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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #13: Matt Sobel Embraced Optimism for ‘Take Me to the River’

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #13: Matt Sobel Embraced Optimism for 'Take Me to the River'

Matt Sobel is a self described, “optimist to the point of idiocy,” which has gotten him into trouble before, but might also be the reason he was able to make this film. Two years ago, and already three years deep in this project, he had nothing but a beat up script — no cast, no crew, no money. “I really should have packed it in, but instead he called our casting director and set a start date.”
“Sobel, in his first feature, creates a world wrought with secrets, misinterpretations, and subtext. Ryder, an artsy teenager, travels from California with his parents, Don and Cindy, for a family reunion in Nebraska. Upon their arrival, Ryder’s impish nine-year-old cousin, Molly, leads him to a barn to show him a bird’s nest. What happens behind barn doors makes Ryder the sudden target of suspicion and unearths a long-buried family secret. Ryder and his parents are ill-equipped to handle the fallout; Cindy, in particular, does her best to remain positive. Ultimately, Ryder must come to terms with the truth on his own.” (Courtesy Sundance Institute.)

What it’s about:
A naive California teen plans to remain above the fray at his Nebraskan family reunion, but a strange encounter places him at the center of a long-buried family secret.

What it’s really about:
“Take Me to the River,” at its core, is about Ryder’s coming of age. I was interested in equating growing up with a type of baptism, or more specifically, a reverse baptism. Becoming an adult, as I see it, is more of a muddying than a cleansing.

Biggest challenge:
Our story relies heavily of subtext and implications, frequently asking the viewer to jump to conclusions, second guess those conclusions, and fill in pieces of backstory for themselves. Testing the how much we could leave unsaid, to create maximum intrigue without tipping into frustration, was like balancing a delicate chemical reaction– and in our case, one that could easily explode.

Any films inspire you?
“Badlands,” “The White Ribbon,” “The Celebration,” “Murmur of the Heart,” “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “Stalker,” and “Safe.”

Cameras used: RED Epic

Hopes for Sundance audience take-away:
A good conversation.

What’s next?
I’ve been mulling over a science fiction story for the past few years that imagines a possible next step in human evolution. It centers on orphan Chinese sisters, recruited by a state sports school to be trained as Olympic high divers. It’s much grander than Take Me to the River, but at it’s core, it’s a simple story of sisters, love, and love lost.

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. 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 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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