On the warm, clear evening of Friday, June 24th, over 300 people arrived at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts to celebrate the opening of the 2016 Willson Oakville Film Festival. Beaming couples and groups of friends strolled up the red carpet and paused in front of the step and repeat ‘celebrity’ wall to smile for cameras before continuing into the theatre. They were here to enjoy the gala Canadian Premiere of “Manhattan Nocturne” starring Adrien Brody, Yvonne Strahovski, and Jennifer Beals.
Truly an Independent Film
The film’s New York City based writer-director, Brian DeCubellis mingled with the crowd that included Peter Willson, President and CEO of title sponsor Willson International. In these moments before the screening, DeCubellis paused for photos and an interview on the red carpet.
“This was a passion project of mine for many years, having read the novel in 1999 and beginning the effort to make the movie then. This movie exists because of a love of filmmaking by everyone involved on both sides of the camera. This is truly an independent film.”
Inside the theatre, during the opening remarks, things suddenly took a surprising turn when festival Executive Director, Wendy Donnan called out a seat number and announced that the occupant of that seat was the winner of a unique hand-made leather purse by sponsor, 1uv Designs. The winners, a couple seated in the mid-section, were delighted to receive their prize.
The audience continued to participate through the evening. Following the screening of “Manhattan Nocturne”, festival host Rob Salem facilitated an engaging audience conversation with DeCubellis. Among the many questions posed to the congenial filmmaker were “How did the film get made,” and “What does the film noir genre mean in 2016?”
Said DeCubellis, “It was a 17 year process that finally came together when Adrien Brody came on board.”
About the film noir genre, DeCubellis explained, “From the time the book was written to the time the film was made, a lot has changed in the newspaper business and in the world in general. The film reflects that by making Adrien Brody’s character, as a newspaper reporter, an endangered species and by including in the story various technologies that either weren’t common in the 1990’s or didn’t even exist.”
“I was fortunate to have this stellar cast. Adrien Brody is amazing. His performance is subtle and alive in every frame – the acting disappears and we are just with the character. Yvonne Strahovski really takes the leading lady role in a noir of the femme fatale to a 2.0 place for our time in a brilliant way. People think they know Campbell Scott but they will be surprised by his performance. Some people don’t even recognize him ‘til halfway through the movie. And Jennifer Beals is fantastic as the moral centre. You could argue that her role is the most challenging because of what is required of Lisa to do narratively as providing the stakes in the way the story is told. Supporting cast like Linda Lavin and Steven Berkoff bring so much humanity to their characters. I really get excited about the audience enjoying all those performances.”
The opening gala of “Manhattan Nocturne” kicked off 3 days of films and events to Sunday, June 26th.
Written by Cathleen MacDonald
Cathleen MacDonald is a writer and filmmaker.