The Big Apple Takes Center Stage in New York Film Fest Lineup

6:30 AM 9/28/2018

by Rebecca Ford

Barry Jenkins, Tamara Jenkins and Ron Mann — the filmmakers behind three NYC-set films screening at the annual festival — explain how their projects help to "honor the city."

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK  James Baldwin Birthday Teaser Screen Shot-H 2018
Annapurna Pictures/YouTube

As the New York Film Festival begins Friday, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at three different films in the lineup in which New York City plays a starring role. 

The 56th edition of the annual fest runs through Oct. 14.

  • 'Private Life'

    "I'm from the East Village, and I've always been interested in the people there that are kind of hanging on by the skin of their teeth," says writer-director Jenkins, whose drama follows a couple in their 40s (Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti) who are trying to have a baby. Jenkins shot in New York and made sure that the couple's home felt very much like a real apartment in Manhattan.

    "I feel like I see movies that take place in New York where the apartments don't match the worlds of the people. I mean, with the TV show Friends, I remember thinking, 'Wow, they live in these gigantic spaces and work in coffee shops! It doesn't make any sense.' That always makes me crazy."

    Every restaurant or coffee shop used in the film was also a real East Village establishment. Even a billboard that the couple's niece (Kayli Carter) comments on — with the message, "Live in Luxury, Party Like a Punk" — was inspired by Jenkins' own experience when she saw an East Village billboard advertising new luxury condos: "Live Like a Rockefeller, Party Like a Rockstar."

    "I was so startled by the exploitation of the punk-rock past of this neighborhood mixed with this luxury fantasy," adds Jenkins. "It was so horrifying."

  • 'If Beale Street Could Talk'

    Jenkins' adaptation of James Baldwin's Harlem-set 1974 novel of the same name is a love story about a young woman (KiKi Layne) who finds out she's pregnant as her boyfriend (Stephan James) is arrested for a rape he didn't commit. "We had to film in Harlem, we just had to, and we had to do as much work in Harlem as we possibly could," says Jenkins, who helmed the Oscar best picture Moonlight. "And we had to get Harlem faces in the movie as much as we could — both to honor the text but also to honor the city in a certain way. I've always felt that way — that a city is a character. It's kind of like a trope to say it, but for the films I've made, it's been an integral part of the story."

    The film will be the first ever screened at the iconic Apollo Theater during the fest. Adds Jenkins: "We told them that the first time we show this movie in New York, it has to be in Harlem. It's like it's coming home."

  • 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Mann's documentary was shot over five days at the beloved Greenwich Village guitar store Carmine Street Guitars, where Rick Kelly builds guitars out of wood salvaged from New York City buildings. Mann was introduced to the shop by Jim Jarmusch, who, along with being a filmmaker, is in a band called SQURL.

    "I'd liken Carmine Street to a small-town post office at the turn of the 20th century," says Mann, who helmed the documentary Altman about Robert Altman. "I felt it was something that needed to be captured before it all slips away."

    Gentrification has changed Greenwich Village over the years, with other shops like Carmine Street Guitars quickly disappearing. There used to be several guitar stores peppered along the street, but Kelly's is the last one standing. "You didn't know who was gonna walk through the door," adds Mann, who was able to capture Patti Smith Band's Lenny Kaye, Kirk Douglas of The Roots and Nels Cline of Wilco visiting the shop. "Rick is kind of like a modern-day Thoreau. People come in there and hang out and play."

  • Something Old, Something New, Something Long

    With the help of some collaborators, Orson Welles' Hollywood satire is finally being released nearly 50 years after the late director started shooting it.

    Yorgos Lanthimos' quirky historical drama following Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her two confidantes (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) will open the festival Sept. 28.

    Got 14 hours to spare? Argentine filmmaker Mariano Llinas' six-episode epic jumps from a B-movie to a musical to a thriller, all in 807 minutes.

    This story first appeared in the Sept. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.