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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

BAMcinemaFest 2013: Q&A with Matthew Porterfield

By Alexandra Siladi

I Used to Be Darker, director Matthew Porterfield’s deceptively delicate portrait of divorce, captures a feeling of June gloom in the best possible way. Co-written by Amy Belk and Matthew Porterfield, the film tells the story of runaway Taryn (played by lithe newcomer, Canadian actress Deragh Campbell), who shows up unexpectedly at her aunt and uncle’s house, not knowing she has arrived right in the middle of their separation. Much like the filmmaker’s previous critical success Putty Hill (which screened in BAMcinemaFest 2010), the cast is comprised of actors whose lives become intertwined with those of their characters, so that the boundaries of reality and fiction are blurred.

The songs created by the film’s stars and accomplished real life musicians Kim Taylor and Ned Oldham fit perfectly into the story of the couple they play, a pair of artists whose heartbreaking music provides an understated backdrop that blends seamlessly into the film’s emotional score. Taryn and her cousin Abby, played by Deragh’s real life best friend Hannah Gross, attempt to navigate the confusion of reconnecting and disconnecting. Dreamily shot by Jeremy Saulnier, the Baltimore summer landscape is a satisfying contrast to the darkness embraced in this unique family drama.

I Used to Be Darker screens at BAMcinemafest on Friday, June 21. The screening will be followed by a live concert with star Kim Taylor at BAMcafĂ©. The film will be released by Strand later this year. 

1. When and how did you come to know you wanted to make movies?
I was living in New York, teaching Kindergarten, going to two or three movies on my days off—usually at Anthology or MoMA—writing little scenes here and there. The scenes were all set in Baltimore, where I'm from, so I decided to move back home and try putting them all together into a feature script. This was in 2001.

2. What would you be doing if you weren't a filmmaker?
I'd be teaching Kindergarten.

3. What are some of the challenges you faced while making your film, both artistic and logistical?
I think the challenges I faced were fairly typical: limited resources and time, plenty of self-doubt. 

4. Talk about your favorite movie of the past two or three years.
Leviathan is my favorite film of the past few years. It's one of the most visceral, surprising, immersive moviegoing experiences I've ever had. It never leads the viewer by the hand but it's full of context, levels and levels, as deep as the sea.

5. Are you working on a new project now?
Yes. I'm writing a script about a 30-year-old ex-offender, living with his dad, navigating the economy of steel scrap, car lots, and illegal drugs.

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