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Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #24: Malik Vitthal Tells a Gangster’s Story of Redemption in ‘Imperial Dreams’

Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #24: Malik Vitthal Tells a Gangster's Story of Redemption in 'Imperial Dreams'

“My mother raised me on ashrams, so as a boy I traveled the world exploring other cultures.”Malik Vitthal was born and raised in LA and graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. His passion for storytelling through film, he told Indiewire, “allows me to explore my curiosity for the human experience within a multidimensional creative platform.” This is his directorial debut. 

What it’s about: “A 21-year-old reformed gangster’s devotion to his family is put to the
test when he’s released from prison and returns to his old stomping
grounds in Watts, Los Angeles.”

What it’s really about: “I was attracted to the duality of a young gangster walking the line of
trying to protect his son while remaining true to the culture of the
hood. Characters that are full of love and also very in touch with their
dark side are a fascinating topic that we dissect in our story.”

Biggest challenge: “What could have crushed us ended up being the greatest moment for our
team. Two days before we began shooting in our main location, we were
denied access. We lost the location and had to turn our schedule on its
head in order to keep the production moving forward. Our producers
rallied, kept our team together, and devised a plan to attend a local
hearing to plead our case that the film would be a net positive for the
City of Watts and its inhabitants. The residents of the community fought
hard to help us gain access to shoot there and lobbied the City and
Sheriff’s Department on our behalf. After a few closed-door meetings,
and continuing to gain the community’s support, we got the location
back. The story was directly affected however, because we ended up
having to rewrite much of it on the fly, alter some locations, change
some character points, and so on. Yet in the end, the film is all the
better for it.”

Cameras used: “An Arri Alexa, which was generously provided by Film Independent’s ARRI Feature Film Grant.”

Hopes for audience take-away: “Their own experience.” 

What’s next? “Writing. Lots of writing.”

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 2014 festival.
For profiles go HERE.

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