A Tribute to Robert M. Young

Robert M. Young Tribute

A Tribute to Robert M. Young

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With pure intent and conviction and a graceful, delicate sincerity, Robert M. Young lights up the screen with movies that touch our hearts, our minds, and sum up the very fiber of the human soul. Oh, yeah! He'll even throw in a little fish once in a while. Lots of fish when it comes to his film, Caught, a gripping drama, charged with sculpted tension; incredible, subtle performances; and a powerful, engaging story...and fish. At the world premiere of Caught applause reverberated through the air. The director had to wait a while before he could even be heard above the appreciative audience. It was an enviable scene for any location, especially so at the Sundance Film Festival where the film premiered to a thoughtful, enchanted audience. And why not? Fish or no fish, both audiences and critics have embraced Young's films for decades.

The award winning, highly celebrated Robert M. Young (M for Malcolm) has a gift for creating films of extraordinary veracity, sensuality, and delicate affection, no matter the subject. His uncanny insight into the human spirit has earned him a well-deserved reputation as one of America's foremost independent filmmakers. Known for imparting a marvelous sense of wonder to his audiences, Young's award-winning work ranges from classic documentaries to acclaimed feature films, such as Alhambrista, Dominick and Eugene, Extremities, and Triumph of the Spirit. Young is the recipient of numerous accolades, including the Cannes' Camera d'Or, an Emmy, a Peabody, and two George Polk Prizes for "Heroism in Journalism." Although the subject matter of his films is diverse, his trademark approach to directing imbues all of his characters with a measure of respect, distinction, and a living and true basic humanity.

His approach to filmmaking is as unplanned as a conversation; why bother to talk if the words are already known? There is a joy and truth in the unfolding and discovery of a scene. Young has a remarkable ability to guide his creative team in capturing the novelty and freshness of true temporal evolvement. "You know, a lot of directing is a kind of process of osmosis," says Young. "It's not like you're telling actors what to do; it's quite the opposite. You're encouraging them to explore the facts imaginatively, to allow themselves to be the character. When we do a scene, I don't want the actor to have made decisions about what he or she is going to do. I want it played like life, where you don't know what the hell is going to happen or be said next. I want them completely in the moment." And it works--extremely well.

1986's wrenching Extremities explores the desperation and uncertainty of a hunted woman trying to escape and ultimately conquer her would-be rapist. Nothing but a Man (incidentally, this is Malcolm X's favorite film) told of the creeping, insidious nature of institutional, publicly condoned racism. The wearing down and destruction of a man's sense of self are palpable. Young can make poignant social dramas, realistic and raw documentaries, and even lighthearted comedies. He is a consummate storyteller, working overtime to provide his audience with as complete and whole a picture as he possibly can. Despite his stature as a tier one filmmaker, Young has an inclusive, engaging manner with the people with whom he works, embracing the collaborative process as a viable way to make art. Some of the screen's most indelible images were created through Young's innovative, interactive collaborative process. His piercing mastery of the craft of filmmaking continues to leave audiences in wonder at his genuine, sincere portrayals of humankind. "What 'independent' means to me," says Young, "is that I take responsibility for the material that I make films about." Responsibility is a rare word these days; it's refreshing when a director holds himself accountable for all aspects of his work, from casting and choreography, to spontaneity and audience inclusion. Not to mention fish.

Alhambrista! to will be followed by a special award presentation to Robert M. Young. When a young Mexican boy, Ambriz, illegally crosses the border into the U.S. to find work, he discovers everything isn't what he thought it would be--finding himself being exploited as he tries to support his family. Alhambrista! is a touching, fresh, and often insightful portrayal of the universal conflicts that face all of us. This special screening of Robert M. Young's early work is a must for any film aficionado.

Don't miss the exciting screenings of Robert M. Young's films during the festival: Dominick & Eugene (1988) Twin brothers, Dominick (Tom Hulce) and Eugene (Ray Liotta), live together in a modest home. Always the "older brother" type, Eugene has made it his life to taking care of Dominick, who is a little slower due to a childhood accident. Combining incredible performances and portraying the extraordinary beauty of the human spirit, Dominick & Eugene garnered Tom Hulce a Golden Globe nomination and reveals Robert M. Young's amazing understanding of our very souls. - Kristina Batiste