• Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes

      FEST 2016 / News / Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes
      01. March 2016.
      We've exported some sort of warped capitalism on steroids so unfortunately Europe is in a mess, and big part of that mess is the export of the form of capitalism that we've created in America

      -Is this movie against capitalism, banks or all bad systems?

      I guess it's probably against all bad systems. We've exported some sort of warped capitalism on steroids so unfortunately Europe is in a mess, and big part of that mess is the export of the form of capitalism that we've created in America, which is really not what Adam Smith was talking about in Wealth of nations. This is a Faust story, a deal with the devil story, Michael Shannon’s character is a child of that system. We should remember that, how many Iagos can be born in a generation.

      -How did the American audiences react to the film?

      Angry and surprised. About 6 million people got evicted but no one told the story, it was mainly a headline, so the big part of wanting to make the film for me and the actors was that we wanted to make a human story that was more than a headline.  The film was heavily researched, I spent a few months in Florida, so everything you see in the film is based on real things that I've seen, none of it is fictionalized. Two months ago there was another murder at an eviction, a 12 year old girl was murdered. So even the suicide and the shooting in the end are based on reality. There are also real people in the film, as I have a history of working with non professional actors, with real people. In this movie for example the sherif is the real sheriff who does evictions, the clean out crew, one of them is an actor, the rest are real people who actually throw people's things out for a living. When Andrew is knocking on doors to do the evictions, every other person is an actor, and every other is a real person. Andrew never knew who was who, I never told him, so he would just knock on the door and have no idea what would happen.

      -One of your characters says that America doesn't bail out losers. Is it the system, the way America works?

      One year after the movie premiered, I'm living in a country where Donald Trump may become president, and it's as if he stole the dialogue from Michael Shanon's character for his campaign, which is very frightening. If you go to schools across America and look at the flagpole, on the top it says „winners“. And from the top to the bottom there's nothing but losers, and that's what we're teaching the next generation. And if that's what you're teaching, and if that's what the system supports, which is mass corruption, and you're rewarded for that corruption, then you should expect some sort of moral violence.

      -The script says that houses aren't only boxes. What is a home? Is it where we live, where our family is, where our heart is?

      The movie gives the opinion of two people, for Michael Shannon's character it's only a box, a commodity that can be bought and sold. For Andrew's and Laura Dern's character the house is a place of family, memory, identity, community. They're both right and it's not my position to explain what I think. Mainly it's that these two opinions are banging heads in the film.

      -What drew you to this topic? Did you know someone in this situation?

      No, not when I started the film, but when I researched it I met many people who lost their homes and most of the film is based on the people I met and things that I saw. I met a guy that told me almost the exact story of the movie- he had been evicted, worked for the guy who evicted him. I just wanted to know what had happened to the world economically and that led me to Florida where I found the story.

      -Before Oscar nominations went public, there were predictions who would probably get nominated, and your movie was mentioned often in the category „would be nominated in a perfect world“. Why do you think it was overlooked?

      We know that Oscars have a long history of celebrating some very good movies and also missing some other ones, the reasons behind that I don't know. Maybe people prefer escape more, I don't know. Especially for Michael, it's kind of heartbreaking. A man who made one good movie in his life, took some steroids and then made four decades of Hollywood mindless junk movies, Sylvester Stallone got nominated. And not Michael Shannon, a man who could drink a cup of tea and it would be Oscar worthy in anybody's movie, not just mine. It's an illuminating lesson as to what Hollywood wants to honor, four decades of mindless muscle movies.

      -You wrote this role specifically for Michael?

      Oh yeah, I'm writing three things for him now, I love him. The best. One of the greatest actors alive, and just a great person, very sharp mind.

      -The family structure in the film is interesting- Laura Dern plays a young mother, and then her son also became a  father very young. Why did you pick this kind of family situation?

      When I was working on the story with my co-writer, Azimi, we were thinking normally in a movie like this Andrew should be living with his wife or girlfriend. So just to have something different, not be the same thing we always see, we thought what about his mom. Andrew proposed Laura, he really liked to work with her, and I said great, she's a great actress. Then we changed it to a young mom who had a son young, and that made even more sense, and it's something very common. We also felt it matched Andrew's need for a father figure in a way. His father had died, so it seemed to help the psychology of the character, he's looking at Michael for something more than just money and a home but some other thing that he doesn't have inside his soul.

      -Do you think Michael's character will ever realize what he's doing? Will he take some kind of lesson from all this? Are you optimistic?

      I think he knows what he's doing but he doesn't want to deal with it. Because to deal with it would be to fail his family, and to not survive, so he has to erase it. And he erases it with sunglasses, and sarcasm, and cynicism, and plowing ahead and moving forward. Because if he stops to think too much about it he fails his family. What does „Thank you“ mean when he says it in the end? Nobody knows. I'm not optimistic, I'm realistic. I'm optimistic about man's potential but I'm not here to offer phony hope that most films try to give, I'm not here to do that. I believe in man's unlimited potential, but that doesn't mean they're going to reach it.