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99 Homes opens with a shot of a man who has blown his brains out over his foreclosed home. And it all goes downhill from there.
In Ramin Bahrani’s latest film, premiering Friday at the Venice Film Festival, Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a man who loses him home and is thrown out onto the street with his mother and small son. But he’s so desperate for a job that the next day he’s seen working, literally wading through feces to impress the very man who threw him out of his house, the corrupt Rick Carver, played by Michael Shannon. As the film progresses, Nash finds himself spiraling further and further down into the darkness of the American housing collapse of 2008, the effects of which are still being felt.
At a press conference for 99 Homes Friday, the actors said they don’t own property and revealed their concerns about real estate and mortgages.
“I have a surfboard and a Vespa and sometimes a wetsuit,” Garfield said, listing the items he owns. “I’m not very savvy in terms of the real estate market.
“There was something that really drew me to the essence of Ramin’s story,” he continued. “My father is a businessman, and I became allergic, I think, because of that. I just couldn’t absorb that world. There was some personal attachment I had to Dennis’ struggle because he’s trying to play catch-up constantly and trying to understand a system that inherently doesn’t make sense. It’s created to befuddle you and steal from you, without using the word ‘steal.’ “
Shannon, whose character advocates for stuffing cash under a mattress rather than entrusting it to banks, shared the same views. “I don’t own any property,” he said. “I’ve always found mortgages suspicious, and I had my suspicions confirmed when all this went down. It always seemed like a strange situation to me, so I stayed away from it.”
Shannon, who despite his in-depth research into the character of Rick Carver, confessed that even after having played the role, he still has no understanding of the real estate market.
Bahrani dedicated the film to Roger Ebert, his friend and mentor. “The people sitting in this room have to continue the fight that he was pushing for all the time in America and internationally,” he said, “for good cinema, cinema that is emotional, cinema that is about something, cinema that is more than a selfie. Because I think the world is going to vanish into one final, vulgar and obscene selfie. And I think it’s up to you to stop that.”
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