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Cary Fukunaga’s Runaway Train

Cary Fukunaga’s Runaway Train (photo)

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Following an explosion at Sundance where Cary Joji Fukunaga picked up prizes for best direction and cinematography, “Sin Nombre” came to theaters this weekend almost as if it were propelled there by the sheer force of its buzz. (At Sundance, Fukunaga described the ease with which he sold the story to Focus Features in a video interview with IFC News.) The film tells of Casper (Edgar Flores), a disgraced gang member who hops a train headed to the States in an attempt to get away from his former crew. When he saves Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) from an attack among the hundreds of would-be immigrants lining the roof of the train, the two go on the run together. But love isn’t in the air for Casper and Paulina, only flying bullets, and the gritty thriller becomes a refreshing blast of no holds barred filmmaking that seems to stem directly from Fukunaga’s fortitude, a personality trait that likely came in handy for the NYU grad as he researched the film by traveling on the same trains in Mexico and witnessing horrors that eventually made it into the script. Fukunaga recently brought the film to SXSW, where he took the time to talk about the perils of expanding a short film into a full-length feature and shooting on a moving train.

How did you become interested in this subject?

It’s really accidental. I did a short film while I was at NYU called “Victoria Para Chino” and while doing research, learned about the Central American part of the journey. It’s just something I never heard before, and so when I had the opportunity to make a feature film, that’s immediately what I chose to focus on. They’re kind of one and the same in that sense, the short film and the feature film. They’re not going to be my only direction in filmmaking, but they kind of exist as a pair.

One of the most striking aspects to me was how you handled the treatment of immigrants as they were passing through different parts of the country — first being greeted by apples to eat in one area and being attacked by rocks from the hands of children in another section. Was that something that came from your own research?

Part of it was my own experience and part of it was…I met a kid in Reynoso, [near] the Texas border, and he was telling me about one part of his trip in northern Mexico where the local kids were throwing rocks at him, and I had also been on trains in the southern part of Mexico where they threw food to you, so it was an interesting contrast within the country. There were many times when that was almost cut in the script and in the edit, and I really fought to keep that scene in there, with the kids throwing rocks.

There have been many immigration-related dramas lately and while this film stands on its own, was it in any way a response to other films you may have seen?

I didn’t really watch any immigration films beforehand. I haven’t seen “El Norte” since I was 10 years old and I guess “Maria Full of Grace” is its own crossing story, or “Traffic” or “Babel,” but I knew that at least for this story, my structural model was the journey — it’s basically its own version of a road film. But the elements I liked in terms of how to treat it cinematically were drawn from westerns, so I watched Peckinpah films, some Ford and Huston, and got a sense of how they covered landscape. Although I wasn’t going to be doing these grandiose Utah Cinemascope shots, I wanted a few wide shots. I got two or three near the end. [laugh] But I think of it as a post-industrial wild west story, if not a western.

03202009_SinNombre1.jpgIn terms of structure, when you make a feature-length version of your short film, can you possibly get so attached to some of the ideas in your short that they become obstacles in expanding the story?

The short film in the first draft I did still existed within the script, [but] in this sense, no. The short film was written and directed to be an experience for the audience, and not so much trying to express any sort of political perspective. It wasn’t propaganda for either side or either perspective. I just wanted the audience to feel a connection with the characters, so for the feature, it was the same thing — focus on the journey and make it an experience. That was the goal and that’s it. So it wasn’t an obstacle, it was actually a great theme to be able to stick to, just as a way to keep my bearings as I was going through it.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.