Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pizza Verdi

Monday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the screening of a few new short films. The audience had the opportunity to chat with film maker Gary Nadeau in a Q&A afterward about his work Pizza Verdi, which I found to be the most interesting film.

Before I say anything else, take a moment to watch it. It's less than 8 minutes and totally worth it.:



After the lights in the theater came up, hands across the auditorium shot up to compliment Mr. Nadeau on his work, and ask him about his process. As I sat there though, I wondered if any one would ask the question that seemed to me, to be the HOT PINK ELEPHANT in the room.

They didn't, so I raised my hand.

"Mr. Nadeau, 'the twist' of this film relies heavily on stereotypes of race and class. How much of your choices were intentional to emphasize this?"

Of course he skated around the question. Everything just happened to be unintentional... He's actually acquainted with the male actor in the film, whose apartment this is in real life. When he visited the apartment one day, he just had to make a film there... He shot it in black and white because the paintings on the wall were so colorful that they were also visually distracting... The actress was singing opera because she happened to be an opera singer...

And all of these things may very well be true...

HOWEVER, let's be real about the audience's perception of this film that has no back story on how it was made.

Sydnie's thought process watching the movie:
A black man wearing a fitted cap, polo shirt, chains around his neck and carrying a pizza box enters an open apartment door asking "Hello?" Must be the pizza delivery guy. Apartment is somebody's New York City penthouse with hella nice things: paintings, statues, electronics.  Why does he think he can just take somebody's watch and money? O...K... Pizza guy is a thief? Now he's just gonna eat the pizza he's supposed to be delivering?

Where is the sound of opera coming from? Oh, there's a white woman in the apartment, singing and dancing around freely. It must be her apartment. 
But, we know how it ends.

Had the actor been dressed in a suit, looking corporate when he walked in the door, maybe I would have thought it was his apartment. But he wasn't. He was looking extra hip-hop, if you will. And sorry, but upon first look, the "hip hop" look without a recognizable face (i.e. a Russel Simmons, Jay-Z or a number of black male hip hop celebrities dressed similarly at the BET Awards the other night) doesn't signal that one might own that kind of New York apartment, with all those things inside.

Conversely, with out knowing anything about her, the white woman who is prancing freely around the apartment I can accept with out question as the apartment's owner just because she is white, and singing opera - which can signal a certain level of education, culture, exposure and ultimately money.

I realize that my initial thought process is a total racist and class-ist line of thinking. It relies on a series of assumptions about people just because they look or act a certain way.

And Mr. Nadeau knows that. Even if he, as a middle-aged white man, didn't want to admit it in a room full young educated black people (as someone pointed out later on in the evening).

He said he spent 6 months editing this film, although it only took him 3 days to shoot it. His choices were not that unintentional.

What do you think?

7 comments:

G. Nadeau said...

Hi Sydnie,

Thanks you so much for the post and your positive feedback. All your observations are absolutely true.

If I may, just a couple thoughts...

Some notes on my creative process/inspiration relating to Pizza Verdi:

Originally the piece was going to be a story about a delivery man who wanders into this amazing space and makes himself at home... then he hears the most beautiful music and... well I got stuck... I couldn't find an ending that satisfied me. It felt nice, but so what?

It wasn't until I came up with the twist end that I began writing the screenplay. The piece now had a meaning. Something I felt strongly about. It practically wrote itself.

You are also right about all my choices - the little details that I slaved over in the writing, directing and editing -- the clothes that were worn by both actors, the way they moved, every word that came out of their mouths. It was a delicate balance and all intentional.

I was playing with people's prejudices or pre-conceptions. In the end my hunch was right.

So while that was the intention of the finished film - it was not the spark that set it in motion. But it goes to show you never know where the creative process will lead you.

I wish I could have articulated that better on Monday night and been a bit more frank during the Q&A.

BUT I'm glad that you let my film do the talking for me.

The film is absolutely about the HOT PINK ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!

Thanks again.

Gary Nadeau

(Just one note: the apartment belongs to the film's producer. Not the actor in the film)

Sydnie said...

Hi! Thanks so much for checking in on the blog and responding.

As a choreographer, I completely understand how the creative process goes and often times where you start is not where you end. I guess that is why I was all the more critical - because I knew you had to have given more thought to your choices than you let on.

So I guess my followup question would be, if you were intentionally playing with people's pre-conceived notions and prejudices - what was your aim in doing so? Just to make us (the audience) incredibly self-aware (which I think is totally valid), or something else?

G. Nadeau said...

Hi Sydnie,

Yes, that was my intention and hopefully in the end maybe have the viewer reevaluate his/her world view.

Best

Gary

G. Nadeau said...

while hopefully entertaining them as well!

Thanks again!

Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl said...

I fully agree with you and actually I think this is exactly what makes this movie such a strong one, exactly what leaves such a lasting impression. If things were obvious from the very beginning, you wouldn't be glued to the screen the way you are while watching it as it is. And I also just LOVE the way it tells a story of racial stereotypes - teaches you some when you see the ending, makes you think. And also, I showed the movie to my family, we're Russian and there are no stereotypes about black people here as we just don't have enough of them in the country, so with this in mind it was interesting for me to see my family's reaction to the movie... And guess what, they still loved it! Without having any pre-established assumptions they still thought of everything happening on the screen exactly the way it made you and I view it. I also want to note that it's just as interesting and fascinating to watch the film again once you know what it's all about too - gives you new perspective to familiar things!

Sydnie said...

Hi Julia,

Thanks for your comment. Just a thought: Even if your family is Russian and has few encounters with black people/culture - where do you think they got their preconceived notions from to have the same reaction to the film as you and I? What were the aspects of the film that led your family to draw the same conclusions?

Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl said...

Sydnie,

I think it just means that the movie itself is shot well enough for all types of viewers to "get" the idea. It seems to me, anyone watching it starts thinking of a guy as a pizza delivery guy by the way he moves around the apartment in the beginning of the short... Then, having thought that, a person has their idea "confirmed" by the following action. I think it's also a psychology thing here - if you believe something is true, you subconsciously look for confirmation rather than for trying to prove yourself you're wrong... If what I'm trying to explain makes any sense I hope I was able to get my thought across, as it's exactly what I was talking about in my original comment!

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