“Moonlight” distributor A24 has found a release date for its big Cannes buy, Director’s Fortnight entry “The Florida Project.” October 6th falls right after a fresh round of media attention coming out of likely play at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals in the course of an inevitable Oscar push. (Read IndieWire’s review.)
For Sean Baker’s follow-up to iPhone movie “Tangerine,” he returned to a project he started researching with co-writer Chris Bergoch back in 2013. (This time, he shot in 35 mm.) Only after “Tangerine” could he score financing for another look at outsiders living on the margins of society.
The duo was fascinated by a strip of Orlando’s budget motels on Route 92, just a mile away from Disneyworld. Once designed to lure tourists, they now teem with families on the edge. Instead of E-rides, the kids find their fun in spitting on cars, peeking at topless bathers, stalking grazing cows, and panhandling for soft-serve ice cream to slurp before it melts in the blazing heat.
Six-year-old Monee (Brooklynn Prince) is the focus of this slice-of-life movie, which relies on local casting and Instagram discovery Bria Vinaite as her loving but volatile ex-stripper mother Halley, who scrapes together her rent money every week, selling wholesale perfume at a nearby tourist hotel. Baker asked Vinaite to stand up to two-time-Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (“Platoon,” “Shadow of the Vampire”), whose frustrated but humane motel manager is the glue that holds together this poverty-row drama. He’s the closest thing to a father figure and civilizing force these marginal characters will ever know.
A24 is looking to achieve what Fox Searchlight managed with 2012 indie breakout “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which debuted in Sundance and went on to ride strong Cannes buzz and the fall festival circuit to four nominations, including Best Picture, Writer, Director, and its nine-year-old star, Quvenzhane Wallis, who became the youngest-ever nominee for Best Actress.