Provocative filmmaker shooting movie in Marfa
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
MARFA – Renowned and notorious photographer, artist, and filmmaker Larry Clark, will be making his next project in Marfa. His latest film-to-be, with a working title of Marfa Girl, will be shot in town using mostly locals as actors.
The Tulsa, Oklahoma native, who has been a photographer for 50 years, made his film debut with the 1995 film, Kids, for which he is widely known in the United States and abroad.
Clark first visited Marfa a year ago when he was invited by artist and part-time Marfa resident Christopher Wool to participate in the CineMarfa film festival. Clark screened his films Ken Park, Wassup Rockers and his 16mm, never-before-seen Tulsa, during CineMarfa’s inaugural event.
Clark sat down for an interview with The Big Bend Sentinel this week to discuss his upcoming movie and his thoughts about Marfa.
“I thought Marfa was just so interesting with a constant cultural clash,” Clark said of the art community, native Marfans, the Hispanic community and the large Border Patrol presence.
He said he had only known of Marfa through friends who had visited and through the art institutions. Clark also noted the film that put Marfa on the map 56 years ago, Giant.
“I’m from the teenage generation when Giant was filmed,” Clark said, adding that the death of Giant film star James Dean is still fresh in his mind.
“It’s interesting to come here, then be inspired to write, direct, and film a movie here,” Clark said, adding with a laugh that he’s a “triple threat” on his latest project.
Marfa Girl, Clark explained, is a drama and coming-of-age story about a Marfa kid. The film is centered on this young fellow, played by Marfa teen-ager Adam Mediano.
“He’s the glue that keeps it together,” Clark said of the character portrayed by Mediano.
Marfa resident Mary Farley will act as Mediano’s mother. Farley, who keeps chickens and parrots, is allowing Clark to film her birds as well.
“Adam Mediano plays the young man, Mary Farley plays the mother, and the birds play the birds,” Clark said grinning.
“I think the film, ultimately, is more about people’s internal life and maybe hints of why people become who they become. I never want to do caricatures of people. I want them to be human,” Clark said, adding that the film is also about how the internal life manifests into the external life. “It’s going to be a good one.”
Other main characters in the film include a young artist woman who comes to Marfa for the burgeoning art community, and three Border Patrol agents, one of whom Clark says is the “bad guy.”
Other local actors are Mercedes Maxwell, Eric Quintana, Richard Covarrubias, and Elizabeth ‘Lissa’ Castro. More locals will be used in the film, mostly Hispanics, Clark said, as well as a few actors from Austin.
As the title of his film suggests, the town of Marfa is just as much a character in the film as the characters portrayed by people.
“Visually, yes. Marfa is a character in the film. Visually it’s so interesting,” said Clark. “It’s a fairly psychological film based deep in my psyche. All about human beings and what happens to us in life.”
Clark’s past films have centered on issues of disenfranchised youth, being abandoned or abused by the adults in their lives. Asked if audiences will identify Marfa Girl as a “Larry Clark movie,” the filmmaker said, “I think they will. A lot of the film is about being young and just observing the world. We all grow up and everything happens around us. Lessons are learned, and how does that randomness affect our lives. It’s going to be quite an interesting story.”
Clark is often labeled, at the very least, as a provocative filmmaker, whose films have not been released without controversy. Some of his films have shown graphic images of drug use, sexual behavior, and suicide.
Last week, the filmmakers asked Marfa ISD Superintendent Teloa Swinnea if a scene could be filmed in a classroom. She asked for a synopsis of the film.
They sent her a description of the movie that stated the “drama (is) about the co-existence and clash of the multi-cultural community living in a small border town. The story follows three local characters whose lives intersect in a dramatic and tragic twist. With a realistic and explicit eye, our camera exposes our characters as they face matters of immigration, teen pregnancy, moral and religious conflicts and the socioeconomic effects on youth in small town America.
“Among the beautiful scenery, the ugliness of human nature comes out often in the forms of abuse and rape. In order to express director Larry Clark’s vision and the stories loosely based on true events, our film contains adult situations, explicit and graphic violence and sexual content. While our film does not take a particular stance on any issue, it does however reflect real life situations in a way that will bring up questions on social concerns,” the description stated.
After consulting with school board members and others, Swinnea on Wednesday decided the filmmakers couldn’t use a classroom as one of the film’s sets.
“I don’t try to be controversial,” Clark said, “I just try to be honest and tell the truth about life. Coming from the art world, I never think you can’t do that. I think that Hollywood films are really underestimating their audience. I’ve been an artist for many, many years. I’m not interested in making films just to make money. I’m interested in making work that I’m satisfied with, maybe showing stuff that isn’t shown much, or so I’m told.”
One local actor, Richard Covarrubias, spoke of the prospect of working with Clark. “It’ll be exciting. I’m a fan of his movies. He’s really cool.”
Musician and Marfa actor Eric Quintana also spoke of meeting Clark.
“He was down here for the film festival (last year) and we ended up hanging out with him. He liked our music and wanted to check it out,” Quintana said.
“It was kind of unbelievable at first,” Quintana said of being asked to act in Clark’s film, “We studied his (stuff). It’s pretty cool. We’re honored in a way.”
Clark noted that one character is a New Age spiritual healer and, without giving the ending away, said, “At the end a well-needed spiritual cleansing is performed. The film is very Catholic in that way. The end is a new beginning, all sins are washed away and life goes on as each new day brings us a new start in life.”