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The 2011 AFI Fest Filmmakers | Raging Jealousy in Sophia Takal’s “Green”

The 2011 AFI Fest Filmmakers | Raging Jealousy in Sophia Takal's "Green"

Genevieve, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, is an intellectual New Yorker who moves to a cabin in the rural South with her boyfriend Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine) so that he can blog about sustainable farming. She forms a fast friendship with a local woman, Robin (played by writer/director Sofia Takal).

Their relationship initially boosts Genevieve’s confidence and self-esteem, but things grow complicated when Robin also bonds with her boyfriend. The women are gradually drawn into an irrational, destructive spiral of jealousy, insecurity and paranoia as they work to manipulate and destroy each other, creating a palpable sense of tension and discomfort as the story unfolds. Strong performances and a haunting score help to create an experience of the horror that lies within our own minds. In her first feature film, Takal creates a meditative and naturalistic portrait of one woman’s psychological unraveling. [Description by April Wright for AFI Fest.]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in 2011 AFI Fest’s Breakthrough, New Auteurs and Young Americans section to submit responses in their own words about their films. Get to know the films before they screen. AFI Fest takes place November 3 – 10 in Los Angeles.]

Young Americans section
Director: Sophia Takal
Screenwriter: Sophia Takal
Producer: Lawrence Michael Levine
Director of Photography: Nandan Rao
Editor: Sophia Takal
Music: Ernesto Carcamo
Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine

Director’s Bio: Sophia Takal’s first feature as a writer/director, GREEN, premiered at SXSW in 2011 and won the Chicken & Egg Award. She also produced, edited and starred in the award-winning feature GABI ON THE ROOF IN JULY. Sophia was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Film” in 2011.

Responses courtesy of “Green” director Sophia Takal

In 140 characters or less, what’s your film about?

An intimate friendship between two women dissolves as they’re drawn into an irrational, destructive spiral of jealousy and paranoid fantasy.

Now tell us what it’s really about…

Genevieve, a New York intellectual, moves to the country with her self-involved journalist boyfriend, Sebastian, while he works on his latest project about sustainable farming.

Bored and neglected, Genevieve turns to Robin, a working class local, for companionship. When Sebastian forms a bond of his own with Robin, Genevieve finds herself overpowered by jealousy and insecurity.

Tensions mount between the two women and soon reality and jealousy fantasy become inseparable in this haunting meditation on jealousy and the female psyche.

Takal on her Judy Garland obsession…

Probably the most crucial things to know about me are…growing up I was obsessed with Judy Garland, watching her movies was my entry point into filmmaking. I studied film studies in college where I met Lawrence Levine, a TA in my movie musicals class, who later became my fiancé! We make movies together; sometimes he directs them, sometimes I do. In the case of “Green”, I directed and he produced.

…and on her inspiration for “Green.”

For as long as I can remember, intense jealousy has been an unavoidable part of my personality. Despite an acute awareness of this, I have struggled to stop viewing myself in comparison to other women. When confronted with women I have viewed as more successful or beautiful than myself, I have tended to experience a violent storm of conflicting emotions. The desire to destroy them has coexisted with feelings of guilt regarding these destructive impulses, creating a painful paradox within me.

This conflict reached an emotional breaking point in 2010, when my fiancé directed a film that required his spending long hours away from me, working intimately with other women. The rage I felt toward the women I perceived to be threats reached uncontrollable proportions. Once the shoot was over, I realized how crazy I had been acting and began to examine this side of myself more intensely than ever before. What I came to realize was that both my jealousy of other women and the approval I was seeking from men stemmed from my lack of sense of self. I didn’t feel whole enough or good enough so I was taking it out on external forces.

I began speaking openly with my female friends about my issues with jealousy. Almost every woman I spoke to had similar experiences, yet I was hard pressed to find examples of films made by women about this subject. I decided to make “Green” is an attempt to understand these impulses.

Emotional, not technical challenges…

As I set out to make something relatively simple to produce most of the challenges arose from emotional issues not technical ones. The film is about jealousy, so that was an issue. Casting my best friend to play my fiance’s girlfriend was either really masochistic or quite emotionally mature. I still don’t know which. We had to make a lot of rules so that everyone felt comfortable. There were the usual boyfriend/girlfriend fights on set. But production-wise the film came together relatively smoothly.

“Extraordinary” performances and an “eerie” score.

The performances in “Green” are really special. Kate Lyn Sheil is extraordinary as Genevieve and Lawrence Levine is fantastic as Sebastian. Audiences and critics often point to Nandan Rao’s gorgeous cinematography or the eerie score by Ernesto Carcamo or the unique female-centered perspective the story is told from. I love all of those things about the film but without Kate and Lawrence’s performances the movie just would not have worked. They are both so natural, so focused and so nuanced.

Takal’s filmmaker influences.

[I have] more filmmakers than films: Ozu, Cassavetes, Altman, Piallat.

And coming up next…

I’m writing a movie with Lawrence that we are going to (officially) direct together that we’re shooting in January. I’m also writing bigger project – a comedy set in Ghana. Also this past year I’ve acted in a lot of movies, one which is having its world premiere at AFI, Joe Swanberg’s “The Zone.”

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