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‘Wolfpack’ and ‘Betty’ Filmmaker Crystal Moselle Interviews Rebeca Huntt About ‘Beba’

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Exclusive: The “Wolfpack” director speaks to feature debut filmmaker Huntt about her intimate portrait of growing up Afro-Latina in New York City.

Acclaimed on the festival circuit and enjoying a summer sleeper release as only Neon can mount, the hypnotic portrait “Beba” takes no prisoners and leaves no casualties in its director’s searching portrait of her own NYC-born, Afro-Latina roots.

Filmmaker Rebeca Huntt, in an exclusive conversation hosted here by IndieWire, sat down with “The Wolfpack” and “Betty” filmmaker Crystal Moselle to discuss the groundbreaking debut feature. The film follows Huntt as she undertakes an unflinching exploration of her own identity through the format of a cinematic memoir. Reflecting on her childhood and adolescence in New York City as the daughter of a Dominican father and Venezuelan mother, Huntt investigates the historical, societal, and generational trauma she’s inherited and ponders how those ancient wounds have shaped her, while simultaneously considering the universal truths that connect us all as humans.

Throughout the movie, Huntt searches for a way to forge her own creative path amid a landscaped of intense racial and political unrest.

In his review for IndieWire, Robert Daniels wrote:

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First-time filmmaker Rebeca “Beba” Huntt opens her eponymous debut “Beba” — a complicated and bold self-portrait, exploring identity, internalized anti-Blackness, and generational trauma — with a declarative statement: “You are now entering my universe.” Her world, initially, is visually translated via a shaky cam walking through a twisty, moss-smeared forest. A woozy horn hypnotizes over a collage of images: Huntt swaying to the sea, people at the beach, her hand in the sand — all shot on a gorgeous 16mm. Her spoken-word poetry, wherein she says “violence lives in my DNA,” lays the groundwork for the next 79 unflinching minutes.

Read the full conversation with Moselle below.

Crystal Moselle: There’s a few films in this world that when I watch them, it kind of reminds me that we can do anything in cinema because they’re so bold and it’s just like, very brave filmmaking and your film is one of those films. No, bravo for that. Seriously. Sometimes I think in my head, ‘Sometimes I have to do it a certain way.’ But your film is one of those films that instantly reminds me of a certain way like no, no, no, just do what you think and feel, first and foremost.

Rebeca Huntt: I honestly feel that way about “Wolfpack.” I love your work in general but “Wolfpack” for me was a moment of transformation for me as an artist on so many levels. Personally just being able to relate, seeing this very live in apartment, like the broken window for some reason. There’s shots in my film of the wall being broke and you don’t really know what happened but something happened and it’s lived in, and it’s also…the sensitivity that it was made with and the nuance and also just the exploration of strength and emotion and mental illness and mental health and love and resilience and family, is just like…like the brain that you have to have to make something like that is just extraordinary, so thank you for that because I think perhaps “Beba” wouldn’t have come out the same way if “Wolfpack” didn’t exist.

Crystal Moselle: Aw, thank you. When did you know you were making a film? Let’s talk about process.

Rebeca Huntt: Well there was a moment like shortly after graduating when I was like 23, turning 24, where my producer Sofia Geld and I were like, this is a film. And I was like yes, I’m going to run with this. We started looking at my journal entries together and from there I started writing what turned into the voiceover. The voiceover isn’t like extracts from journal entries. It’s inspired by them and then sort of just original writing that’s based on looking at journal entries from specific parts of my life and sort of breaking them into categories which later on became chapters, things I wanted to explore. So after we started putting the journal entries together and coming up with what, in my mind and I say that to this day, is a three-act structure. But it’s an existential three-act structure, what sort of the writing for the film is led by. Then it was either my producer or myself or hiring some cinematographer to shoot certain things or me turning on the camera and just leaving it on. So the amount of footage that Isabelle, our editor, had to work with, especially in terms of the early days, was so much.

Crystal Moselle: Same with “Wolfpack.” We had like 1,000 hours or something.

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Rebeca Huntt: Once you start getting into creating and filming and recording, certain things are revealed to you. Certain things were revealed to me in what needed to be shown and what the process was and how I wanted to say certain things and how I wanted to portray certain things. There was something that I understood that there had to be a balance between the stylization of the film and the rawness of what was actually being shown in real-time.

Crystal Moselle: When I made “Wolfpack,” I had this whole idea of what the film was and through the process of making it, it turned into a completely different film. How was your process, in terms of the initial idea versus what the film actually was?

Rebeca Huntt: The complexity of being also the subject and going through the sort of quantum leaps and existential setbacks in real-time and so much of production was…there was a level of self-acceptance and acceptance of what I didn’t know was going to happen but what I did know I was going to show, right? Like, for example, I knew that we had to get me and my mother’s dynamic onscreen. I just remember saying, ‘Don’t turn the camera off, no matter what happens. Just leave it on.’ So there was that level of it, accepting my blind spots with myself. And then there were visual aspects I saw very clearly, that I envisioned very clearly, and as soon as I was able to get the resources for that, it happened. And that’s where the 16mm comes in.

Crystal Moselle: What influences you?

Rebeca Huntt: I like observing other people a lot and so anything from like just the way somebody looks, anything from a conversation to the way someone looks away or nature…I would say very much human beings and nature. Human beings I think are absolutely fascinating and I can watch them all day. I love feeling other people’s energies and being around people, especially people that I find fascinating or cool or even not, actually, because then it’s interesting in a different way. Anything from the way the light hits a sign in New York to like listening to somebody’s conversations about a pizza spot, anything and everything.

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Crystal Moselle: Oh my gosh, you have to see it in a theater. These days with COVID and theaters closing, it’s just probably the most heartbreaking thing because we as artists, we’re trying to bring people into a world and as you said, sound is such a big part of that. And you want someone to sit within it and it’s hard to do that if you’re looking at your laptop or your phone or whatever. There’s too many distractions at home. You being put into a dark room and being forced to experience something is so important. Congratulations on having a theatrical run. It’s not easy to get that these days. So what came easy for you in this process? What was something easy? What felt like second nature?

Rebeca Huntt: That’s a really good question. Was there anything that felt like second nature? I think one of the things that I really enjoyed was taking pieces or taking inspiration from films but also just like poetry, literature, art, visual art that I loved and explaining that vision to my collaborators. That point in which you meet and you’re like OK this is what I’m thinking, this is how I want it to feel. I don’t know, I feel like I’m good at communicating that. I think with the right collaborators, I love that piece. And I think I’m good at expressing myself even in all my blah.

Crystal Moselle: Let’s talk about putting this film out in the world. How was that for you?

Rebeca Huntt: Honestly, it’s intense but it’s overall amazing. I think showing it to my parents was the most insane because I really believed that they were never going to talk to me again. And once I realized that I got their support and that they love me and were there for me, it just…it opened up something in me that was so…it taught me something not just about my parents but about love and the resilience of community and it just made me even more excited to share it with other people, even if they didn’t like it because my mom at first, I think, the first time she saw the film didn’t like it. It’s a growing thing for her

Crystal Moselle: Oh yeah, I mean, I know this just from…

Rebeca Huntt: Like it’s a slow build. And sometimes they like it more than other times and sometimes they see it and they’re like, ‘Why did you…?’ And I’m like, but you’ve seen it four times already! But it was really cool to experience that level of love from them and it just gave me like a whole new…talking about self-acceptance because one of the most important aspects of the film and that journey is the ability to accept other people for who they are, especially people you love. So that was cool. Because I went through this excavation with my parents and myself, it’s like, yo, this is what I did and this is how I did it. Period. I did it to share with whoever is interested.

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Crystal Moselle: Yeah, I love that. Just letting everything on my terms. It’s the power of the people. Whoever connects and wants to take something from this, they’re the ones that are going to need it.

Rebeca Huntt: Exactly. It’s not mine. I’ve given it away. It’s out now, doing its own thing.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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