To kick off their annual cinema festival, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) premiered ‘Little Men’ as their opening night film this past Wednesday.
Returning for its 8th year, the BAMCinemaFest held a special screening of the new film in their Harvey Theater. Guests of the screening included the cast of the movie along with director/writer Ira Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Bustamante. Breakout stars of Little Men, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri, and acclaimed actor Greg Kinnear, were also in attendance and spoke about their roles in the films.
The film is set in modern day Brooklyn, New York and while on the surface may be an endearing film following the lives of two teen boys figuring life out, has undertones of a more pervasive issue – gentrification. Though dealing with a complex subject, Little Men still managed to execute a cinematically appealing movie that was light in nature. Both Kinnear and Sachs touched on the film’s key component of gentrification, among other dialogue surrounding the movie.
How was it working with the director, Ira?
Kinnear: It was great. We shot in Brooklyn. It has an authentic feel and it was a great cast. He does a very great job of creating a real environment on his set, and I enjoyed it a lot.
How has filming this movie shaped your thoughts on gentrification?
Kinnear: It’s troubling. In a world where immigration is the top story in the news, and the displacement of people. It’s happening everywhere. In big ways and small ways, it is happening right here in Brooklyn. The woman who we get into this dispute about [in the film] just can’t afford to live there anymore and the family can’t afford to have her not pay the rent anymore, so it’s all understandable. Yet, there is a certain heartbreak you have about seeing anybody being pushed out of their space. It’s a tricky subject matter – much more so than I realized at the start of the project. It really stayed with me. I think it captured a great sense of the pain and difficulty people go through in dealing with that.
What do you want people to takeaway from this film?
Kinnear: It’s a beautiful movie. The relationships are very lovely in it and I hope they leave with a sense of hope and understanding. The relationship between these two boys is heartbreaking and lovely, and beautiful and real. We’re all passing by each other at a very quick rate and some friendships last for a lifetime and some don’t.
How did you conceptualize the idea for this film?
Ira: There were two films by a Japanese director named Ozu, that my co-writer Mauricio and I saw and it was about kids who go on strike against their parents and we liked that idea. So we wanted to make a film following that plot. It really deals with the disconnect between child and innocence and adulthood and seriousness. You feel that conflict very emotionally in the film. The kids’ world is very free and cinematic and the adult world is enclosed and very formal and somewhat rigid.
Gentrification is the underlying basis for the film. What are your thoughts on the matter?
Ira: Most of us struggle with trying questions like ‘How do we afford the lives we have’, ‘How do we keep a roof over our head’. For me, these questions really speak to questions of character and to culture. This is story of Brooklyn, but it could be a story of Damascus or Paris or Des Moines. Everyone is trying to figure out how to live together.
What do you want the audience to takeaway from Little Men?
Ira: I really want the audience to have a good time, but I also want them to cherish the very indelible relationships they have, which are very precarious.
Tell me a little bit about your character.
Theo: My character is a sort of more internal artist named Jake. Though he might not be the most external person, he makes up for it in his artwork and his creativity and his imagination. He’s a very great storyteller.
How did you prepare for you role? Do you find yourself able to relate to your character?
Theo: Yes, I think there are aspects of myself that are much like Jake. I myself do my own short films so I kind of substitute that out for my artistry, because I don’t draw. But yea, there are quite a few similarities between me and Jake.
How was working with Ira? Were you nervous?
Theo: Ira! I was nervous because Ira is such a fantastic director. I saw his movie, Love is Strange and I think he’s the nicest guy to work with. He’s very, very, you know, willing and nice to you. It was just a great experience working with him.
What was your favorite scene or favorite part during filming?
Theo: Well I could answer for the scene that I was most scared for, it was the last scene in the film where I get very very emotional about this, that nothing is going to be able to change and I was really scared about this emotion that was supposed to come out at the end and Ira was like ok, no, you’re going to get there, you’re going to get there and in the end i got, so I was like yea!
With this being your first feature film, how was filming?
Michael: It was an amazing experience. I work with talented people, such amazing people. To me, I don’t really try to get nervous. I just know that if you be yourself, respect your elders, know your lines, you should be great. I just don’t believe in being nervous. Just believe in yourself.
I can hear in your accent that you’re from Brooklyn. How was filming in Brooklyn.
Michael: I have close friends and family in Brooklyn. It was just basically doing a film about my neighborhood. I love Brooklyn, Brooklyn’s a great town, Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, I love it everywhere. It’s really cool shooting in a town that I’m familiar with so it was an amazing experience.
What was your favorite scene?
Michael: My favorite scene was definitely with my acting coach because that was my actual acting coach. So that whole scene was phenomenal. It was just very fun to shoot, funny to watch, and it was just an amazing experience.
Little Men premieres in theaters August 5.