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indieWIRE’s “Bigger” Project of the Day: “Four” Explores the Hidden Relationships of Suburbia

indieWIRE’s “Bigger” Project of the Day: "Four" Explores the Hidden Relationships of Suburbia

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Director: Joshua Sanchez
Writer (Play): Christopher Shinn
Writer (Adapted screenplay): Joshua Sanchez
Executive Producer: Neil Labute
Cast: Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”), Emory Cohen (“Afterschool”), E.J. Bonilla, Aja King

Adapted from Pulitzer Prize-finalist Christopher Shinn’s play by the same name, “Four,” Joshua Sanchez’s first feature, takes place in lonely suburbia during a Fourth of July evening. The film follows two parallel romantic relationships: one of a 16-year-old white boy with a closeted, married black man, and the other of the man’s own 16-year-old daughter with a 20-year-old low-level drug dealer, and also the relationship between the daughter and father.

Sanchez first met playwright Christopher Shinn back in 2004, when he chose to interview him for PS 122 gallery after seeing his play “Where Do We Live.” He was initially drawn to his work because he “felt that as a writer, Shinn had a voice that he hadn’t heard before; a contemporary American experience that wasn’t really being spoken for at the time,” noted Sanchez. Although Sanchez has never seen the production of the play, upon reading it he felt “connected to the material, the setting and the situation more than anything else.”

After growing up in the suburbs of Houston, Sanchez wanted to explore the sense of drifting and feelings of isolation associated with suburbia. About what initially appealed to him, Sanchez said, “It’s a world that I really understood and grew up in; a very lonely suburban landscape. It seemed so visual to me, all the locations and the landscape of the story seemed so real and vivid.” He wanted to delve into “family relationships in a world where they can be hidden and shamed into a sort of habitual denial.” One major theme of the movie is that very landscape.

Sanchez noted that in his adaptation, he chose to explore the relationship between the father and daughter further and to have the film be less of an ensemble than the play. Regarding influences and inspirations, Sanchez said he “tried to stay away from a lot of movies that were typical references,” like, for instance, “American Beauty.” He said one main cinematic influence may have been Cassavetes’ “Faces,” stylistically and in terms of “a plot about a decaying family relationship and the immediacy of the photography.” He did have a major influence outside of movies, however, which were the paintings of Darrell Ellis. Ellis projected family photographs on to irregular plaster forms and photographed the results, the distortions symbolizing the turmoil within his family.

When asked about the significance of the ‘Four,’ Sanchez commented that, aside from the quintessential American vibe of the holiday, “it provided a nice framework for the situation with the depressing, anti-climactic” undertones of a holiday where no one really knows what to do. The crew plans to wrap up shooting in and around Long Island in a few days, and has the ambitious hope of finishing a rough cut by September.

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