Fact and Fiction Merge in Flesh and Blood
Mark Webber reflects on the man he's become
"On an emotional level, this film just so happened to coincide with a point in my life where I was reflecting on how I've become the man that I am," explains Mark Webber, director and lead actor of the emotionally charged and exceedingly personal Flesh and Blood.
"I'm also reflecting on what fatherhood means, and wanting to take a look at and explore these aspects of my life because that just happens to be right where I am right now. You know? As a father."
As a director, Webber is unafraid, exposing the rawness of genuine human emotion. His unceasing self-explorations create distilled results that bring out subtle uneasiness and often discomforting recognition with the viewer. His last film, 2014's The Ever After, featured his actual wife (Australian actress Teresa Palmer) and their real-life son, Isaac, to touching effect.
With Flesh and Blood, Webber has now become comfortable enough – as a filmmaker and a man – to commit emotional disembowelment for art. Utilizing his verité tendencies, the film transposes most of the real Mark into the film's Mark, a character that's just been paroled back to Philadelphia, specifically the rough Badlands neighborhood that Webber grew up in. The character now strains his view of the world through mindfulness, which lends itself to the film's truthful and meditative tone.
It also stars his real-life mother, political activist Cheri Honkala, and his brother Guillermo Santos, which significantly augments the film's hyperreality by including legitimate offscreen baggage.
"I was dreading filming with my mother and I kept pushing that off," he says, "because I knew we were really going to get into an argument."
"My mom has really embraced my life as an artist, and knows that the work that I'm doing has this kind of really cathartic element to it. She was wholeheartedly willing to step into this realm to explore our dynamics – knowing that it was going to be uncomfortable and hard for us – because she knows that my intention is to try to make something that just resonates with people in a real way, something that enables you to reflect on aspects of your own family."
Some of the film's most affecting moments come when Mark travels to Minnesota to see his real, largely absent father – as it was in a previous meeting that provided the impetus for Webber to build a film around. Here, in their reconnection, the lines between story and reality are virtually erased.
"When we got back to the hotel room, I sat around with my DP, another producer, and cinematographer, and I watched the footage and it was really hard for me," discloses Webber, audibly emotional.
"It still is, man. I forgive my dad. I love my dad for being a part of this process, and I love the gift that he's given by allowing this reality to be blended in to the story, but I still struggle with him being away my whole life."
Flesh and Blood
VISIONSSaturday, March 11, 5:45pm, Alamo South Lamar
Monday, March 13, 10:30am, Alamo South Lamar
Wednesday, March 15, 8:45pm, Alamo Ritz