Focus Features presents their latest feature film LAND directed by actress Robin Wright in collaboration with screenwriters Jesse Chatham and Erin Digman. We all know Wright as a renown actress and a recipient of many accolades for her well-deserved performances. Wright is now cast in a new role as a first-time feature film director and joins the filmmakers' community. It is noteworthy to showcase her on this new platform as a well-deserving artist. Wright juggles the lead role while directing LAND, which puts her in a unique category that not many filmmakers have the talent to master, according to her cast and crew.
The producers describe Wright as, "A total professional, able to go from director to acting in an incredibly emotional scene in a split second and completely seamlessly." Truth be known, Wright, along with the film's casting director Lora Kennedy, and producer Allyn Stewart had a difficult time finding their lead role. The film was in jeopardy of losing its funding if a lead principal was not signed before a designated deadline. Wright pursued various actresses she felt appropriate for the role. Unfortunately, none of them were able to sign-on to the project due to personal reasons, but not because they didn't believe in the project--addressing emotional healing and the amazing power of human kindness.
Wright had been directing episodes for the streaming series "House of Cards" since its second season and was talented enough to direct herself while supervising an episode. This fact gave Wright the confidence to approach Stewart and Kennedy with the idea of using her for the lead role while directing the film. The rest is history! Wright knew the character inside and out and her directorial talent was proven.
Wright says, "LAND is a story of personal transformation out of tragedy and loss. We couldn't know when we were making this film that a global pandemic would leave people grieving all over the world." She continues, "LAND is a story about one person's experience dealing with extreme adversity. I hope that it inspires audiences to believe in their own resilience." Adding, "And, the capacity we all have to shine a light with simple kindness."
Edee Holzer (Robin Wright), suffering from a life-altering loss, embarks on a personal journey to find a new way of living. A west coast flatlander, Edee journeys East to the Wyoming mountain range to find peace, tranquility and the sounds of nature convinced this will help figure out her next steps. Planning to spend just a few months in the wilderness in an old cabin on land she recently purchased, Edee stocks up on a limited amount of supplies in the nearest town and heads for the hills.
The locals notice Edee as a newcomer and try to befriend her, but she is not interested. She's into solitude! Her stoic and prideful demeanor puts people off; but, in reality those locals worry once they observe what Edee purchases for her stay. It's clear that she is not experienced enough to live in their mountain range alone far from humanity. Their unpredictable weather change alone can kill a person not to mention confronting the wild animals that abound. It's no place for a city girl!
Summer, autumn and winter each bring their delight and destruction much to Edee's dismay and changes without warning. She is tested beyond imagination to the realities of her new abode. Edee's inability to control her ever-changing environment with little resources puts her life in jeopardy. Edee's emotional state slowly spirals down a dark hole.
A local man, Miguel Borras (Demian Bichir), who delivers clean water to a nearby indigenous reservation, befriends Edee at the time when she is most needy. Out of desperation, Edee is forced to accept Miguel's kindness. Miguel's patient mannerism is her saving grace for survival. Over time, Edee learns important survival skills from Miguel and every encounter deals with the present. Their past is a taboo subject. Each need emotional healing and hold on to their suffering until their cordiality grows toward a deep and loving friendship. An open door for hope to live again.
Notes from the Q & A session immediately following the screening:
Director Robin Wright shares: It’s a story about human connection. We need each other to get us thru difficult times and we need that right now (referring to the COVID-19 outbreak world-wide)
RW: It's a super timely story
RW: Edee and Miguel represent all of us in different ways as we heal and seek redemption
RW: Nature is a character in the movie because it is a healing property
Q: As a director, what is appealing about your job?
RW: The collaboration with all of the film departments...I love team work and it was a great collaborative team
Q: How did you choose the music? A
RW: I was turned on to a song by The Staves trio and then went to hear them perform in an old church. Their songs were so moving that I wept for an hour
Q: The film presents itself as a three-act play, what was fascinating about filming it so?
RW: The DP slept in Edee's cabin so at any moment he could use his camera to get shots due to lighting, ideas, owning the atmosphere so that one can imagine a healing process taking place in Edee overtime.
Q: How important was it to show Edee's trauma and grief?
RW: We used the advice of PTSD doctors to explain the phases of grief and then what it looks like when on comes out on the other side. The themes of hope and resilience are vital to the healing power in the story.
Q: What was it like working with the animals on set?
RW: We had a bear whisperer on set. It was unsafe to bring a trained bear into the wild bear area. It could be very dangerous!
The film location was set in Moose Mountain, Alberta, Canada at an 8,000 feet elevation. It was a 29 day shoot and within those days’ summer, autumn and snow showed up. The cabin used was built by the set designer. Wright shares, "The area had the most extreme, unpredictable weather patterns I've ever encountered. It was a lot of work and not a lot of sleep to make this film. I think all of us, cast and crew, felt so grateful to be part of this film about human decency and kindness."