November 19th, 2018 / posted by paularath

Producer Jim Burke answers questions from the crowd after the showing of his film “Green Book.”

Saturday afternoon Jerry and I had the great pleasure of seeing a film at the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) that outshone every other film we have seen in the past few years: “Green Book.”

Although the showing had a rough start – we had to wait for about 45 minutes for the projectionist to cue it up – even that experience contributed to the film, as one of the producers, Jim Burke, was there and graced us with an enlightening commentary about how the film came about, how star Viggo Mortensen gained about 50 pounds (“He ate and ate and ate…”) and as many insights as he could, without crossing into the realm of spoiler alert.

The comedy-drama benefits tremendously from the remarkable chemistry between the two stars: Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. I found Linda Cartellini’s performance as Mortensen’s wife to be spot-on as well.

“Green Book” is the true story of a real friendship that grew in 1962 and lasted a lifetime. It’s about an eight-week concert tour in the Deep South, a road trip that actually happened and stands as a sometimes caustic reminder of the racial inequality in our nation. “Live inside it and see how it changes you,” Burke said.

Of course it’s always fun to see the early 60s again, with the fabulous cars and clothes. And, oh yeah, the sound track!

Mortensen plays an Italian American, Tony Vallelonga, a bouncer at the Copacabana, who is hired to drive – and protect – Jamaican-American classically trained concert pianist Don Shirley. Tony has a sixth-grade education, while Don has several PhDs.

I don’t want to spoil the film by giving away any secrets, but I would like to share a few of the comments Burke made during the Q&A:

  • “It’s a handicap that I’m white. In the process of this movie I only knew what I knew. I talked to Octavia Spencer (an Executive Producer) and she caught (all of us) when we went off the rails. She kept us on target.”
  • “We carefully navigated what might have become a white savior movie.”
  • The two characters “Had nothing in common, but Tony was hired to protect him,” and he could certainly do that.
  • “People say this is a perfect time to be making this movie, but, unfortunately, it’s always a perfect time.” But I would say it’s especially important now.

I am rooting for three Academy Award nominations for this film: Best Picture and two Best Actors. And maybe a fourth for Best Director, Peter Farrelly. It opens in Honolulu on Wednesday. Don’t miss it!

  • Paula Rath
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