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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #32: Josh & Benny Safdie Explore Basketball Fame and Glory in ‘Lenny Cooke’

Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #32: Josh & Benny Safdie Explore Basketball Fame and Glory in 'Lenny Cooke'

Josh and Benny
are brothers and were born and raised in both Queens and Manhattan in
New York City. They shared that they’re “interested in characters, in feelings and the
moment — all fodder for our wild attraction to filmmaking.” Together they make
films of all lengths. They share an equal passion for film and basketball, calling them moody mediums that “keep them present and that
stimulate them and at the same time provide some form of an escape.”

What it’s about: It’s about an American martyr named Lenny Cooke, who was once the #1
ranked high school basketball player in the USA. It’s about the American
dream, but the idea not the story and what happens when that dream
becomes a reality before it is fully realized.

What else should audiences know?: “There’s a real glory to being the best or nothing at all.”

On the challenges: “We had a ton of source material ,that we did NOT shoot, which was all
very specific, and like life, none of it told the whole story. This
initial burden was hard to get over. You cannot tell the whole story,
you can only point at it, try to show it. The most difficult part seemed to be figuring out how to tell this
story, again because this film was not born within us, which is actually
beautiful… We chose to let life exist. Let the situations mostly
dictate the emotional climaxes and arcs of the film. When filming with
Lenny over the past few years, we had the luxury of documented memories
in the back of our heads, almost like we were doing “additional
shooting” on a feature film shot in a ton of footage from the past.
That existing footage allowed us a set of unchanging material to really
get narrative with.”

Films that inspired them: “Some 19 years later, “Hoop Dreams” still resounds within us. It was and
still is a great American document, a moving tale and it happens to also
be about basketball players. It’s a socialist film, in a beautiful way.
It cherishes the dream and the heart in a very earnest way. It speaks
volumes about Black America. Embarking on our film, we could only hope
to further the conversation or add to the perspective. In a way we are
telling the alternate reality of that film. While we were in the
beginning stages of scripting the edit and still shooting here and
there, we went to see it projected on 35mm at Lincoln Center just to
live in that world, remind ourselves of its influence. That film’s
greatest triumph is its ability to get into the minds of William and
Arthur, it’s so special in its portrayal of their emotions.  We should also mention, that we’re continually inspired by a
lot of Frederick Weisman’s work, the Maysles Brothers, D.A Pennebaker,
Flaherty, McElwee… All of their work transforms non-fiction into the
hyper-real and fictionalized. It’s a remarkable talent and one we look
to for both our fiction work and something that helped us a great deal
with both shooting and editing Lenny Cooke.

What’s next: “We are about to start production of a new fiction feature film this
summer called Uncut Gems, our most ambitious effort yet. Diamond
district, hustling, crime, emotional, moody, thriller-esque… etc.”

Indiewire invited Tribeca 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 April 17 for the latest profiles.

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