Coming soon to Netflix after much praise out of Sundance earlier this year, is PASSING, from Actor/Director Rebecca Hall. The Film stars Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson.
Adapted from the celebrated 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen, PASSING tells the story of two Black women, Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Academy Award nominee Ruth Negga), who can “pass” as white but choose to live on opposite sides of the color line during the height of the Harlem Renaissance in late 1920s New York. After a chance encounter reunites the former childhood friends one summer afternoon, Irene reluctantly allows Clare into her home, where she ingratiates herself to Irene’s husband (André Holland) and family, and soon her larger social circle as well. As their lives become more deeply intertwined, Irene finds her once-steady existence upended by Clare, and PASSING becomes a riveting examination of obsession, repression and the lies people tell themselves and others to protect their carefully constructed realities.
Psychological Horror THE NIGHT HOUSE is directed by David Bruckner (V/H/S) and centers on a widow named Beth (Rebecca Hall) who suddenly loses husband. She is forced to deal with the aftermath of this but through haunting visions, soon uncovers that he might not have been the person she thought he was, and must come to terms with this reality. The Film premieres at Fantasia 2021 after receiving raves out of it’s premiere at Sundance 2020.
Our Amanda Gilmore had the privilege of attending a virtual junket with the star of THE NIGHT HOUSE, English Actress, Producer, Writer and Director Rebecca Hall. The multi-faceted star has gained recognition in films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, garnering her an Oscar nomination, but she also has entertained the masses with a role in The Town, Iron Man, Godzilla vs. Kong and just this year at Sundance won wide acclaim for her directorial debut, Passing.
Hall is asked what drew her to the role of Beth.
Hall: I was intrigued and perhaps naively-seduced about the idea of doing a film that was basically me. I enjoyed it enormously and I think the challenge was intriguing when I read it. I also really liked the character. The turning point for me when I was reading the Script was that there’s so much mystery around her like the scene with the parent (who confronts Beth, a teacher, about her son’s grade) which essentially is an exposition scene, but I felt it was really about the character because it was so brittle and weirdly funny. I really liked the toughness and strangeness about her I liked having, and from that scene onwards is where I thought ‘I wanna do it!’.
Hall finds herself acting all alone in much of the Films and is asked just how challenging this is.
Hall: I knew it was going to be challenging going into it. I thought, I’ve never done this before, I’ll give this a go! I don’t think I even guessed how challenging it could be. This is the thing you realize as an Actor, that you derive a lot of energy and generate creative ideas from the people you’re working with. It’s a bit like you’re at a party and someone comes in who’s got a lot of charisma, and suddenly the party gets really great and you’re bouncing off the energy. This is like being at a party with no guests and you still have to make the party good.
Hall comments on working in the Horror genre.
Hall: You know it’s a funny thing, I didn’t embark on my career thinking I’m gonna do lots of genre. As it often turns out, there’s actually more extreme parts in genre and Horror and I’m kinda a sucker for signing-up for something that’s gonna use me, is gonna be really tough and gonna put me through it. Don’t ask me why, but I am and often there’s just more to do in these sorts of films as an Actor that feels scary in where your ability can go and if you can pull it off. I like to go for something gutsy. And also I think there’s a huge opportunity for genre to tackle not-genre subjects like death and those large existential questions of life. Some things we find difficult to talk about as people sometimes can be more fruitfully addressed if they are dealt with indirectly, and genre has a way of dealing with this in a way that’s not really head-on. Sometimes it can be more rewarding than a Drama that deals with them straight-on.
Late in the Film Hall‘s abilities really are put to the test in a scene where Beth has a romantic moment with the spirit of her deceased husband. She talks about the challenges of filming this scene.
Hall: The honest answer is that it was kinda funny. We were doing a lot of things on the fly, getting shots. It was a quick shoot and the sorta tough things about independent filmmaking. And when it came to doing that scene, we sorta talked about the scene, but it wasn’t like someone was choreographing it. The initial idea of me having this interaction-slash-romantic encounter with an invisible person was essentially just me improvising it, which was fairly embarrassing. I realized very quickly I was gonna look silly and I knew that everyone would laugh at me and just got on with it. After a while it felt strangely liberating. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
Hall in her career has starred in both large-budget blockbusters and also smaller Indie films. She tells us about the experience doing both.
Hall: There’s definitely things about each one that I appreciate. On a small independent film you’re always pressured on time, you’re always being pushed around, it’s always incredibly stressful, you don’t have time to sit down and relax. And if you do just that you’d go crazy. I do feel there’s a sense of camaraderie and I guess a sort of team spirit that happens on those films and you often yield very creative results.
On the big ones, it’s lovely coming in to find a cup of tea and a blanket. And you have the room to ask ‘How can I help, how can I do more on this?’. But I appreciate the scale of those ones, the scale of resources are appropriate.
It’s really difficult to make films on a tiny budget in 20 days. I feel bad for Filmmakers because it has happened shouldn’t mean it should continue to happen. And sometimes there’s a little more room for creativity. And sometimes on the big ones, there’s too much room for creativity and sometimes there’s wasted resources. So I think it’s a combination of the two that there’s a sweet spot.
Searchlight Pictures release THE NIGHT HOUSE August 20, 2021.
Searchlight Pictures x Mr. Will want to give Readers in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver a chance to win Advance Screening Passes to see THE NIGHT HOUSE starring Rebecca Hall. Screenings take place August 18, 2021.
Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep it together – but then nightmares come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house calling to her, beckoning her with a ghostly allure. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into her husband’s belongings, yearning for answers. What she finds are secrets both strange and disturbing – a mystery she’s determined to unravel. THE NIGHT HOUSE stars Rebecca Hall (GODZILLA VS. KONG), Sarah Goldberg (Barry, Elementary), Vondie Curtis Hall (DIE HARD 2, EVE’S BAYOU), Evan Jonigkeit (Togetherish, Sweetbitter), and Stacy Martin (VOX LUX, NYMPHOMANIAC).
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Rebecca Hall is back in THE NIGHT HOUSE. See the haunting new Trailer for the Film which will screen at Fantasia Film Fest 2021.
Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep it together – but then nightmares come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house calling to her, beckoning her with a ghostly allure. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into her husband’s belongings, yearning for answers. What she finds are secrets both strange and disturbing – a mystery she’s determined to unravel. THE NIGHT HOUSE stars Rebecca Hall (HOLMES & WATSON, CHRISTINE), Sarah Goldberg (Barry, Elementary), Vondie Curtis Hall (DIE HARD 2, EVE’S BAYOU), Evan Jonigkeit (Togetherish, Sweetbitter), and Stacy Martin (VOX LUX, NYMPHOMANIAC).
See the Trailer:
Searchlight Pictures release THE NIGHT HOUSEFriday, August 20, 2021.
Irene (Tessa Thompson) is an upper-class 1920s woman who lives in Harlem with her husband, Brian (André Holland), and their two sons. One day, while out at the Grand Tearoom in New York City’s Drayton Hotel, she runs into an old high school acquaintance, Clare (Ruth Negga). She finds out that Clare has been passing as white. Her ability to pass is proven as Irene learns she’s married to a white man (Alexander Skarsgård) and have children of their own. However, when Clare decides to ignite a friendship with Irene, both their lives become threatened.
Nella Larsen’s ground-breaking Novella is brought eloquently to the screen by Rebecca Hall. She unpacks central themes of race, identity, community, repression and constructed realities all while making her Feature directorial debut a technical marvel. She shoots this quiet, Psychological Drama with the filmmaking aesthetics of the time in which the story is set. Passing is shot in Black and White, has a 4:3 Aspect Ratio, and the music mimics an era past.
Her decision to shoot in Black and White strips all colour out of this film about race. What’s left is a beautiful composition of gray frames that perfectly reflect the gray-areas of race the Film explores. Hall’s cinematographic decisions go further in her choice of Aspect Ratio. Not only does a 4:3 image create a nostalgic look of old Hollywood glamour, it also forces us to really look at the faces of the characters. This is an integral part of Passing because Thompson and Negga’s impactful performances become the focus, with scenes framed tightly around their faces. This aids in helping us see Irene and Clare’s hidden desires and restrained longing.
Furthermore, the Sound Design thrusts us into the inner turmoil these characters are facing. In addition to taking us back to 1929, the Film’s Costume Design by Marci Rodgers, help us visualize the stark contrasts between both women. Irene is constrained, she wears modest clothing and a hat that covers much of her face. While Clare is beguiling, she wears outfits that swing as she walks and a hat that’s lifted-up showing herself completely. This is compelling because Clare is the one who’s passing, yet Irene appears to be hiding.
These two characters were captivating and nuanced when Larsen wrote them in the ’20s. Thankfully, Hall has kept them richly complex, enabling Thompson and Negga to be mesmerizing in their roles. It’s rare, even today, for female friendships to be examined in Film with such intricacy. Yet, this is what’s at the heart of Passing. The two women are each missing something the other has. Passing analyzes how you can equally admire and envy a friend for something you are missing. This is a story about the duality of human beings, expressed articulately through its two leads.
Thompson gives an unbelievably expressive performance as the quiet Irene, and Negga is a magnetic presence as Clare. She shows the life Irene has conformed to and her desire to break-free of those boxes. This is where cunning Clare fills the voids in Irene. Clare longs finally to be with her community again. And this is where Irene fills the voids in Clare. Thompson and Negga have a strong, layered chemistry. The Film plays with the ambiguity of the feelings between these women. It appears that there’s something simmering beneath the surface of this friendship, but it isn’t quite known exactly what. Additionally, these Actors nail one of the most integral parts of telling a story that takes place in 1929, the diction and way of speaking. No detail is spared.
Passing is a quiet film that manages to say so much. It has a Psychological Thriller that becomes more apparent as time progresses. Hall crafts something that’s rich in technicality and highlighted by its superb performances. Its intricate Screenplay is brought to life by a Director who has a clear vision and knows how perfectly to execute it. A remarkable debut as Director by Hall.
Passing screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 30 at 6 PM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24 hours): February 1 at 10 AM (EST)
Adam Wingard(You’re Next) directs GODZILLA VS. KONG, which sees to two legends in a long-awaited face-off!
Legends collide in “Godzilla vs. Kong” as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home, and with them is Jia, a young orphaned girl with whom he has formed a unique and powerful bond. But they unexpectedly find themselves in the path of an enraged Godzilla, cutting a swath of destruction across the globe. The epic clash between the two titans—instigated by unseen forces—is only the beginning of the mystery that lies deep within the core of the Earth.
The Film stars Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies,” “The Little Drummer Girl”), Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”), Rebecca Hall (“Christine,” “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”), Brian Tyree Henry (“Joker,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”), Shun Oguri (“Weathering with You”), Eiza González (“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”), Julian Dennison (“Deadpool 2”), with Kyle Chandler (“Godzilla: King of the Monsters”) and Demián Bichir (“The Nun,” “The Hateful Eight”).
See the Trailer:
Warner Bros. Canada release GODZILLA VS. KONG in theatres (subject to change) Friday, March 26, 2021.
Sundance is evolving for the 2021 festival and going predominantly virtual with limited drive-in screenings across the U.S. Although the festival is only running for seven days, its screening 71 Features, 50 Shorts, 4 Indie Series, and 14 New Frontier Projects. The Festival continues to include more diverse filmmaking voices. Of this year’s 139 films: 50% are directed by one or more women; 4% are directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 50% are directed by one or more artists of color, and 15% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+.
There is a lot of buzz surrounding many films screening at this year’s fest, and we are highly anticipating many of its feature film picks. Check out our Top Ten, in no particular order, programmes listed in parantheses.
Director & Screenwriter: Dash Shaw
>It’s rare Sundance includes an Animated Feature in their selection so we are expecting great things. It follows cryptokeepers who question if they should display or keep hidden the majestical beasts they find. The characters are voiced by Lake Bell, Michael Cera and Zoe Kazan just to name a few.
JOCKEY [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director & Screenwriter: Clint Bentley
An ageing jockey in ill health attempts to win one more championship, but things turn upside down when a young jockey claims to be his son. This is Bentley’s first-feature as a director and his cast includes Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker and Moises Arias.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH [PREMIERES]
Director & Co-Screenwriter: Shaka King
We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It follows William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) who was offered a plea deal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party with the intent to gain intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). It has a powerhouse supporting cast consisting of Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders and more.
This arrives February 12, 2021.
Director: Robin Wright (Variety’s 2021 Directors to Watch)
Wright makes her feature-film directorial debut and stars in this poignant story of a woman searching for meaning in the American wilderness, following an unfathomable event.
This will be released February 12, 2021.
ON THE COUNT OF THREE [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director: Jerrod Carmichael
Sundance’s synopsis of Carmichael’s (The Carmichael Show) directorial feature debut is: “Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done.” It’s also got one killer cast: Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish, J.B Smoove, Lavell Crawford and Henry Winkler.
PASSING [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director & Screenwriter: Rebecca Hall
Based on the novella by Nella Larsen, this film follows two African American women who can “pass” as white and choose to live on opposite sides of the colour line in 1929 New York. It has a stellar cast consisting of Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Alexander Skarsgård and Bill Camp.
PRISONERS OF A GHOSTLAND [PREMIERES]
Director: Sion Sono
Nicolas Cage and popular Japanese filmmaker Sono team up in this film that Cage has stated is his wildest yet. It follows a notorious criminal who is sent to rescue a woman who has disappeared into a dark supernatural universe.
SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) [U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION]
Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
This Film documents the Harlem Cultural Festival, which took place the same summer as Woodstock. The festival celebrated African-American music and culture and promoted Black pride and culture.
Co-Directors & Co-Screenwriters: Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli
Coming off the buzz from its TIFF premiere, this Canadian film is now travelling stateside. It follows Miriam (Sims-Fewer) whose quest for revenge is sparked when her sister and brother-in-law betray her.
A Canadian release has been confirmed for March 26, 2021 for this.
WILD INDIAN [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director & Screenwriter: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. (Variety’s 2021 Directors to Watch)
Years after covering up a savage murder of a schoolmate, two men confront how their secret has shaped their lives. It stars Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer, Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth, and more.
Although these films are geoblocked to the U.S, there are many free events happening virtually around the globe. Some of the events happening are: The Sundance Dailies, The Cinema Cafe, The Big Question, Awards Night and more.
Friday, January 29–Tuesday, February 2, 9:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
These take place every morning with Tabitha Jackson and others. Guests include: Eugenio Derbez (CODA), Rebecca Hall (Passing), Ed Helms (Together Together), Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein (How It Ends), and more.
Friday, January 29–Monday, February 1, 10:30 a.m.–11:15 a.m
These cultural conversations with fascinating subjects could go just anywhere. This year we have:
Shaka King & Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson Friday, January 29, 10:30 a.m.–11:15 a.m.
I cannot stop watching this Trailer. After winning several raves at Sundance and TIFF ’16, CHRISTINE opens in Toronto in a couple weeks. Rebecca Hall delivers a career best performance in this chilling portrayal of television personality Christine Chubbuck, who gained notoriety after killing herself on live television in the late ’70s.
Upon listening to some of the interviews Hall did while in Toronto during the Festival, we learned that Chubbuck‘s family wanted no involvement in the Film, but what we gather is that the Film is a sympathetic portrait, versus a sensationalist piece about what some see as a monstrous act.
While TIFF ’16 begins to wind down, we still are seeing some quality Films premiere. At VISA Screening Room, we have Rebecca Hall in what Critics are calling a riveting performance in CHRISTINE, baaed on real events surrounding a reporter who commit suicide on-air. Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver also brought starpower to Ryerson Theatre for (Re)ASSIGNMENT. Gerard Butler is set too to walk the Red Carpet at Roy Thomson Hall for Toronto-made THE HEADHUNTER’S CALLING. Meanwhile, Rooney Mara walks the Red Carpet at Princess of Wales for UNA.
We finally got around to see this amazing Teaser for THE BFG (Big Friendly Giant) after a busy week! Our jaws dropped. Many of us read the book on which this is based, by Roald Dahl.
The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – finally unite to bring Dahl’s beloved classic “The BFG” to life. Directed by Spielberg, Disney’s “The BFG” tells the imaginative story of a young girl and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Giants like Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) on the other hand, are twice as big and at least twice as scary and have been known to eat humans, while the BFG prefers Snozzcumber and Frobscottle. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a precocious 10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a giant before, has many questions. The BFG brings Sophie to Dream Country where he collects dreams and sends them to children, teaching her all about the magic and mystery of dreams. Having both been on their own in the world up until now, their affection for one another quickly grows, but Sophie’s presence in Giant Country has attracted the unwanted attention of the other giants, who have become increasingly more bothersome. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen (Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious giant situation, but they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall), that giants do indeed exist. Together, they come up with a plan to get rid of the giants once and for all.
See the Teaser:
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada release THE BFG on Friday, July 6, 2016.
(Photo/video credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada)