Projected on 35mm Film at the festival, LUCE was shot on 3-perf 35mm KODAK Film.
In Luce, the debut film by Julius Onah, the conflicts of a suburban American high school come to represent the fractures within the whole country, and complex ethical and moral issues are navigated with the stakes of a thriller. Based on a play by J.C. Lee, it stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Luce Edgar, the adopted son of Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth). Ten years after emigrating as a child from Eritrea, Luce is a model student athlete, exalted and subtly pressured by the likes of his African American teacher Harriet (Octavia Spencer). But when Harriet receives a term paper from Luce that she finds out of character, intimating a potential for violence, she reaches out to Amy and Peter, setting into motion a machine of doubt, suspicion, and resentment, exposing what’s been beneath the surface for characters that have been working hard at playing roles that have been ascribed to them. - Eric Hynes, Sundance Institute.
In a thorough and extensive post-screening Q&A, Onah was joined by all four lead actors for a discussion about the origins, intentions, and processes behind the film.
The actors talked about how they accessed their characters, starting with Watts, whose dedication to her son takes her into some uncharted waters, ethically and emotionally. Onah talked about the unique investments that Harrison made to get into character, including reading books by Frantz Fanon and actually writing the term paper that would incite the actions of the film—a paper that Spencer then actually graded.
“It’s a story about the ways we look at each other, about privilege and power and the ways we all contribute to creating the culture and society we live in, and taking a moment to think about each one of our blind spots. There are uncomfortable things that happen in this movie, there are things that are scary. But I think in pushing through the things that make us uncomfortable and scared, perhaps we start to find something that resembles a truth. And if we can do that, maybe there’s a path forward.” - Julius Onah
Screenings during the festival:
Tuesday, January 29th3:30 PM Eccles Theatre Park City
Thursday, January 31st6:30 PM Rose Wagner Center Salt Lake City
Friday, February 1st12:00 PM Temple Theatre Park City
Saturday, February 2nd3:00 PM Redstone Cinema 7 Park City
Julius Onah is a Nigerian American filmmaker based in New York City. He’s currently exploring storytelling around the world through his multimedia project Open Continents.