Fimmaker David Spaltro brings his second feature film, “Things I Don’t Understand” to ICF 2013. He returns to Idyllwild after having attended in 2010 with his first film “Around.”
Spaltro is a New Yorker through and through. He moved to Manhattan from Jersey City in 2001, just after 9/11, and returned to New York from a summer festival circuit three days before Hurricane Sandy hit the city.
He spoke about the resilience of New Yorkers and how they pull together. “You can’t stop this city,” he said. “The way it trains you, once you’re here you’re always a New Yorker.”
So it’s not surprising that Spaltro’s films are New York-centric. “My films are little valentines to New York,” he said. “Things I Don’t Understand” is the second in his New York trilogy.
His first, “ Around,” was his coming to New York college chronicle. “Things” is a mid- to late-20s tale of trying to figure things out, thing that are difficult to understand. His next, “Wake Up in New York” is more reflective, a love story with a sci-fi twist.
“Things” is the story of Violet Kubelick, a brilliant graduate student, studying near-death experiences after her own failed suicide. She forms a cathartic relationship with a young, terminally ill girl she interviews for her thesis project and also with a damaged bartender who lives downstairs from her New York loft. Said Spaltro, “It’s a story of changing, relationships, love, life and what comes after.”
He said the genesis for the story came when he volunteered in a hospice while in college in New York City. “It had a lot of my own personal questions,” he noted, “trying to sort out and approach the question of faith.” But he didn’t write the script or make the film till years later. “I didn’t have the experience as a filmmaker or know-how to tell it right at twenty-one, so I shelved it and a few years later, while figuring out what story would be my first feature, I again realized I just wasn’t ready to tell it.”
After wrapping “Around,” and after experiencing the personal loss of a few close people, Spaltro began work on “Things I Don’t Understand.” “I started in 2008 and had a good first draft in about three months. It took one year to do the rewrites. I didn’t want to provide answers, just to open a dialogue [about an afterlife] with the audience.”
Spaltro and partners began shooting in April 2011, mostly in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, over a 20-day shooting schedule. “Things I Don’t Understand” has already won multiple awards on the festival circuit. “I’m not a prize junkie,” Spaltro said, “but I do want the people I work with to have their work seen. That’s my satisfaction. I love film because it’s collaborative. All these great artists bringing their work.”
Idyllwild audiences will have a chance to see “Things I Don’t Understand,” and the highly reviewed performances of lead actors Molly Ryman and Aaron Mathias at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Rustic.