Born in California and raised in Texas, A.J. Edwards comes from a background of editing and directing second-unit on Terrence Malick films. His projects include “The New World,” “Tree of Life,” “To the Wonder,” and the upcoming “Knight of Cups.” Edwards’ first feature film will premiere at Sundance in the New Frontier Film section on January 18th.
What it’s about: “‘The Better Angels’ is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s youth in the harsh wilderness of Indiana. It tells of the hardships that shaped him, the tragedy that marked him forever, and the two women who guided him to immortality.”
What it’s really about: “The picture is about love, faith, and hope being the antidote to suffering. It is also about the truth behind the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Lincoln’s greatness was shaped not only by his own extraordinary character, but by many people in his life: his parents, siblings, cousin, teachers, pastors, and friends. So it is with all of us.“
Biggest challenge: “Making a picture about one of the most revered men to ever live is difficult in that he belongs to us all. Each person has their own take on who he is, and that is wonderful. To remember the spirit of Lincoln and be true to this mysterious chapter of his life was always the aim, despite any everyday concern or production matter.”
Any films inspire you? “The work of Terry Malick, to whom I owe so much. ‘Sergeant York,’ ‘Mrs. Miniver,’ ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ ‘Pather Panchali,’ ‘The 400 Blows,’ ‘The Wild Child,’ ‘Kes,’ Ken Burns’ ‘The Civil War.'”
Cameras used: “Mostly super 35mm with some Red Epic, and a little super 16mm. There is one Canon 5D shot in the picture; a cigar to whoever can find it.”
What do you want the Sundance audience to take away? “Pain is finite, but joy is eternal. The circumstances we are born into or the difficulties we face thereafter do not determine our fate. We can overcome. Nothing is impossible. As Lincoln put it to a regiment in 1864, ‘I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has.‘”
What’s next? “A redemption story set in contemporary central Texas.”
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us
about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they
faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses
leading up to the 2014 festival. For profiles go HERE.