Los Angeles Premiere!
Vera Brunner-Sung and Jeri Rafter in person!
Vera Brunner-Sung (“Common Ground” – screened at Filmforum in 2009) returns to Filmforum with her first feature film, Bella Vista, shot in her new home state, Montana. A quiet portrait of a peripatetic schoolteacher and her newest flock of energetic students, Brunner-Sung finds the cinematic connections between internal emotions and external landscapes, where loneliness and big sky country feed each other, and how other people can disrupt a life’s course. Filmforum has been serving as fiscal sponsor for a small number of interesting films over the past few years, and we’re delighted to host the Los Angeles premiere of one of them.
“Director Vera Brunner-Sung's first feature film, Bella Vista, is a moving piece of cinema—and that's impressive, as there's very little movement in it at all. The film follows Doris, played by Kathleen Wise, an adjunct English language teacher at the University of Montana, and a group of foreign students taking her class. Throughout the story, Doris and her students try to figure how they fit into a new town and a new life. …It's a deftly purposeful tack to take on Brunner-Sung's part, making the film less a plot-lined story and more of a meditation on emotion and place.” –Migizi Pensoneau, Missoula Independent
“With a beautifully photographic eye, provocative shifts in perspective, and a sensory approach to questions of location, history, and language, BELLA VISTA is a remarkable debut that puts Brunner-Sung on the feature-film map, no doubt ready to drift onto another.” –Christina Ree, San Diego Asian Film Festival
Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at http://bpt.me/1114410 or at the door.
Vera Brunner-Sung (writer/director/producer) has shown her short experimental documentaries at festivals, galleries, and museums around the world, including the Torino Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, CPH:DOX, MoMA PS1, Images Festival, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, and Los Angeles Filmforum. She holds an M.F.A. in Film/Video from the California Institute of the Arts, and lives and works in Missoula, Montana. This is her first fiction and first feature film.
Jeri Rafter (producer) has worked on feature films including Winter in the Blood (Alex & Andrew Smith) and Jimmy P. (Arnaud Desplechin). She was an assistant to producer Megan Ellison (True Grit, The Master) and on the production team for Rob Reiner’s latest film, …And So It Goes. Jeri is a fifth generation Montanan with an M.F.A. in Media Arts from the university of Montana.
2014, USA, HDcam, 83 min.,
Written and Directed by Vera Brunner-Sung
Produced by Vera Brunner-Sung, Jeri Rafter and Brooke Swaney
Cinematography by Alexandra Cuesta
Edited by Petra Demas and Vera Brunner-Sung
A meditation on displacement and adaptation in the contemporary American West, Bella Vista follows the lives of outsiders in Missoula, Montana. Teaching English to a group of international students, thirty-something Doris finds herself increasingly alone. While she grasps for the connection that might save her, it’s her students who understand what it takes to belong.
“Movies about drifters are usually movies about home in disguise, and BELLA VISTA lives in the cagey space where transience complicates definitions of home. Inspired by Brunner-Sung’s own relocation to Missoula, Doris is someone for whom arriving doesn’t mean staying. Missoula, the film’s other subject, happens to be full of such characters – from her international students to a field trip docent who blandly describes Missoula’s internment camp where Japanese and Italians were imprisoned with vastly different trajectories.
“Brunner-Sung asks what it feels like for Doris to make sense of a specific place in time. It’s a difficult question partly because a place is not really a finite knowable object and because we are always in the midst of the making-sense process. As such, Brunner-Sung’s posture is that of a wallflower, aloof but wide-eyed, scanning for connection, ready to leave.
“Shot on a shoestring budget over 12 days, BELLA VISTA could seem at first glance like a despairing film, except for its many lilting turns, both narrative and aerobic. With a beautifully photographic eye, provocative shifts in perspective, and a sensory approach to questions of location, history, and language, BELLA VISTA is a remarkable debut that puts Brunner-Sung on the feature-film map, no doubt ready to drift onto another.” –Christina Ree, San Diego Asian Film Festival
“I am interested in what happens when we are separated from our origins. The child of immigrants to the United States, I grew up in a land that considers this removal a promise of freedom and opportunity. But what are its consequences? Bella Vista explores both sides: the perils of rootlessness, as well as the optimism of new beginnings. These themes have crystallized for me while living in the western U.S., where powerful American archetypes – the Indigenous, the Emigrant, the Drifter – are very much alive. In a land of shifting identities, I would like to know what remains constant.
“My influences include the Western genre, Michelangelo Antonioni, and James Benning’s politically charged landscapes. Bella Vista is about the experience of strangers living in the west…This film is a continuation of the investigation into history, memory, and place, that I began in my previous short experimental films. The script was inspired in part by my personal experience moving to Montana in 2011. – Vera Brunner-Sung