm happened. Our walkie-talkies went dead and we were caked in mud. We only got through 1/3rd of what we needed to that night. It was very difficult conditions but we just kind of embraced the conditions and said, “Well, at least it’s going to look good.” The actors were very patient. When we came back the next night we had to cover a lot of ground. My DP Daniel Voldheim, myself and our AD had to reformulate the game plan to make sure we could get everything we needed to in a very short amount of time so that was a big challenge. It was also very challenging to make British Columbia look like the upper Midwest. We spent a lot of time in pre-production finding the architecture because there’s not a lot of buildings there that show history and wear to them like they do in the US; all the brick buildings that have a lot of decay to them you don’t find in BC. The shed, the brick buildings, old wood, the trees, the landscape, finding all of these for the whole notion of the “Driftless Area”, which is a real place. When the glaciers in the last ice age flattened the rest of Midwest they kind of left this apocalyptic land like a time capsule so it’s still rough and it’s got these rolling hills, rock bluffs and highlands. In BC, we had to find a topography that wasn’t totally flat but not very mountainous so we really spent a lot of time on that. The crews there are wonderful though, so we lucked out with a great crew but it took some time to find the look.

VM: And you shot there to use the tax credit scheme?

ZACH: Yes, there’s an incredible opportunity with the tax incentive in BC.

VM: Your film recently opened the Aruba International Film Festival. How was that?

ZACH: Awesome! The movie premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. To then bring the festival to Aruba was a lot of fun. The audience was very receptive and warm. People were so friendly and it was exciting to show the film to a Caribbean audience.

VM: What are you working on next?

ZACH: I’m writing some new things and certainly planning to work with John Hawkes again. We got such a spectacular cast on “The Driftless Area” that I feel very humbled as a first time director. I worked with some veteran and deeply talented actors so I would work with any of them again. I’m looking forward to working with John Hawkes in everything I do, if he’ll let me. So, we’ll see.

*The film has been bought by Sony Pictures and will be released early in 2016. 

 

-Interview by Vanessa McMahon

 

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