BY Trudy Ring
October 28 2009 1:20 PM ET
This is your first scripted feature. Were you looking for a feature idea and found this, or did this find you and make you want to do a feature?
I was very much looking for a feature subject, because I had made a number of shorts, and my shorts were my calling cards in order to move on to doing features. So I was looking for a subject for my first feature, and hearing this story, I thought it would be fairly straightforward -- South Africa, it’ll be an inexpensive place to film in, and it’s such an incredible story, who can resist? Little did I know that particularly the factor that it deals with race, issues of color, would make it extremely difficult to get off the ground and that I was not only taking on board this one person’s story but the whole history of South Africa and its culture over the last 30 years [of apartheid] -- it was an enormous undertaking.
Going back to the resonance of this with a gay person or with anybody who’s felt marginalized -- there are the arguments among different groups, like “you can’t compare your struggle to ours.” How do you get around that and say, of course everyone’s story is very particular, but there’s a commonality?
What’s interesting about this is that while it does resonate for people who feel, as you say, on the margins of society, whether it’s through the color of their skin or being gay or being Jewish, straight white middle-class people respond to it almost exactly as strongly as these other groups. What they’re recognizing is, number 1, we all have parents, and the parent-child relationships, which are the focus of the film, are something absolutely everybody can relate to, and secondly, the central question of the film is one of identity and belonging, and whether you are Wasp or Pakistani or whatever, you will ask yourself at some point, “Who am I and where do I belong?” I think that key question, which is Sandra’s question, is resonating across the board. The person I absolutely dream of seeing the film is Barack Obama or Michelle, because if you read Dreams From My Father, it’s the same question: Where do I belong? Am I white? am I black? In fact, there was an item in the paper that they just discovered that Michelle Obama has a white ancestor. These questions of genetics are so of the moment now in the United States because of Barack Obama, and this is what I’m hoping will allow the film to kind of capture the zeitgeist. It seems to resonate on many levels across many different communities