From April 2–3, the Walker Art Center presents
Under the Radar: The Films of Ramin Bahrani
, a series highlighting works by the award-winning Iranian-American writer/director. Under the Radar includes all three of Bahrani’s feature films, including a Premieres: First Look screening of his latest, Goodbye Solo, on Friday, April 3, 7:30 pm. Two of Bahrani’s earlier films, Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, screen as part of Target Free Thursday Nights on Thursday, April 2. Bahrani also leads a Master Class on Friday, April 3, 1 pm, during which he will discuss the making of his film Chop Shop in detail. All programs take place in the Cinema.
Through a set of seemingly disenfranchised characters, writer/director Ramin Bahrani uncovers the rich lives of those living on the edge in the contemporary United States. By working with nonactors and a small crew, he captures an intense intimacy that borders on documentary. Born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Bahrani made several short films culminating in Backgammon (1998). He spent three years in his parents’ homeland of Iran while working on Strangers (2000), his thesis film for Columbia University, where he received a BA in Film Studies and now teaches. Following Strangers, he lived in Paris before returning to the U.S. to begin work on his first feature film Man Push Cart (2005). His assured direction and original neorealist screenplays earned him accolades such as the “Someone to Watch” Award at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards. Critic Roger Ebert says, “After only three films, Bahrani has established himself as a major director.”
Man Push Cart premiered at the Venice International Film Festival (2005) and later screened at the Sundance Film Festival (2006). The film won over 10 international prizes, including the FIPRESCI international critics prize at the London Film Festival (2005), before being released around the world to wide critical acclaim. It was nominated for a Breakthrough Director Gotham Award (2006), and for three Independent Spirit Awards (2007): Best First Film, Best Lead Actor (Ahmad Razvi), and Best Cinematographer (Michael Simmonds).
Bahrani’s second film, Chop Shop (2007), was co-written by Bahareh Azimi and produced by Lisa Muskat (George Washington) and Big Beach Films (Little Miss Sunshine). It premiered during the Director’s Fortnight at the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival and screened as an official selection at both the Toronto Film Festival (2007) and the Berlin Film Festival (2008). Chop Shop was released worldwide to universal critical acclaim, winning several prizes, including the Acura “Someone to Watch” Independent Spirit Award (2008) for Bahrani. In 2008, lead Actor Alejandro Polanco was nominated for a Gotham Breakthrough Acting Award, and Bahrani key collaborator Michael Simmonds was again nominated for Best Cinematographer at the 2009 Independent Spirit Awards, where Bahrani was also nominated as Best Director. Chop Shop was on countless top 10 lists for 2008, including critic Roger Ebert’s, who hailed it as a masterpiece.
In 2008, Bahrani premiered his third feature film, Goodbye Solo, as an official selection of the Venice Film Festival and won the prestigious FIPRESCI international critics prize for Best Film. The film’s North American premiere was at the Toronto Film Festival and producer Jason Orans received an Independent Spirit Award nomination (2009) as “A Producer to Watch.”
UNDER THE RADAR: THE FILMS OF RAMIN BAHRANI
Thursday, April 2
Man Push Cart, 7 pm, Free
Bahrani’s debut feature film shows how economic struggle can cause one to lose direction. After his career as a Pakistani pop star has dried up, Ahmad leads an anonymous life as a bagel seller in New York. Two strangers he meets may be the key to changing his grim circumstances.
The film made Roger Ebert’s Top 10 list for the films of 2006 and was selected for his Overlooked Film Festival. 2005, 35mm, 87 minutes.
Chop Shop, 8:45 pm, Free
Delivering a fresh and charismatic performance, first-time actor Alejandro Planco embodies the entrepreneurial homeless 12-year-old who hustles his way into a job at an auto body shop. Streetwise, but desperate to be part of a family, he is preyed upon by his troubled sister and his sidekick, who see him as their meal ticket. The New York Times praised the film’s “lyricism at its heart, [the] unsentimental, soulful appreciation of the grace that resides in even the meanest struggle for survival.” Bahrani was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his direction of this film 2007, 35mm, 87 minutes.
Friday, April 3
Master Class with Ramin Bahrani, 1 pm
$12 ($10 Walker/IFP members)
Columbia University professor Bahrani leads a breakdown of key scenes in Chop Shop, providing details about his role as director, operating on a shoestring budget, and the complications of working with child actors and real-world locations.
Premieres: First Look
Goodbye Solo, 7:30 pm
Introduced by director Ramin Bahrani
$8 ($6 Walker members)
The differences in age and family culture create an interesting conflict in Bahrani’s latest film. While Senegalese taxi driver Solo’s winning joie de vivre is embraced by everyone he meets, he can’t charm 70-year-old William, a mysterious fare he picks up late one night in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. When he asks to be taken to a location where many suicides have taken place, Solo attempts to discover why the man is so troubled.. 2008, 35mm, 91 minutes.