(London Film Festival, October 11th, 2019, Vue West End, 3 Cranbourn St, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7AL, United Kingdom, 18:00 pm)
"Give Me Liberty"
Victor (Chris Galust), a hapless young 'Russian American', drives a handicapped transport in Milwaukee. He shares an appartement with his grandfather Steve (Steve Wolski). Already late on a day when street protests break out, Vic reluctantly agrees to ferry his grandfather and a dozen elderly Russians to a funeral, but they’re distressed when he stops first in a predominantly 'African American' neighborhood to pick up Tracy (Lauren Spencer), a black woman with 'ALS'. On the verge of being fired, Vic’s day goes from bad to worse.
The central character is a driver in Milwaukee who would be driving around a number of people with disabilities or people from just different walks of life. The medical transport driver job has a lot of hilarious, touching, wonderful, moving stories. And that's the starting point of the story. A wild slew of hilarious characters, combining comedy and investigation; almost like a detective story and love story and road movie with the main character driving the van, but some revisions later it became a day-in-the-life of this character Vic. He possesses this animal charisma that translates into any culture. He's formidable physically. Dima (Max Stoianov) is basically a fighter with a one-million-dollar smile, who walks into the room and just charms everyone. He has the physique of a boxer, boxer charisma, all the qualities of a person who would charm every member of the audience within five minutes. And being from a Russian, or 'Soviet', background. We just didn’t know where to turn. All of a sudden, we're receiving headshots of metrosexuals from New York who just want to look tough with a three-day stubble but nothing else to show for themselves other than clearly going to the gym every day and mixing it with yoga. We just didn’t imagine at the time how we would gather the right professional talent from all over the nation, given our resources and given our task. It’s probably easier to write characters than to find them sometimes.
Set in Milwaukee, with locally cast non-actors, the film creates a genuine atmosphere of chaos without having the entire production fall apart. A group of non-English-speaking octogenarians, people with disabilities, a multi-ethnic local non-professional cast, and a few Russian-based actors. Let’s top that off with a 'VAN', the film’s main location, crammed with cast and crew location that doesn’t stop cruising at 40-75mph through America’s most-segregated city. To sum it up, in order to create the right sense of chaos in film, a form of controlled chaos needed to be invented; the kind that would allow us to be blessed with the spontaneous and the sublime. It’s refreshing to set a movie in an American city that isn’t Atlanta or Louisiana, or whichever state is currently offering the best tax incentives. The city of Milwaukee is very inspiring. People outside of Milwaukee can't wrap their heads around Milwaukee either. But it's an interesting city in many respects. It’s the backbone of America. It’s a historical American city. It’s a segregated city with a lot of ethnic history that retains it's authenticity in 2018, which can’t be said for a lot of cities in America. It has it's own character, it's own mood. It's seasonal changes. There’s a quiet beauty to it, which is not as obvious as, say, New York, for instance.
A raw, inventive 'Day In The Life Story' about marginalized characters encountering literal and figurative roadblocks. A charming, comedic look at ordinary people and a rigged system, "Give Me Liberty" has a flavor of 'The Czech New Wave', using a supremely light touch, wry dissent, nonprofessional actors, and unscripted moments. It's heart and soul rests in wonderful moments of impromptu interaction that are so genuine and contain a universe of compassion and understanding. "Give Me Liberty" deals with the concept of 'The American Dream". Those who are really happy to announce the death of 'The American Dream' fundamentally don’t care about it and do not understand it. Certain political issues are touched upon without being touched upon. We're talking about things without talking about them. And this is great that this question is there. 'The American Dream' is not something that's here waiting for you. 'The American Dream' is something that people who come to America must bring with them. 'That’s 'The American Dream'. So if you come here and say 'The American Dream' is gone, well then you didn’t bring it with you. Because 'The American Dream' is only dead if it’s dead within you. It’s not out there, it’s not sitting there waiting to be grabbed. In this sense, we're all idealists. We really believe in this country, as imperfect as it may be, as every country is. Certain things we strongly dislike, certain things we admire. It’s a wonderful place.
'The American Dream' is a big part of the foundation upon which the house of 'Give Me Liberty' is built. It's this concern for the idealism, the fading of which we lament in America. And it comes through in a subtle way, that this is part of the palette of America today; we've people from different walks of life, of different colors, of different ages, of different desires, in this small van, shuttling through one of the most segregated places in America, through a turbulent time of an extreme liberal and conservative divide, and yet none of it's there on that shuttle. What we've on that shuttle is just a motley crew of humanity! A motley crew of humanity who finds their common denominator. Whether it’s at the cemetery, you know, they’ve gotta go to the cemetery, they’ve gotta go to 'The Eisenhower Center', they’ve gotta go to all these places, but they end up sitting at the same table celebrating life and embracing it as it's. Because at the end of the day, as pathetic as it may seem, as infused with pathos as it may sound, it’s about honoring people in the frame, people who are trying to the best of their ability to live their lives with dignity. But what we've today is nothing short of destiny. We need to be practical, but we also cannot negate the spiritual side of this profession. We respect it a lot. We understand that things like inspiration, the metaphysical tissue of the matter, they’re important! To deny it, to not acknowledge that, would be foolish.