The Cleveland International Film Festival promotes artistically and culturally significant film arts through education and exhibition to enrich the life of the community.
March 27, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Drama, comedy, tears, laughter, and a darling newborn baby. It doesn’t get much better than this for Opening Night at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.
“The Etruscan Smile,” has stars many will recognize, is produced by an award-winning international filmmaker, and has stunning scenery.
The film premiered in Berlin and screened globally at such festivals as Montreal, Boston, and Stony Brook, New York, to the delight of audiences.
“The film connects to something very simple in our humanity: what makes a life a good life, and it is always encouraging to see the impact smaller films can have when given the chance,” note the directors Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis.
When the directing duo were approached by producer Arthur Cohn about the project, the two personally connected to the story.
“We were ourselves at a stage in life quite similar to that of the first-time parents in the film—our son was not much older than the baby in the story,” say the filmmakers. “We were discovering for the first time the great bond that is formed between those who are just at the start of their lives, and those who are on the other end of the line, our parents.”
They found a “common and clear understanding of what really matters in life” at these two very opposite ends of a lifespan.
The film is based on the novel by José Luis Sampedro, La sonrisa etrusca, and centers on Scottish curmudgeon Rory MacNeil who leaves his home to travel to San Francisco for medical treatment. He moves in with his estranged son and his family, and begins to form a strong bond with his newborn grandson.
Binnun and Brezis credit their “incredible cast,” of which Brian Cox, as Rory, has gotten wonderful reviews. Audiences may recognize Cox, one of Scotland’s notable actors in film and Shakespearean theater, from such films as “Braveheart,” Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” and as Hannibal Lecter in “Manhunter.”
The directors knew immediately that Cox would be perfect for the role. They first saw him in “The Good Heart” by the Icelandic director Dagur Kari. In that film Cox, according to Binnun and Brezis, “portrays the most extreme, wild, dark humored, and yet heartwarming, character. Very few actors can be as tough and rugged on the outside while being so vulnerable and lovable.”
While the two worked on the final draft of the screenplay, they had Cox in mind for the lead role. “There was a big sigh of relief when he actually got the script and said he wants to do it,” say the filmmakers. “We really didn’t have any plan B for that role.”
But they credit all the actors for their contribution to the final product, “It is their soul and performance above all else that carries the story and gives the film its heart,” they say.
– Anne M. DiTeodoro
PHOTO: Israeli filmmakers Mihal Brezis, left, and Oded Binnun previously had great success with the short film, “Aya.” It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2015. This is their first feature film.
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