Spotlights

SXSW Film Festival: Five in Focus

Spotlights

Wildflowers

Clea DuVall has those deep, round, chestnut eyes that convey years of experience with a solitary glance. Whether stealing scenes as a high school rebel in The Faculty or blending in with the institutional histrionics of her Girl, Interrupted co-stars, DuVall always seems to capture that unique blend of wisdom and naiveté.

In writer/director Melissa Painter's poignant directorial debut Wildflowers, DuVall takes center stage in an impressive, nuanced performance that makes use of the actress' magnetic screen presence, a presence fully captured by Painter's lyrical, intimate direction. DuVall stars as Callie, a 17-year-old child of the Sixties who grew up in a hippie commune after her mother abandoned her. Seeking that maternal presence in her life that went untended for so many years, Callie sets out to find her mother but stops short once she encounters a tortured young artist named Sabine (Daryl Hannah). As Callie and Sabine grow closer, they embark on a journey of self-discovery that leads to a startling revelation concerning Callie's maternity, a revelation which questions the delicate nature of family and sacrifice.

"I wanted to write a piece about children of the Sixties and look at the ramifications of kids who were raised by hippie parents," says Painter, who served as associate producer on the 1995 film, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. "The permutations of families that were happening where I was growing up were fascinating. There were a lot of exciting innovations in relationships that were really different than those from a generation ago," she explains, adding that, like Callie, "we all try to pick our parents at various points in our lives, especially when we're teenagers."

In casting DuVall, Painter knew she made the right decision. "She takes her craft very seriously," Painter says. "When she came to me in auditions, she said, 'This is me!'" To help DuVall further, Painter encouraged her to view documentaries, examine photographs, and read books from the period in order to fully grasp the complexities of such an experience. Now, after many years in the making (albeit with an ultra-tight 21-day shooting schedule), Painter is able to sit back and appreciate all of the individual creative effort that went into making Wildflowers a cohesive whole.

Gorgeously photographed by cinematographer Paul Ryan (Box of Moonlight, second unit for A River Runs Through It) along the northern coast of California, Wildflowers weaves Painter's themes of redemption and forgiveness into a daring aesthetic that challenges traditional notions of filmmaking. By using sporadic flash frames and distinctive dissolves, Painter creates a cinematic world that progresses in a subversive, stream-of-consciousness manner, quietly complementing the narrative all the while. "I wanted the film to have a homemade texture and to feel dreamlike and ephemeral," Painter says -- "like a girl's diary."

Sun, Mar 12, 9:45pm, Convention Center; Tue, Mar 14, 3:15pm, Convention Center; Sat, Mar 18, 7:30pm, Convention Center.

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