A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
RULES BROKEN Moonlight may not be a blockbuster, but it has a chance to be shortlisted for an Academy Award, and has launched Barry Jenkins as one of Hollywood's top emerging directors. Brokeback Mountain was a pioneer for LGBTQ films breaking into the mainstream, but we always wondered if the success could be replicated without major A-listers and a famous director like Ang Lee.
Well, not only did Moonlight have an almost all-unknown cast, but it tastefully tackled an intimate low-budget film about a gay black man without being preachy or cliche. Bravo.
MOONLIGHT | UNITED STATES
Barry Jenkins | A24 Films | Plan B Entertainment |Trevante Rhodes | Mahershala Ali
Director Mark Raso and Actors Frederikke Dahl Hansen & Gethin Anthony discuss Copenhagen.
5 Films that Broke the Rules
Robert Misovic | December 19, 2016
FRUITVALE STATION | UNITED STATES
Mark Raso | Fidelio Canada | Gethin Anthony | Frederikke Dahl Hansen
RULES BROKEN Not only was Copenhagen low-budget, it was virtually a no-budget film at under $80,000 (estimated). Mark Raso's film not only manages to tastefully explore a highly age-inappropriate relationship, tip-toeing the line between controversial and despicable, but also pays homage to Copenhagen, Denmark in a way no other film has, and works with 3 key actors; only one of whom (Gethin Anthony, Game of Thrones) who would be known to anyone west of the Atlantic.
A no-budget feature film where the central love story was between a 28 year old male and a 14 year old girl? The fact that it was at Slamdance and Gasparilla film festivals is impressive. The fact that it's on Netflix and has the same rating on Rotten Tomatoes (93%) as No Country for Old Men? Pretty damn impressive.
LOCKE | UNITED KINGDOM | UNITED STATES
The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
RULES BROKEN Fruitvale Station was a festival darling, and a micro budget triumph. Without any big names, Fruitvale also featured an almost all-African American cast, a rookie director, and a culturally sensitive topic which could have very easily fallen victim to being overdone. With the rise of #blacklivesmatter and racial tensions over racially motivated police shootings of African American men, making a film about the subject matter without being overly political was nothing short of difficult.
A young Spanish woman who has newly moved to Berlin finds her flirtation with a local guy turn potentially deadly as their night out with his friends reveals a dangerous secret.
RULES BROKEN Where to start? First, the film doesn't cut. Ever. For 2 hours and 21 minutes, it's 1 take. That means if someone forgets their line 2 hours into the shot, you start over. And they did start over twice. But as the saying goes, third time's a charm. But apart from that, the film's well written, brilliantly acted and manages to truly hold your attention despite the gritty and sometimes under-lit night shots.
VICTORIA | GERMANY
Ryan Coogler | Significant Productions | OG Project | Michael B. Jordan | Melonie Diaz
Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence.
RULES BROKEN If you have Tom Hardy acting in a Stephen Knight script, you almost always have automatic distribution.
Locke had a lot going for it, but when you consider the low budget, and the fact that Tom Hardy spends exactly 99% of the film in a car alone talking on a phone, the fact that the film was so well received is a miracle.
Barry Jenkins poses with the 3 actors who played Chiron.
COPENHAGEN | CANADA | DENMARK
At their surface, these 5 films have very little in common apart from their budget and lack of star-power. They manage to do things differently, and they do them very well. While they explore conventionally unmarketable concepts, characters, and relationships, what they do correctly is thrust into focus due to air tight writing, solid direction, attention to detail and near pitch perfect acting.
Cast & Crew of Victoria at the Berlin Film Festival.
Robert is a writer for Pensare Films Media. He loves cinema in all its glory. Follow Robert Misovic on Facebook for more Film Reviews and Film Festival-related goodies
Sebastian Schipper | Monkeyboy | Deutschfilm | Laia Costa | Frederick Lau
Tom Hardy really loves Stephen Knight.
Stephen Knight | Shoebox Films | IM Global Tom Hardy | Olivia Colman | Ruth Wilson
After weeks of traveling through Europe the immature William finds himself at a crossroads in Copenhagen. Not just another European city, Copenhagen is also the birthplace of his father. When the youthful Effy befriends the older William they set off on an adventure to find William's grandfather.
Effy's mix of youthful exuberance and wisdom challenges William unlike any woman ever has. As the attraction builds and William truly connects with someone for the first time in his life, he must come to grips with destabilizing elements of his family's sordid past.
Long-time friends Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler in Vanity Fair.
The Not-So-Good 'Good Guy'
This isn't the clear-cut protagonist that Hollywood usually rolls out. There's a depth and complexity to the central characters in each of these films which is particularly well done.
Whether you're rooting for Oscar Grant in Fruitevale Station, or empathizing with Ivan Locke as he figures out how to confess his adulterous affair to his wife and kids, these characters are written masterfully, so that you root for them, even if you know they're not completely on the right side of morality at all times.
Tension & Clear Goals
This should be writing 101, but it's surprising how many films fail to pack just enough tension to pull audiences into the film. Victoria is a masterclass in tension from the opening scene. You feel hopelessly in love with the protagonist and are immediately unsure of what that protagonist's outcome will be due to the film consistently putting her in unnerving situations.
Fruitvale marketed itself as a story about Oscar Grant on the last night of his life. He's going to die. We know that from the opening scene. The story acknowledges the rule that it's breaking here, and uses it to its advantage by telling us the story in a non-linear manner.
All of these films are clearly aware of the rules that they're deliberately breaking. In that sense, they're all hyperconscious of themselves. Locke relies on brilliant writing and acting to compensate for the lack of action. If you don't have an actor of Tom Hardy's calibre, it doesn't work. Locke director, Stephen Knight also focussed on casting excellent supporting actors, all of whom took voice over roles, but were absolutely crucial in the story working as well as it did.
Copenhagen director Mark Raso debated having William (Anthony) and Effy (Dahl Hansen) perform an intimate sex scene, but ultimately realized that such a scene would make the film absolutely unmarketable for American audiences given Dahl Hansen's Effy is only 14 years old in the film.
Focus on the character. While Moonlight stands alone as the only one of these 5 films which ambitiously extends the timeline of the story to span over a few days (the 3 acts of Moonlight span well over a decade), the focus of each of these 5 films is the inner conflict of the central character. While all films do to some level deal with the protagonist's inner conflict, very few devote as much attention to doing it as well as these films.
Whether we're focussing on Victoria's loneliness, Oscar Grant's attempts to do the right thing, Ivan Locke's desire to not be like his father, William's complicated feelings about Effy once he discovers her age in Copenhagen, or Chiron's desires to be a normal African American man, whilst coming to terms with his homosexuality, these five films kick exploration of the protagonist into overdrive.