Marfa Girl wins top prize at Rome Film Festival
Director praises actors, unleashes expletive ridden tirade toward authority during acceptance speech
By JEFF MATHEIS
MARFA, ROME, Italy – Marfa Girl, the locally made Larry Clark feature, won Best Film at the 7th Rome Film Festival on Sunday.
The movie was in competition against 15 other world premiers, including well received films by Alan Polska and Roman Coppola.
“From torpid opening to explosive finale, Marfa Girl surfs through familiar Clark country, dragging a dilated eye across the wanton youth of smalltown Texas,” writes the Guardian online reporter Xan Brooks in praise of the film.
Presenting the Golden Marc’Aurelio Best Film award to Clark, Jury Chairman Jeff Nichols cited Clark’s career-long thematic focus as part of Marfa Girl’s success. “Some filmmakers spend their careers defining an idea. With this film that we’ve chosen, I think the filmmaker has reached a new level in his exploration of this idea by using voices that are not typically heard in cinema.”
Clark has been illuminating the underground life of teenagers since his 1971 photo book, Tulsa, and the 1995 feature film, Kids.
In accepting the award, Clark said, “I’ve always been interested in the way our childhood and our adolescence forms us as adults. This is once again a film about that.”
This exploration of adolescent experience in an adult world manifested itself as a real-world theme in Clark’s acceptance speech. Atop the stage of Rome’s Auditorium Parco della Musica, Clark effusively praised Marfa actors Adam Mediano, Mercedes Maxwell and Mary Farley. “Adam Mediano plays Adam in the movie and if you’ve seen the movie, he’s terrific, [as is] his girlfriend in the movie, Mercedes Maxwell.” Clark concluded his speech addressing Mediano’s absence from the festival, a real-life predicament mirroring themes he addresses in his art, with a passion that would be latent in his films. As a translator converted his speech – and expletives – into Italian, Clark said that Marfa High School Principal Cynthia Wimberly at the last minute prevented Mediano from attending the festival due to her views of Clark and the controversial films he makes.
The film is quintessential Clark and includes scenes of sex, rape, and a confrontation with a Border Patrol agent gone bad.
Shortly after the ceremony, Clark directed an email to Presidio County juvenile probation officer Dina Jo Losoya: “Marfa Girl won top prize last night and Adam should have been there. I am really pissed off at you. You gave me your word he could go. He will now hate authority for the rest of his life. Thanks, Larry.”
Mary Farley, “Mary” in the film, heard about Marfa Girl’s Best Film win during a layover while returning from the Rome screening. Farley said she was at first terrified and excited to see herself on the giant screen but “the story took over and I was soon as caught up as everyone else.” According to Farley, the film is not necessarily about Marfa, it’s “about local kids.”
“People come to Marfa and see potential. As a kid, you don’t see the potential. It captures that kind of loneliness. You want to break out and investigate. You are on an island thousands of miles from everything,” Farley said.
Farly didn’t share the view Clark presented regarding Mediano’s absence. “It’s not Cindy’s fault. It’s irrelevant.”
Marfa Girl “showcases deft, natural performances from Mediano, (Jeremy) St James, and Drake Burnett,” according to Brooks of the Guardian. Mediano’s performance is called “rather touching,” by Jordan Mintzer at the Hollywood Reporter.
Farley said Clark is so good working with non-actors because “he doesn’t have them acting against type. He provides direction and lets the story come about.”
Jessica Kiang wrote on indiewire.com that Marfa Girl “foregrounds elements that haven’t historically cropped up quite so regularly in the filmmaker’s back catalog, like race relations, spirituality, and adults defined in ways other than their effect on teens, including, rarest of all, a functional and mutually loving parent/child relationship.”
Marfa Girl was released Tuesday on larryclark.com. It won’t be available in theaters or on DVD. Padre’s Marfa plans to show the film on Thanksgiving evening. Marfa Girl 2 is scheduled to start shooting March 8, Mediano’s 17th birthday.