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Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #24: Malik Vitthal Tells a Gangster's Story of Redemption in 'Imperial Dreams'

By Indiewire | Indiewire January 15, 2014 at 11:15AM

"My mother raised me on ashrams, so as a boy I traveled the world exploring other cultures."Malik Vitthal was born and raised in LA and graduated from USC's School of Cinematic Arts. His passion for storytelling through film, he told Indiewire, "allows me to explore my curiosity for the human experience within a multidimensional creative platform." This is his directorial debut.
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Malik V

"My mother raised me on ashrams, so as a boy I traveled the world exploring other cultures."Malik Vitthal was born and raised in LA and graduated from USC's School of Cinematic Arts. His passion for storytelling through film, he told Indiewire, "allows me to explore my curiosity for the human experience within a multidimensional creative platform." This is his directorial debut. 

What it's about: "A 21-year-old reformed gangster's devotion to his family is put to the test when he’s released from prison and returns to his old stomping grounds in Watts, Los Angeles."

What it's really about: "I was attracted to the duality of a young gangster walking the line of trying to protect his son while remaining true to the culture of the hood. Characters that are full of love and also very in touch with their dark side are a fascinating topic that we dissect in our story."

Biggest challenge: "What could have crushed us ended up being the greatest moment for our team. Two days before we began shooting in our main location, we were denied access. We lost the location and had to turn our schedule on its head in order to keep the production moving forward. Our producers rallied, kept our team together, and devised a plan to attend a local hearing to plead our case that the film would be a net positive for the City of Watts and its inhabitants. The residents of the community fought hard to help us gain access to shoot there and lobbied the City and Sheriff’s Department on our behalf. After a few closed-door meetings, and continuing to gain the community’s support, we got the location back. The story was directly affected however, because we ended up having to rewrite much of it on the fly, alter some locations, change some character points, and so on. Yet in the end, the film is all the better for it."

Cameras used: "An Arri Alexa, which was generously provided by Film Independent's ARRI Feature Film Grant."

Hopes for audience take-away: "Their own experience." 

What's next? "Writing. Lots of writing."

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.

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers, Sundance Film Festival, Imperial Dreams







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