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Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #49: Zachary Heinzerling Captures the Struggles of Art and Love in ‘Cutie and the Boxer’

Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #49: Zachary Heinzerling Captures the Struggles of Art and Love in 'Cutie and the Boxer'

This year’s U.S. Documentary Directing Award winner Zachary Heinzerling made his feature deabut with “Cutie and the Boxer,” a raw portrait of the complicated relationship between two Japsnese artists in their 80s. The film premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition and has been picked up by RADiUS-TWC.

What It’s About: It’s a portrait of a 40-year marriage between two artists who completely need and love each other, but would never admit it.

And So It’s Really About: It’s about what it means to be an artist—the intense highs and lows, the sacrifices you make, and the realities you ultimately face. On the one hand Noriko, who once gave up art to take care of her alcoholic husband and her son, is now re-inventing herself through her work, and finally escaping Ushio’s long shadow. And on the other hand Ushio, who gained a lot of notoriety early on in his career, but never financial success, is now in his twilight years and struggling to find his legacy and leave his mark on the art world.

What was your single biggest challenge in bringing this to the screen: One huge challenge for me was figuring out when to stop filming. When your subjects are living, and their lives are the subject of the film, the story continues to unfold after shooting stops. While the film itself seems to take place over the course of about a year, in actuality the film took much longer to shoot. And a lot of that is just waiting for things to play out. Waiting for seeds of change to actualize. And feeling the need to capture those moments, instead of trying to force something, or create something that didn’t feel true to my subjects.

What do you want Sundance audiences to take away from this film: Love is complicated. And relationships work for reasons we cannot always articulate. I hope that audiences will recognize themselves in Ushio and Noriko’s story, and consider their own relationships after watching.

Did any specific films inspire you in the making of this movie: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s family drama “Still Walking,” a film where the tension and drama exists beneath the surface, arising in moments that are more powerful because of the quiet anticipation that precedes them.

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 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.

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