Though he may not be with us any more, as expected, the gift that is and was Roger Ebert continues to give. While his last review has already surfaced, turning about to be for Terrence Malick‘s “To The Wonder,” the always busy Ebert was still working hard and doing interviews for this month’s releases. His last interview was with director Ramin Bahrani, the filmmaker behind “At Any Price,” which opened in limited release this week. Conducted via email, the interview was never completed beyond Ebert sending the first round of questions (he was unable to send followups). But in a very touching post on the critic’s site, Bahrani shares his memories of his friendship with Ebert which started all the way back on “Man Push Cart,” and reveals what his next film will be.
Penned as an open letter to Ebert, Bahrani credits him for holding “the door wide open” and pushing people to see “Man Push Cart” adding, “You changed everything for me, my films and my future.” The filmmaker also thanks him for helping him to discover the works of Martin Scorsese, Mike Leigh and Werner Herzog, the latter of whom has since become “a friend and a mentor” (the pair collaborated on the short “Plastic Bag“). But this might be the most affecting passage:
Yet despite the success of my first three films, I found myself in a dark place. After “Goodbye Solo,” I thought about giving up filmmaking. So few people seemed to care about cinema. One of my havens during that time was your essays, blogs and reviews. You’ve always had the ability to cut right to the heart of the matter. Your reviews were never bogged down in adolescent fanfare or stuffy intellectualism. You were wiser than that. You wrote about the most complex films in simple and direct ways that anybody could understand. This is a rare talent that reminds me of John Ford’s cinema. You also approached every film with the same generous heart, yet with the highest standards of what cinema can and must be.
Lovely stuff. Indeed, Bahrani did tell Ebert what he was up to next, a film entitled “99 Homes,” which will find him tackling a subject that has rocked America over the past few years. “Set in sunny Orlando, Florida, it is about Dennis Nash, a man evicted from his home with his mom and son by Mike Carver, a power-hungry, gun-toting real estate broker, who works for the banks, Fannie and Freddie,” Bahrani explains. “In a desperate attempt to get his home back, Dennis agrees to work for Mike — a deal with the devil that leads him deeper into the heart of the corrupt housing industry. I will shoot later this year.”
Sounds great, and Bahrani has said he has already cast his lead, but has yet to reveal who it is. For now, check your local listings for “At Any Price.”