The Hidden Gems of Independent Cinema: Safdie Brothers
The entertainment industry is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Before highly anticipated film, Uncut Gems (2019), takes the world by storm in December, get to know the madly talented brothers who have everyone in town talking – from Robert Pattinson to Adam Sandler to Martin Scorsese.
Underground Hustlers of the Big Apple
The independent cinema’s hidden gems, Josh and Ben Safdie, got the creative itch for filmmaking from their film-enthusiast father at an early age growing up in the Big Apple. Being children of divorced parents, their work explored the turbulent years of their youth while capturing the labyrinth of life in New York City.
For years, making short films was merely a pastime until the opportunity of turning it into a career presented itself to them in 2007 when Partners & Spade co-founder, Andy Spade, asked them to create a short film to advertise the well-loved Kate Spade designer brand. Much to their surprise, they went above and beyond by turning in a feature film instead. The feature entitled, The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008), sparked a buzz when it premiered at the prestigious SXSW film festival and was the only American film screened at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.
A year later, the brothers made their second feature film known as Daddy Longlegs (2009) which initially premiered at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight in 2009, then at Sundance in 2010. This film paid homage to their youth growing up with their father, which impressively garnered the coveted John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2011 as well as the Gotham Award for Best Breakthrough Actor for Ronald Bronstein.
…their work explored the turbulent years of their youth while capturing the labyrinth of life in New York City.
In 2017, the Safdie brothers got an award-winning actor, Robert Pattinson, scrambling to work on their next project after being fascinated with their micro-budget drama about a heroin addict fighting her demons in New-York city called Heaven Knows What (2014) – reportedly without even having seen it. As a result, the brothers’ third feature film, Good Time (2017), was brought to life by the actor and it went on to make an indelible impression in commercial and independent cinema, so much so that it got a standing ovation at Cannes, a distribution deal with A24, and altogether transformed Pattinson’s career.
Their approach to the art of filmmaking is fairly simple yet it yields a powerful impact to its audience, chiefly because of their ability to artistically capture the essence of human struggles organically instead of being in a controlled and altered environment such as a sound stage or filming location. They stand by their belief of casting non-actors to fully portray authentic personal experiences, which is seen through the exceptional performance of Arielle Holmes in Heaven Knows What (2014) (a casting that occurred thanks to a chance meeting while roaming the streets of their hometown).
A Force to be Reckoned With
The upcoming dark comedy crime film by the duo, Uncut Gems (2019), has gotten the biggest names in Hollywood such as Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, Kevin Garnett, Julia Fox, Lakeith Stanfield, The Weeknd, and Eric Bogosian to bring their decade-long vision to life. It also got award-winning filmmakers, Martin Scorsese and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, on board as Executive Producers and distributed domestically by A24 and internationally by Netflix. The story is loosely based on their father during the time when he was working in New York City’s Diamond District.
The Safdie brothers let the daily hustle and bustle of the city tell the story, allowing us to feel as if we were experiencing it in real-time. Focusing on genuine human emotions and circumstances have made critics and audiences develop a deeper connection to the filmmakers and the unique characters they ingeniously create, and Uncut Gems (2019) will soon prove to the rest of the world that they are an unstoppable force that will go down in the history of cinema.