Posthumous_Poster_2-724x1024With her feature film debut, Posthumous, which had its North American premiere at Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival, indie writer/director Lulu Wang says she set out to find a fine balance between drama and comedy. The film follows out-of-work reporter McKenzie Grain (Brit Marling) who investigates her suspicions about a supposed posthumous exhibition for an at-best mediocre artist, Liam Price (Jack Huston). It doesn’t help that the gallery owner, Daniel S. Volpe (Lambert Wilson) is a twitchy bundle of nerves whenever McKenzie asks her nosy questions.

Wang says she wanted to allow the situations to speak for themselves, so she instructed the actors to bring a sort of gravitas to their performances that doesn’t amp up the jokes but, rather, brings them down to earth. “We weren’t going for the jokes, but the humor was in the situation or with the camera work,” says the filmmaker. “I talked to my DP a lot about that, about the framing and how we can use the camera to highlight the lightness of the situation. I wanted the characters to be dramatic because I feel like, in my life, I can be very dramatic. People I know can be very dramatic about their situations, even though from the outside it could look very ridiculous, so I wanted the actors to know that they were not in a comedy.”

P0sthumous Posthumous Film GmbH 20.10.2012,  day 06 scene 3 Kaleb and Daniel chatting. Persona  Daniel Volpe 		(Lambert Wilson) Persona  Kaleb 			(Nikolai Kinski) McKenzie and Erik chatting. Daniel joins them. Persona  McKenzie Grain 	(Brit Marling) Persona  Erik Adler 			(Alexander Fehling) McKenzie in conversation with Ben. Persona  McKenzie Grain 	(Brit Marling) Persona  Ben 				(Tom Schilling) photo: Stefan Erhard

As with many independent movies, there were a few false starts. There were periods Wang thought that the film was greenlit and ready to begin production, and various production designers came and went. What could be disheartening to some allowed the director to get to know her film’s setting better: the city of Berlin. Wang, who lives in Los Angeles and grew up in Miami, says she spent somewhere around two to three years scouting locations in Berlin with different production designers, staying in the city for months at a time. She eventually came to fall in love with the city. The film features a bright color palette, reflecting the lightness of the film’s drama and humor. When asked about the film’s high-contrast, brilliant quality, she says, “Berlin really helps with that … Usually they shoot World War II movies in Berlin. We didn’t feel like there were that many movies in the mainstream that have really captured the artistic nature of Berlin.”

She says the capital city of Germany is much brighter than most would think. “Even in the restaurants they’ll have pools of light,” she notes. “They create spaces using light, and that’s what we tried to do also. My DP and I would talk about orange and blue light or green light for the night scenes and how to create corners and more dimension with lighting.”

Posthumous Posthumous Film GmbH 01.12.2012,  day 31 scene 76 STUDIO / LIAM Liam is hard at work. Persona  Liam Price		(Jack Huston) photo: Stefan Erhard

She also notes Berlin is an amazing city for art, and the film is rich in capturing that. Art not only figures into the movie’s plot, but it appears throughout the film in many settings, not just in Liam’s studio or Daniel’s gallery. “I love the amount of art on the streets,” says the director. “It’s much more diplomatic. There’s a balance of what’s being seen on the street and what’s being shown on the galleries’ white walls, and there’s also a lot of pop up spaces. People are really utilizing abandoned buildings to create a restaurant or gallery.”

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You can read more about Wang’s casting coup for her first feature as well as the old-time films that inspired her after jumping through the logo for Miami New Times art and culture blog “Cultist,” where I wrote much more about my chat with Wang ahead of her film’s Friday premiere at the Miami International film festival:

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Posthumous has on more screening at MIFF, today, Saturday, March 14, at 4 p.m. at the Cinepolis in Coconut Grove. Tickets are $13. Call 844-565-6433 or visit this link for tickets.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Las Oscuras Primaveras

It’s getting hard to keep track of the films and parties, heck, even the days at Miami Dade College’s 32nd Miami International Film Festival. Just Tuesday, I was struck by an empty Regal Cinemas on Miami Beach and wondered if I went to the wrong venue on the wrong day. Thankfully, I have not lost my mind that bad. It just turned out that the jury for the Jordan Alexander Ressler Screenwriter Award, which I am a member of, had a private screening for A Girl at My Door, an East Coast premiere from the Republic of Korea. Later that day we had to see Tour de Force, a U.S. premiere from Germany, and last night we watched They Are All Dead, a U.S. premiere from Spain. Those are films I cannot comment on … yet, but I will note that my partner will soon offer an interview with the lead actress of They Are All DeadElena Anaya. Watch for that tomorrow morning.

The final jury screenings are Friday evening. They include Shrew’s Nest, a co-production from France and Spain that will have its Florida premiere, and Theeb, which comes out of the Arabian Peninsula, also a Florida premiere. Jury deliberation then commences, and the winner will be announced Saturday night, before the screening of Sidetracked at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.

In the meantime, there are still films I am trying to catch as a critic and journalist for the Miami New Times. Jump through the logo for the paper’s “Cultist” art and culture blog below to find my latest review for the film pictured at the top of this post, The Obscure Spring:

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Spoiler alert: I was not very impressed. Out on newsstands now, however, the paper’s film section features an article I wrote trying squeeze in as many recommendations for movies still screening at the festival. You can read some of it online right here:

Miami Film Festival 2015: Five Movies to See in the Final Week

Still ahead, I hope to see more movies and report back on how the festival ended by early next week. There are lots of recommendations, premieres and interesting films to catch (for instance, the remaining features in the “Visions” category), so stay tuned. Tomorrow, the Miami New Times “Cultist” blog will publish an interview I did with first-time feature director Lulu Wang, who spoke to me about her film Posthumous, which stars Brit MarlingJack Huston and Lambert Wilson. It’s a notable indie comedy that will have its North American premiere at the festival.

Finally, tune in to WLRN 91.3 FM at around 5:30 p.m. today, if you are in the Miami area, or wlrn.org to stream my live interview about some more films coming up during the festival. Or just skip the wait and play it here. I was asked to give some advice to aspiring filmmakers and share what films have so far impressed me while I was still previewing some of the movies coming to the film festival. Here’s a trailer for one them:

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)