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Hot “Child” in the City: Garcia’s “Mother” Meets New York

Hot "Child" in the City: Garcia's "Mother" Meets New York

“I think every actor you talk to about why they wanted to do this project will tell you ‘because of the material,'” actress Kerry Washington said of working in Rodrigo Garcia’s “Mother and Child.” “Because immediately when we read it, we were floored by the gravity of the material and the authenticity of these characters.”

Audiences have been agreeing as “Child” makes the final rounds of its festival screenings, having its New York premiere as part of the Tribeca Film Festival last night. Both Washington and Garcia sat down at the Apple Store SoHo in advance of the premiere to chat about the film with moderator Donna Freydkin of USA Today.

The film – which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival – finds Washington playing one of three women whose stories overlap: Karen (Annette Bening), who gave up her daughter to adoption 35 years ago; Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), who grew up as an adopted child; and Lucy (Washington), who is looking to adopt. As with Garcia’s two previous features (“Nine Lives,” “Things You Can Tell Just By Looking For Her”), the film loosely ties the three plotlines together, and also deals predominately with female characters.

“One of the questions I get asked a lot is like ‘how do you write these women so well,'” Garcia said, “and I can just see my wife rolling her eyes…”

Garcia said that he’s actually quite embarrassed by that question because he thinks he’s only asked it because he’s male.

“You know, there’s a lot of women directors that write very well for women and that’s just taken to be par for the course,” he said. “I look at movies by Jane Campion or Sofia Coppola or Nicole Holofcener or Lisa Cholodenko, and I envy their characters. They do things I wish I could do.”

With respect to himself, Garcia said it’s really quite simple.

A scene from Rodrigo Garcia’s “Mother and Child.” Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“I like women,” he said. “I’m interested in how I imagine they work and feel and think. I mean, I’m not a woman. I don’t know how they work and feel and think. But I have a vivid imagination with respect to what might be. I’ll see a waitress or an old lady in an airport or a girl of 12 with her friends at the mall and it just sparks something in me that I’m curious about. It’s a world that interests me.”

In regard to “Mother and Child”‘s world specifically, Garcia said it wasn’t the point of departure one might assume.

“Originally it wasn’t really about parenting or adoption,” he said. “I was interested in people who for some reason live apart from a loved one. People who through divorce or separation or war or death or whatever, live their life obsessed by someone else. So I thought I’d go to the most fundamental link and see what happens if a mother and child are separated at the baby’s birth.”

One of the reasons Garcia made Bening’s character fourteen when she had the child was because he “didn’t want her to have a say.”

“She never made an informed decision,” he explained. “It was forced upon her. And I always knew I wanted to pick up the story 35 years later and explore how the two of them had faired living separated and not knowing a thing about the other. With having each other as a ghost in their lives. So that was the point of departure… It wasn’t so much about motherhood as it was about living with the ghost of an absent person in your life.”

“Mother and Child” opens in limited release beginning May 15, 2010. Check out video from the entire Apple Store panel here.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE’s Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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