Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Cinema"

A Comprehensive Cultural Center Slated for Sag Harbor

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Bryan Downey is currently looking for artists of all sorts to showcase their talent on New Year’s Eve at the Sag Harbor Cinema. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to what the coming year has to offer. On December 31 of this year, with the inaugural event of the Sag Harbor Art Group, the Sag Harbor Cinema will provide East Enders with a preview of coming attractions, to make 2015 a year to welcome.

From 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., on New Year’s Eve, the theater will exhibit locally created paintings, sculptures and photography in the lobby, while musicians, actors and poets will have the opportunity to perform original works in the theater’s 480-seat auditorium. If the event proves popular, the organizers hope to make this an ongoing, possibly monthly event.

And it seems as though the power of social media played a leading role in bringing the project to fruition. Contractor, photographer, musician, recording studio-owner and Sag Harbor resident Bryan Downey had an idea, and he took it to Facebook.

Mr. Downey, who is well acquainted with local artists through his photography and his recording studio, Bulldog Studios of Sag Harbor, was looking for one location, one event, one outlet for all local artists.  He put up a status on Facebook, seeking out an appropriate venue for such an event.

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a location where everything’s all together?’ and I left it at that,” Mr. Downey said. Mr. Downey then received a message from a man he had never heard of, Gerald Mallow, who said he might know just the spot.

Mr. Mallow, he discovered, is the owner and operator of the Sag Harbor Cinema and “has been thinking about doing something like this for a long time,” Mr. Downey said. The two men met face to face this past Saturday and decided to go ahead with their plan.

If all plans are approved by the necessary powers that be, the event will go as follows, Mr. Downey explained. Doors to the Sag Harbor Cinema will open at 8 a.m., when bagels and coffee will be served while old movies play in the restored auditorium. Mr. Downey does not know precisely which films will be shown, but is insistent that both Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy shorts be featured.

From noon until 7 p.m., local poets, writers and musicians will take to the stage in roughly 15-minute sets to showcase their work. The one catch: performers will not be allowed to do “covers.” All poets, musicians and actors will have to perform original work, which Mr. Downey hopes will amp up the energy.

“Then a singer becomes a writer,” Mr. Downey, “They’ll play their own, sing their own, write their own.” Mr. Downey, who founded Hamptons Singer-Songwriters in 2009, believes that forcing musicians write their own material can bring unknown talent to light.

In addition to professional artists, the men are adamant to allow schoolchildren an opportunity to show off their talent.

“Every school has drama, art and music departments. I can’t flood it all with kids, but they should have an outlet to show their art, where their songs can be listened to,” Mr. Downey said, adding that as of Monday afternoon, Montauk School had already expressed its interest in participating.

“They’re not only in, but way in,” he said.

Throughout the day, and in fact for the weeks leading up to and following the event, local painters and sculptors will have their work on display in the theater’s foyer. Mr. Downey also hopes to involve writers, he said, who could have their own areas in the lobby, alongside visual artists.

In an effort to make the event kid-friendly, Mr. Downey and Mr. Mallow have decided to keep it alcohol-free. Mr. Downey said this will also attract a different crowd and a different energy to the event.

Not offering alcohol—or food after breakfast—will also allow neighboring watering holes and eateries to benefit from the flock of parched and hungry culture vultures.

The $12 price tag, Mr. Downey explained, is another way for the men to “give back to the community.” Those without means to pay will be admitted for free, Mr. Downey said, adding that they’re hoping to invite people from Maureen’s Haven, a homeless shelter and outreach program based in Riverhead.

Two dollars of each ticket will go to the local public radio station, 88.3 WPPB. The remaining money will go directly to the cinema, Mr. Downey said. For the inaugural show, there are so many musicians already lined up it would be impossible to pay anyone, he explained.

“We’ll see how much money they make,” Mr. Downey said, before they can commit to paying performers for future events.

“I’m interested in promoting the arts and promoting artists, that’s why you have a ticket price that is very low,” Mr. Mallow said on Monday.

“I have been doing this for the past 30 years,” said Mr. Mallow, who has rented out his theater for musical and other events in the past.

“But this is a concerted effort to do it on an ongoing basis, to maybe build a following,” he added.

“To you, this is something new, and it’s just happening. I’ve been doing it all along, but this is the first time I’m organizing it,” Mr. Mallow added.

Artists of any sort who are interested in participating should e-mail a sample of their work to Mr. Downey at info@bulldogstudiosny.com.

 

 

 

 

Payman Maadi on the Small but Powerful Camp X-Ray

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By Danny Peary

Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi in "Camp X-Ray."

Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi in “Camp X-Ray.”

Camp X-Ray fits my category “Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor.”  This Friday Peter Sattler’s beautifully acted, troubling,  touching, and important debut feature–which makes it clear why America must close Guantanamo–opens theatrically in New York City and on VOD.  The synopsis in the press notes: “A young woman (Kristen Stewart, giving her most mature performance, excels as Amy Cole) joins the military to be part of something bigger than herself and her small town roots, but ends up as a rookie guard at Guantanamo Bay.  Her mission is far from black and white, as she is surrounded by hostile jihadists and aggressive male squad mates.  When she strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees (Iranian actor Payman Maadi, who follows the Oscar-winning A Separation with another extraordinary performance), both of their worlds are forever shifted.  Written and directed by Peter Sattler, Camp X-Ray is a deeply human story of two people, on opposite sides of war, trapped and struggling to find a way to live together.”  I met Payman Maadi when I interviewed him and director Asghar Farhadi about the terrific About Elly several years ago. We have stayed in touch and last week I spoke to him in the city about his first American film. As we were having breakfast at Sarabeth’s, a couple passing by recognized the budding international star.

Danny Peary: Do you get recognized a lot in America?

Payman Maadi: Yes, from A Separation.  In Los Angeles more than New York.  Each time it happens, it surprises me.

DP: Is there a community of Iranian actors and filmmakers in America?

PM: Yes.  Actors, filmmakers, artists, singers.  If I don’t know them personally, I do know who they are.  Most of those I know are banned from working in or going back to Iran because they did or said something against the government.  Which is not me.   I now live with my wife and daughter in L.A. and in Iran.  I’d like to manage my career where I can go back and forth.

DP: Which you couldn’t do if you criticized the government there.  So do you get support from the Iranian government when you make movies in Iran?

Payman Maadi. Photo by Danny Peary.

Payman Maadi. Photo by Danny Peary.

PM: I don’t do anything for or against the government. I’ve tried not to ask for its financial support, even when I directed my film Snow in the Pines two years ago in Iran and had no money.

DP: Did you direct Snow in the Pines before or after A Separation?

PM: I was ready to direct my own movie but I got the script for A Separation and it was brilliant, so I stopped and made the film with Asghar Farhadi.  We had worked together before on About Elly. 

DP:  Of course, it won an Oscar in America., but was A Separation received differently outside of Iran than in Iran?

PM: Asghar told me, “I doubt if it will have the success of About Elly.”

DP: About Elly had Hitchcockian elements so you two recognized it had universal appeal.

PM: Right, it could have taken place in Denmark or Mexico, anywhere.  But A Separation wasn’t like that and we weren’t sure it would be liked outside of Iran. We thought it was more an Iranian film that was very much about society there.  It turned out that it was really well received first by the Iranian people and then out of the country. What we learned is that if you make films outside of America and want to get known internationally, you must first become successful locally.  The people of your own country must agree with you that it’s a true, authentic portrait of your country. Asghar did a great job and I owe him a lot.  It was successful because people everywhere left the theater thinking about their wives or husbands, their daughters, their relationships, their marriages.  What we learned from showing the film in New York, Los Angeles, Germany, China, France, Abu dhabi is that we’re not that different.

DP: In interviews you’ve said you want the films you act in or write or direct to show that people are alike everywhere.

Payman Maadi and Kristen Stewart in "Camp X-Ray."

Payman Maadi and Kristen Stewart in “Camp X-Ray.”

PM: To be honest with you, this belief came to me only after I experienced watching A Separation with people from around the world.   It wasn’t before that.  As Asghar says, it’s to the benefit of the media to show differences between nations not similarities.  They profit from that.  But when you have a character like mine in A Separation whose father is suffering from Alzheimer’s, it’s the same for everybody around the world who has that experience.  Whether you’re Iranian or an American, it’s sad watching your father deteriorate like that or watching a couple with a child separating.

DP: Was A Separation instrumental in your getting cast in Camp X-Ray?

PM: Peter Sattler was a big fan of A Separation and it was a big reason I got this film.

I was in Iran making Melbourne when my agent sent me the script.  When I read a script, the first thing I focus on is the story.  Maybe it’s the writer in the me, but it’s the experience I have had since A Separation.  The film must be a good film.  If the only award a movie gets at a film festival is Best Actor, it doesn’t matter, no one will see me. If it gets a Best Picture award it will seen by a wider audience and will open more doors for the actors.  So for me the story must be good, then the character must be good, and the third thing is the director. I didn’t know Peter at the time.  This was his first movie.  I liked his script right away.  But  I had to read it again. The second time I went through it I focused on the characters.   English isn’t my first language so I had to focus on every word.  Then Peter called me.  He wanted to see me so we spoke for about ten minutes on Skype.

DP: It seems so odd to me that someone in Hollywood can Skype with an actor in Iran about being in his film.

PM: There are a lot of things that are filtered in Iran but not Skype. The Internet can be slow and you often get disconnected but it’s not something that can be controlled by the government.  A lot of my friends are in America and they Skype or Face Time with their families back in Iran.  I did that when I was here and my wife and daughter were there.

DP: In the press notes it says Peter was reluctant to contact you because he wasn’t sure you were right for the part.  Did he tell you that?

PM: After he confirmed that I was in the film and we became really close friends he told me,  “I loved A Separation and I loved your performance but I felt I needed somebody louder, who expressed himself and didn’t keep things inside.”  He wanted somebody who would shout and laugh loudly…

DP: But in A Separation you weren’t particularly quiet or withdrawn. There was anger and shouting.

PM: I know.  But what happened was very funny.  When Peter Skyped me, I don’t know what kind of mood I was in that day but I had a very loud greeting, “Hello, Peter!”  I later told him, “Peter, don’t worry about the loudness because I am very loud.  In fact, whenever I’m talking to my wife in public, she has to tell me to lower my voice.”

Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi promoting "Camp X-Ray. Photo courtesy of Payman Maadi.

Kristen Stewart and Payman Maadi promoting “Camp X-Ray. Photo courtesy of Payman Maadi.

DP: Also in the press notes, he says he cast you because he saw the chemistry between you and Kristen Stewart when the two of you Skyped.

PM: The next night the three of us met on Skype for about forty-five minutes because Kristen wanted to meet me.  Then she said she wanted to see A Separation.  She got a DVD and watched it and said she loved it.

DP: So she hadn’t seen your films yet?

PM: No, but to be honest, I had never seen Twilight or any of her movies before, either.   So I had no prejudgments about her.  I saw her the first time at Peter’s home in Los Angeles and she was more than friendly.  She came to me and said, “I’m very happy to work with you.”  I asked Peter if Cole’s hair color will be blond or dark because in the movie, Ali always calls her “Blondie.”  He said dark, like Kristen’s natural color.  He asked me what I thought about that.  I said I loved it.  To Ali, all American girls are “Blondie.”  That’s funny

DP: What’s great is that Cole accepts being called “Blondie.” You and Kristen come from two different parts of the world, you have made different kinds of movies, her acting is very low-key while you are expressive and verbal. I do think it paid off for creating two different characters that you were so different as actors.

PM: Kristen said, “Let’s rehearse and talk.  Tell me about your style of working or let’s create something together.”  People come to me and ask, “How is she on the set?  Is she friendly at all?”  And she is. She was very thoughtful, very hard-working, full of energy, very eager to do something great.  She was never satisfied with whatever she did, she was always asking for another take, saying “Let’s do it the other way.”  I liked that very much.  It was very, very important to me because most of my performance was dependent on my partner.  It was all dialogue between Kristen and me, it was like ping pong.  I couldn’t be a good actor unless I had a good partner in this film.  So I was glad we rehearsed a lot trying different versions.

DP: Did you talk to Kristen about what her character’s reactions were supposed to be in response to Ali’s imprisonment at Guantanamo and all the different ways he communicates with Cole?

PM: I asked her what she was thinking about.  She was thinking a lot about these issues and about her character every day and she would tell Peter and me if she thought her character should react differently from what we had planned.  And Peter would say, “That’s true.”  And I’d say, “Kristen, can you do it for me because I need to know what I must do if you change your reaction like that.”  I’d say, “If you change something here, then we have to also change that other action.”  Peter would say, “Payman is a screenwriter and he remembers everything.”

DP: So was Peter accepting changes from each of you?

PM: More than other directors I’ve worked with here, he’s like Ashar Farhadi in that he leaves you to do whatever you want to do, minimize it or maximize it, and observes you to see what worked and what didn’t work. He didn’t talk to us and say for us to do this or that, which happens a lot in America. For him, performance comes first, then the camera.

DP: Did you rehearse in the same place you shot the film?

PM: We rehearsed and filmed at a former juvenile detention center [in Whittier, Ca.] that looked almost exactly like Guantanamo. We did this because sometimes you get surprised when you move from one location to another.  At the prison we rehearsed for two or three days with closed doors.  We wanted to determine what we could hear if the doors were closed between us.  I didn’t have much space and Kristen didn’t have much space so there weren’t so many things we could do.

DP: Even during, I imagine you sat close to each other?

PM: We found some rooms and we tried to stay very close, to get used to the small space.  I wanted to watch Kristen very closely to make sure nothing was exaggerated. When you are close, you use your eyes to see all parts of a face.  There’s big meaning in how the eyes go up or down or to the sides. We asked Peter to watch these things through the camera lens during the final days of rehearsal.

DP: Were you told you would watch dailies?

PM: I never developed the habit of seeing dailies, but for this film we had to do it because of the close shots.  We needed to see when we moved our eyes how big the movement was.   When I made my own film I didn’t let any of the actors watch dailies. And the result was good.  But after this experience, when I make another film I will definitely show some dailies and rushes to my actors.

DP: What were those last days of preproduction like?

PM:  In the mornings we rehearsed or did a table reading and then we were through as actors.  Peter was going to the set to make sure everything was ready and I would go with him whenever I had a chance. He was working on other things and I had nothing else to do, so I asked him, “Can I stay in the prison by myself.”  One cell was ready and I decided to go inside and stay there for hours.  He said, “Yes, but do you want me to leave the door open?’  I said, “No, close the door.”  Peter said, “We’ll be working over there, so whenever you want to come out let us know.” I stayed in there over a few days and it was very helpful.  Peter also asked Kristen to walk around the hallway outside the cells and she would do it for hours, as Cole would.  It helped me a lot, knowing she was outside.  I was in a very small room, all Ali has in this world.  There were no other tools I had as an actor, but no matter how small the room was you find a variety of things around you.

There was just a small window looking out into the hall, so if I moved my head to the left or right while filming, I was out of the frame. So I’m in there thinking, what can I do?  If I go to the back of the cell and shout it sounds low but if I walk toward the door shouting it’s totally different.

DP: But while you were trying to get into Ali’s character are you thinking always that he’s someone who can’t leave?  Are you asking how does he exist? and how does he not go crazy other than by refusing to do so?  And are you also thinking how heartbreaking his life is?

PM: Yes, yes!  I was thinking of that and many other things.  Ali is surely thinking, Where is my country?  Where is my family? Where are my friends?   He’s thinking of his mom: they grabbed me and took me away and she hasn’t heard of her son for eight years.  They’re probably searching for me.  What is in the news about me?  Does everyone in my neighborhood now think I’m a terrorist?  Sometimes you get suspicious about yourself–what if I was a terrorist and did something I don’t remember?  If I admit I did something and said, “I did it, hang me please,” it would be end of story.  Those are things I thought he’d be thinking.

DP: Ali tells Cole he is from Germany.

PM: Ali is Tunisian, but was raised in Germany.

DP: In the opening, Ali is taken prisoner in his apartment.  He had just emptied a bag of what looks to be cellphones, not weapons.

PM: That’s what they are.  Perhaps he was regarded as suspicious because of that.  I read how Americans pay money for leads to terrorists, so that means somebody can accuse anyone of being a terrorist and the Americans will pay him $5,000. So the situation is risky when you are, for example, buying cellphones.

DP: This movie makes us think that it doesn’t matter if he did anything or not, but that he should receive due process and be treated humanely.

PM: Exactly. We are not saying whether he’s guilty or not.  There are guilty people in Guantanomo who were caught doing terrorist acts and they deserve punishment–but punish them already, don’t just keep them there without judgment or being subject to the Geneva Convention [just because they're called detainees, rather than prisoners].  Give them life in prison, even hang them but keeping them there is bad for not just the “detainees” but for the US government.  The people of America don’t want this!  They just can’t close it.

DP: It will surprise many people to see Kristen Stewart starring in a low-budget film against the inhumane treatment of Muslims at Guantanamo Bay. Do you think it is important that Cole is a female, to contrast her even more with Ali?

PM: It makes it more interesting.  I think it separates them more.  Cole could be a male and I think Peter wrote that character as a male.  I like that it’s a female and man and their relationship isn’t sexual.  It’s not about opposites attracting.  Before we were shooting we received a book two-inches thick, DVDs, photos, and links for Internet research.  I saw documentaries on Guatanamo and trials with lawyers talking about the prison and the issues.  I spent hours doing research and saw that the movie is very precise and correct about everything.  Everything in the movie is similar to how it really is in Guantanamo Bay.  And there are female guards.

DP: A lot of this film has to do with how Americans, the guards in this case, are naive about politics and who the detainees really are.  All these soldiers are young and Ali is more educated than any of them.  The danger Peter surely wanted to avoid was having it seem to viewers that Cole is just a naive prison guard who is attracted to a smarter, more worldly prisoner, whether it’s in Guantanamo or any prison, and he manipulates her.  But we don’t think that because Cole gets closer to Ali as she becomes less naive about the situation.  There’s a learning process with her, while none of the other soldiers want to learn anything and stay naive about the detainees.

PM: We are watching only American soldiers, not American citizens.  They are young and maybe that’s why they are so naive.  They aren’t interested in books.  Soldiers have a lot of things to do so maybe they don’t have time to read.  Ali has nothing to do but read.  He says, “Each time the new guards arrive, they treat us like bad guys.” She says a good thing to him, that the other guards “will learn.” Like she has. That is not a small thing for him.  Earlier he asked her, “What did you learn?”

DP: When he says that to her he’s skeptical that she’s learned anything.

PM: Very skeptical. He asks her what she learned from such things as the hunger strikes?

DP: She does learn and opens up to him.  I would think you shot this film chronologically because of how they both change and their relationship evolves.

PM: We had to. It was very helpful for Ali and Cole to gradually become connected to each other.  Indoor and outdoor scenes could be filmed chronologically because everything was shot at the juvenile facility. The outdoor shower scene and the scene where I kick the soccer ball were dependent on how the weather was. Doing it chronologically was very beneficial.

DP: Do you think your two characters start reacting positively toward each other at the same time?

PM: I can’t say that.  From the beginning, Ali is studying her.  I don’t know when exactly he realizes she is not a bad person. After she says, “I’ll try,” and he says, “I’ll try, too,” he tries not to be bad toward her.  In the first days Peter and I were talking about my character, and he said that what is very important for you to understand is that this guy can be the nicest character on the earth, with a soft voice, and ten seconds later he can be acting like an animal.  They treat him like an animal there, making him act like a mad man.  They want to dehumanize him.  In some scenes, you can see that he’s trying to make a connection to Cole and tries to be nice but when she doesn’t respond, he starts shouting and cursing.

DP: Is he really that mad at her or is he just trying to get a reaction from her?

PM: No, he’s not trying to get a reaction.  He is disappointed that she is the same as the other guards, like the other Americans.  He is mad at her.  He says, “You think we’re the terrorists but you are the bad people.  You are trying to show yourself to the world as good people by putting us here, torturing us, and doing all these things to us.  But you know what?  You are the bad people.”

DP: In such scenes Ali is extremely frustrated and angry, and Cole is trying not to lose him and trying to make him understand, without saying it, that she cares and is listening.  They seem like hard scenes to play.

PM: Again, Peter cared about our performances and trusted us completely but he knew what he didn’t want. He’d explain to us what wasn’t right because of this or that. He’d say, “Don’t use that word,” or “Don’t shout when you want to say this.”  I remember his reluctance when we filmed a very intense scene in which Ali says that the detainees are being treated like animals. I started shouting and making sounds of tigers and dogs.  Peter came to me the second day and said, “You know what? Do it a little bit lower.”  I thought back to when we first Skyped and said, “I told you I’m loud!”

DP: Ali shouts a lot in the film, but some of the moments that have the most impact are when he isn’t talking at all.

PM: The first thing that caught my attention when I read the script is that Ali has a second layer to him where he just observes and says everything he needs to say with his eyes.  I would later ask Peter to please let me use silence as a tool between my lines.  So I may say a line and then stop and watch her, then say something else.  I said if everyone stops speaking it will be terrifying.

DP: When I think about that now, it’s not so much his loudness that is important, it’s that Ali is university educated and verbal and he is in a situation where he can’t talk to anybody. That’s the shame.

PM: Yes, yes, what you say is totally true.  He’s very talkative and nobody will talk back to him.  He always tries to engage new guards in conversation.  He isn’t manipulating them, he just wants so much to communicate with someone else. What he needs is someone to listen to him.  It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t express a political opinion; he’d be happy just to talk about Harry Potter or Nebraska or Alfred Hitchcock or Hannibal Lechter.  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever comes up, it’s a conversation.  Did you know it’s actually true that Harry Potter is the most popular book in Guantanamo Bay? They have different translations for it.

DP: Why do you think that’s true?

PM: It’s magical, it’s entertaining.

DP: Also it’s escape.  And it’s long, the same length as the Koran.

PM: It’s not a short story, each book takes a long time to read.  And as you say it takes people beyond reality.

DP: Does Ali read the Koran?

PM: He has read it a thousand times.  I think he becomes a little doubtful to everything, he’s losing his beliefs because he thinks too much.  He’s not getting in the prayer lines with other detainees.  The worst part is you don’t know what to hang on to when you’re suspicious of everything around you.  That’s what happens to a lot of prisoners who don’t have anything to do.  They doubt everything. But I think that after this Ali will go back to normal and go back to believing what he did.  The best thing for him is to become more stable.

DP: In movies set in American prisons, the hero often spends his time studying law books, trying to figure out a legal way to get out.  But those imprisoned at Guantanamo have no due process.

PM: Yeah, they have no legal rights.

DP: I think it’s important when Ali explains why detainees shouldn’t follow the rules because that would mean the rules are legitimate.

PM: That’s one of his principles.  He doesn’t believe in a lot of things, but that he believes in strongly.  If he was a terrorist he wouldn’t say something like that. I think.  As a terrorist, you understand why they would have rules saying you can’t do certain things.  But if you’re not a terrorist, you don’t see it like that.  I’m not a terrorist so you don’t have the right to tell me what to do and treat me like a terrorist.  It is not something trivial that he is saying.  It is coming from the inside.  If they say, “Do this and that or you can’t watch TV,” he says,  ”Fuck TV, I don’t need permission from you to watch TV.  I haven’t done anything.”  I think the rules line is very important.

DP: Ali is less belligerent than the large detainee who follows no rules, but they’re both being treated badly.  It’s much more likely that he was a terrorist, but the film asks that they both to be treated humanely and released.

PM: I don’t know if the others are real terrorists and Ali doesn’t know either.  He knows he’s not guilty of being a terrorist but not of the others’ guilt or innocence.  When she asks Ali why the big detainee doesn’t use the elliptical machine that they demanded, Ali says that it might be because he’s an asshole. It’s assumed that the detainees are all together and that they’re all brothers, but it’s not like that.  Still none of the detainees deserve to stay at Guantanamo, guilty or not, and be treated like that. That is a theme of the movie.

DP: Talk about the emotions you were having as filming was coming to an end.

PM: The ending scenes were the last scenes we shot.  It was very hard and very dependent on the situation that they prepared for us on the set.  I was very happy with the situation but I asked something from Peter as well. I asked for two minutes before every scene was shot, to just be by myself.  When they said, “We’re ready,” I needed two or three minutes in total silence in the cell to focus.  I even told Peter before one or two scenes not to ask me if I was ready but to see through the lens if I looked ready.   The circumstances on the set were very important for such emotional scenes.

DP: Did you or Kristen cry during the making of this movie?

PM: A lot.  That’s a good thing that you ask. The final days I cried for 48 hours.  In every take I was crying.  Kristen was standing behind the camera and she was crying every time.  That’s why I can tell you that she was a lovely partner.  She was helping me a lot.  Whenever I was standing behind the camera watching her, I was crying for her, too.

DP: Were you both crying for the same reasons?

PM: Yes. We didn’t talk about it with each other.  When the shot was done, each of us found our corners.  We didn’t go to each other say, “That was good, that was great.” Never.

DP: That’s interesting because I would have thought that when playing roles that take such a toll on you that you’d want your costar to come over and comfort you.

PM: No, no, we didn’t do that at all.  Sometimes I’d see Peter from afar and his facial expressions told me his reaction.  Sometimes I want to see reactions, but I usually don’t want to watch people after takes, I don’t want to see the reaction of the crew.   I don’t want to see the camera, I don’t want to see anybody.  I just want to be the lone person on the planet.  If you want to play a detainee at Guantanamo you have to delete everyone else around from your mind.  You can’t go to anyone and ask, “How was it?  How did I do?”  Kristen was like that too.

DP: At one point, Cole starts being punished by her superiors for associating with Ali, just as Ali is being punished by them as well for being insubordinate.  Did you, Kristen, and Peter talk about the parallels?

PM: We were aware what was happening but we didn’t talk about it that much.  Kristen and I tried to stay as close as we could to the characters we were playing and they don’t speak to each other about such issues.  Amy Cole and Ali don’t talk about what is happening with Amy.  She doesn’t tell him.  We tried to avoid talking about what was happening in the scenes we weren’t in.  I do remember asking Kristen, “How did it go yesterday when you shot the scene with Cole’s superior officer?”  She told me that John Carroll Lynch was brilliant in that scene.  That’s about the level we went to, talking about those scenes.  We didn’t go through them and discuss their meanings. We didn’t have to.

DP: There are usually not a lot of words being said between Cole and Ali, so was there telepathy?

PM: What comes to mind is when he says, “I just want to know how all these things end,” and she asks, “The book?”  And he says, “Yes, the book.”  Then he says, “You know what I mean.”  They were definitely talking about something else.  In the rehearsal, we did a lot of improvisations for some scenes.  And for that scene we talked for about five minutes about the book, but both Kristen and I, like our characters, were talking about something else.  It would be impossible for Ali to say all that is in his mind, so there are metaphors.

DP: In an interview about Melbourne, you were asked about what happens after the movie ends.  And you answered that you didn’t think about what happens, that you wanted to play in the moment.  But in Camp X-Ray, your character wants to know how things will end.  Is it healthy for your character to think about endings, or does he have to go day by day so he won’t go crazy?

PM: No, he doesn’t.   All these years he has been going day by day but also thinking what’s going to happen at the end.  That’s very logical and reasonable thing for a detainee there.

DP: He even wants to know the ending of the last Harry Potter book, which he can’t get a copy of.

PM: That’s a beautiful metaphor for that.  It’s funny and meaningful.  I say funny because the whole situation is funny.  It’s not only that he reads the final book and knows how it ends, it’s also that he becomes hopeful for his future.  He sees the light at the end of the tunnel, I think.  He’s now happy to know that there are good people in this world, not all Americans are bad guys and they don’t consider them bad guys.  The best thing in the world for him is what she says, not the freedom.  She’s an American and probably the last person on the planet who would say that he’s a good guy.  But she says, “You’re a good guy.”

DP: You may not have thought of this but the reason he wants to read the end of the book is to find out if Snape is a good guy or bad guy.

PM: Yeah, the twist of the character.  I didn’t see any of the “Harry Potter” movies but I was told that Snape turns from a bad guy to a good guy.

DP: Your character and Snape are seen wrongly until the end.  Peter snuck in that clever idea.

PM: I believe that.  One reason Peter and I get along and communicate so well is that we are both film buffs.  I’m sure he has seen all the Harry Potter movies.

SPOILER ALERT

DP: I get teary-eyed thinking about when he opens the newly-arrived library book, the final Harry Potter book that he has waited two years to read, and there is an inscription from Cole ending with “Love, Blondie.”  The shot of the book is an insert, but when you looked at that in your hand, what was your reaction?

PM: I cried. When I saw Camp X-Ray at Sundance I expected to see me crying.  Because we did about ten shots and in eight of them I was crying.  Each time we did that scene, it was like a emotional faucet being turned on and off.  If there were twenty more takes it would have been the same, crying at the very same moment.  But I like the version Peter used.

DP: When you first read the script, did you have a big reaction to reading, “Love, Blondie?”

PM: Yes, I did.  I was surprised.  That was one of those moments when I thought I’d like to share the movie with people.  That was a very lovely thing.  She tells him her real first name but still signs the book that way.  “I don’t know if Snape is a good guy, but I know you are.  Love, Blondie.”  Amazing.

DP: It’s a movie moment I won’t forget. I get choked up talking about it.

PM: The same here.  Peter is very kind, thoughtful, giving, supportive, and emotional.  He cares a lot about these issues, he loves people, he cares about the relationships between people.  A line like that would have to come out of a person such as Peter.

DP: Another huge scene late in the movie is when Ali considers suicide.  In the conversations you had with Peter and Kristen, I would think you had to convince yourself that Ali shouldn’t kill himself.

PM: Yeah. We knew about it from the script but we didn’t talk about the suicide scene more than a day before we shot it.  We did a lot of rehearsing for the movie but we didn’t rehearse that scene and did it in the moment.  We didn’t want to be self-conscious of what we were doing, we wanted it to be natural.  There’s a scene in A Separation, when my character is showering his father who has Alzheimer’s and he starts crying. We didn’t rehearse or talk about that scene either.  We were filming another scene but lost the light so we figured out what scene we could without light.  The shower scene.  Everyone expected me to say hell no because I didn’t have any preparation.  I said to give it a try.  And we did it on the first take.

DP: So you think it was a good idea not to prepare for the suicide scene?

PM: Very much. I told Peter, “Just tell me what you want and where the camera will be.”  We did several takes and each time we changed something.  We didn’t rehearse or talk about the way he’d do it that much.  The first time I saw the tool was when they gave it to me during the scene.  The knife came out of the Koran and I said, “Oh, my god.”

DP: He’s been in Guantanamo for eight years.  Do you think he’d done this before?

PM: Trying to kill himself, no.  I don’t think so.  There was a line in the script that isn’t in the film.  I’m happy it’s not in the film but it was very interesting.  He tells Cole that if she calls the medics with her radio it will take them three minutes to arrive.  Because he went to the university and is smart, he can calculate that it will take him two minutes to die. So don’t even think of making the call. That’s why she puts the radio down.  That was logical.

DP: Talk about when she puts her hand through the window in his door, takes the blade, and touches his arm.  It’s not just two people touching.  It’s an American woman touching a Muslim from the Mideast.  It’s a major thing for Ali to allow himself to be touched by her.

PM: We did it in totally different ways.  Peter, who is a very talented director, decided to do something minimal, not showing my face or Kristen’s face that much. I’m not in the shot.  Only my hand is in the shot, and I love that shot.  He didn’t want to do it this way but this was a shot that was supposed to be mixed with other shots.  But he looked at dailies and just used that.  That’s the magic of movies.

DP: Were you staying in character?

PM: Very much.

DP: What was Ali thinking of at that moment?

PM: Trust.  That’s extreme trust.  She puts her hand through the hole in the door and the knife is in his hand, it’s a really big thing.  He puts the tool in her hand, then she grabs his hand.  It’s a really beautiful scene and it’s the ultimate way of showing that two people can connect and trust each other by communicating and listening to each other.

DP: That’s the reason for the movie.

PM: That’s true.

DP: You shot that scene a long time ago, but when you think of it now, do you get watery-eyed?

PM: I do. Everything starts with throwing out prejudgments that this is a bad guy and Americans are bad guys and that Americans and Middle Easterners have nothing in common to talk about.  When you start talking you see that you’re that different and can learn from each other.  That’s what happens at the end of the movie. It’s very beautiful when she brings up the story of her seeing a lion in the zoo.  The result was that she thought the zoo people must let the lion decide whether to stay or be let loose in the unfamiliar wild.  If you want to kill yourself I will give you the space to do it.  At the beginning of the film, the chief guard tells the new guards that they are not there to prevent the detainees from living, the walls do that.  They are there to prevent the detainees from dying because that would cause a big scandal.  So they want to prevent them from killing themselves.  When she leaves, she gives the right to Ali to decide to kill himself or not.

DP: I agree with that.  But is there something more?  Because he talks about how no country will take him if he were released.

PM: Yes, because he was in Guantanamo as a terrorist.

DP: I’m thinking that she is saying release Ali even if he doesn’t have ideal options on the outside.

PM: I don’t know.  In her own way, she tries to stop him.  She proves she isn’t naive when she asks him he wants to kill himself to become a martyr and go to heaven.  She asks smart questions.  She hopes she has had enough impact on him that he won’t kill himself.  And she did.

DP: The reason that it is better that he doesn’t kill himself is that she truly believes things will change and he’ll get out.  If she believed that he’d forever be imprisoned I’m not sure she’d be so motivated to keep him alive.

PM: That’s true.  When you think about it, that makes sense.

END SPOILER ALERT

DP: So the shooting ends, the movie wraps, and it’s all over.

PM: Those last few days were very tough and amazing. Then Peter spent a couple of days on extra shots without the actors.  And two or three days after the crew had finished, there was a wrap party.  I came shaved and in a suit.  I wasn’t aware that I looked different because that was myself. Every person was, “Oh, my good, look at you.  You don’t look like a detainee anymore!”  I surprised everyone.

DP: You filmed this a year ago, so what’s it like getting together with everyone now to promote the film?

PM: Great, butI avoid talking about the film.  I believe that whatever I wanted to say I said in the film.   And the worst part, especially for a director, is to attach explanation to what you did.  If fans ask for explanations I don’t get irritated because we made the film for an audience.  Once the film is done, it’s not in your hands anymore.

DP: I know you want people to ask you, as I ask you, Do you still think of Ali sitting in that cell?

PM: Nobody has asked that yet.  As the credits run at the end of the film, you see the guards walking in the small hall between the cells for about five minutes.  It’s telling you that the prisoners are still there and life goes on there.

DP: In the production notes, Peter Sattler says, “It’s not a political film; it’s a deeply human one.”  I don’t agree.  Often filmmakers will say their very political films aren’t political because they don’t want to scare away American moviegoers. But if we look at the human element and we start identifying with the people who are imprisoned at Guantanamo, then we start asking what can be done for them, including closing the facility–and at that point it becomes political.

PM: That’s 100% true.  That’s good to hear.  I agree with you. You cannot say it’s not a political film.  When you say “Guantanamo Bay,” you’re talking about politics.  When you say “terrorist” or “suspected terrorist,” you’re talking about politics.  The focus is not on the political issues and that’s what Peter was trying to get across.  But we can’t escape from the fact that there are political things in the movie and after you leave the theater you will think about the situation in the United States that has kept Guantanamo from closing.

DP: Tell me about other projects that are out there already?

PM: Melbourne was at the Venice and Zurich Film Festivals and it will be at the Cairo and Tokyo Film Festivals.  I’ll try go but it depends on the schedule for the Criminal Justice series I’m doing for HBO.  It hasn’t been on the air yet because James Galdofini was in it, and he died.  We were in limbo for two years and now John Turturro is in it.  He’s absolutely great.

DP: The premise of Melbourne is A census taker arrives at the home of a middle-class couple as they are about to go to Melbourne and things change.

PM: That’s all you need to know. The other film I’ve done that’s out is Tales, which I made with a great director, Rakhshan Bani-E’temad, the “First Lady of Iranian Filmmaking.”  It’s a beautiful film that won the Best Screenplay award at Venice a month ago.

DP: How often do you go back and forth between Iran and America?

PM: It depends.  We just moved actually, to Los Angeles.  There’s no law about my having to return to Iran, so I could stay here for ten years if I wanted.  I’m still observing the situation, and finding out if it’s possible to make films in both America and Iran. I’ll see what happens. I’m trying to do this because I love to work in Iran, too.  A Separation was made in Iran, About Elly was made in Iran.  I made my own film, Snow in the Pines, in Iran. I’m here in New York until mid-February, in an apartment on the upper East Side. I’m writing seven or eight hours a day and am very productive. I’ve finished one screenplay after two years, and am working on three others. All have parts for me.  There’s one set in Los Angeles that I’ll direct.  There is a dramedy set in New York. The other two will be made in Iran, including one I’m writing with Rakhshan Bani-E’temad that she’ll direct.  I can’t make those kinds of films, my films, in the United States.

DP: Were you surprised that in the United States you could make Camp X-Ray?

PM: I was surprised.  You couldn’t make such a film in Iran.  I’m very happy to see that’s it’s possible to make films like Camp X-Ray today.

DP: Finally, for fans of A Separation, please talk about the ending.

PM: People always ask me about the end of A Separation, about whether the daughter will choose to live with her father or mother when the judge asks her.

DP: Do you know?

PM: Yes, we talked about it a lot.  But we talked about something else–more important than which parent she chooses is which way of living she chooses.  There are two different ways of thinking.  She is living in a country where there is something wrong.  She has the choice of leaving with her mother to live in a better place, or to stay with her father to fix it. His wife tells him that he can’t even manage the house issues without her there “but you want to fix the country?”  He says, “You want to leave, go.  I’m not like you that when there’s something wrong with the country, I just leave.”

DP: From what you just said, I would think the daughter would make the more difficult choice and stay with her father, who needs her help more than her mother does.  But I don’t want to know what she does!

PM: Me, neither!  That’s the beauty of the film.  We can change it in our minds every time we see it.

DP: The one thing we know is that she, like the slightly older Cole in Camp X-Ray, is smart enough and knows enough to make the right decision.

PM: Exactly.

Pierson/Bay Street Meeting Sparks More Conversation, Draws No Conclusions

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By Claire Walla


Finally, the two boards came to the same table.

On Tuesday, January 31, school officials and Bay Street Theatre board members held a meeting on the Pierson Middle/High School campus to discuss the potential for a collaboration between the two. The idea of the Bay Street Theatre collaborating with the Sag Harbor School District to create a new theater venue has been floated for a few years. And with Bay Street’s impending move from its current location on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, discussions have been spurred with greater urgency in the last few weeks.

The dialogue oscillated in scope for much of the two-hour meeting, wavering back and forth between small details (like whether it’s possible to obtain a liquor license on a school campus since Bay Street serves alcohol), and larger ideas, such as the school and theater working together to build an entirely new performing arts center in Sag Harbor.

But, while no board member on either side of the aisle completely put the kibosh on the potential for collaboration, there were aspects of this hypothetical partnership that raised red flags for both.

“I don’t want to throw any cold water on the issue, but I can’t possibly see how [an independent theater] can be in this school district, in this area,” school board member Walter Wilcoxen said.

Based on a memo the school district received from its attorney, Tom Volz, Wilcoxen pointed out some of the smaller issues, like limited parking and storage capacity.

But Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street Theatre’s executive director, expressed some concerns with the overall picture.

“One of the biggest issues for us, from a creative perspective, is we need to be able to have complete control over what we produce,” she said.

Though Mitchell and the theater’s creative director, Murphy Davis, assured the school that no expletives would be used on any signage related to the theater, some of the theater’s productions can be a bit, well, “racy.”

While Davis said there are elements to what Bay Street does now that could shift to conform to a different production model — for example, the theater could stop selling alcohol if it managed to secure other revenue sources — creative freedom is non-negotiable.

“We can do some pretty racy content,” he continued. “It’s imperative that we don’t feel hemmed in by that.”

Then there’s the time frame.

At best, school superintendent Dr. John Gratto said the process would take three years to complete. (Later, he explained that the time frame would more realistically take up to five years.) It would take six months for the school’s architect to draw-up a new design and then for the state education department to review the plans, another three months for the school to bid the project, then at least a year to construct the building.

“We’re talking two years after voter approval,” he continued. “And voters would have to approve such a project.”

The district’s current design for a 415-seat theater comes in at an estimated $12 million. Even if private funds were used for the project, Dr. Gratto said state aid would still kick-in for 10 percent of the cost, but that would trigger the need to put the project up to a vote.

Mitchell said the theater has a certain degree of flexibility for discussing future plans because it’s not scheduled to leave its current space until spring of 2013.

“The board would be able to back us renewing our current lease if we were working toward a pre-approved plan,” she said. “But, what we can’t do is say it’s going to take us another year to figure out whether we can get through these hurdles, and in the process lose all our other options.”

According to Mitchell, the theater is actively pursuing all possible options, including in Sag Harbor the Schiavoni property on Jermain Avenue, the National Grid lot on Long Island Avenue, the Sag Harbor Cinema, and in Southampton Village the soon-to-be vacant Parrish Art Museum space on Jobs Lane. At this point, Mitchell said the theater has put together several committees to further explore these options.

“It doesn’t sound like [the school] is going to be at the forefront,” Davis stated at the end of the meeting. Besides issues of parking, storage space and creative control, he said the time frame doesn’t seem viable.

“Just what I’m hearing tonight, it makes me uncomfortable that we’re going to have to wait,” he said.

And while nestling into the Pierson campus may seem like a dream sequence too riddled with legal complications to become a reality, school board members were energized by the idea of a potential collaboration off-campus.

Dr. Gratto directed interests to the piece of empty land directly across the street from Pierson, at the intersection of Division and Marsden streets, where the Trunzo family owns four parcels. According to community member John Landes, who’s already investigated the site, the cost would roughly total $4 million — just to purchase the land.

As for the overall idea of collaboration, Bay Street Board Member Robbie Stein said, “When you look at it, there are a lot of problems. But, on some level, starting this dialogue is bringing to the community the idea of: is there a place for arts in the community?”

The Bay Street Board will meet again next week to further discuss all its options.

Cinema Sign is the Icon, Not the Building

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The “Sag Harbor” sign located on the Sag Harbor Cinema is what the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board would like to see preserved as a historic landmark, not the whole building or its façade as was discussed at a village board of trustees meeting last week.

On Monday, November 24, the ARB adopted a new resolution to see the Sag Harbor Cinema sign protected as a landmark, and clarified the reasons the board feels the sign is worthy of such a distinction.

The board’s chairman, Cee Scott Brown, also defended himself against Sag Harbor Cinema owner Gerald Mallow’s accusations last week that Brown stood to benefit from the designation in his position as a real estate broker.

At the request of Mayor Greg Ferraris, the ARB adopted a new resolution on the landmark designation, noting the sign, not the building, was what it would like to see protected. In August, the board had adopted a previous resolution seeking a landmark designation for the building’s façade.

The matter was before the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees last week, during which Mallow’s attorney contested the concept on several levels, arguing the ARB had not specifically explained why it would want the designation. She also charged there was a possible conflict of interest in Brown introducing and voting on a resolution as he is vice president of Corcoran Real Estate Group, which has the sole listing, she said, for the $12 million Mallow is seeking in the sale of the cinema.

Mallow has owned the theatre for 30 years, and also cited the controversy regarding his removal of the Sag Harbor Cinema sign four years ago as part of the impetus for his reasoning to oppose landmark designation for the façade. Mallow had intended to replace the sign, but some members of the community spearheaded an effort to have a replica of the sign created instead, expressing concerns the sign Mallow intended for the cinema was too different from the iconic art deco sign that had lit Main Street for years. Residents of Sag Harbor ultimately paid for the new sign, which adorns the cinema façade today.

On Monday, in its new resolution, the board clarified that the sign “Sag Harbor” on the façade of the Sag Harbor Cinema “is likely the most well known image of special historical value, effectively an icon” in the village business district. The board added that it finds the sign “Sag Harbor” to be “unique and certainly one-of-a-kind in this community,” and representative of “an architectural style which, familiar to residents, visitors and passersby, is especially representative of the historic character of the Village Business zoning district.”

“The board finds and concludes that the failure to cause the designation of the sign ‘Sag Harbor’ on the façade of the Sag Harbor Cinema would be a loss of a landmark for the property owner and the community, a loss that Article 15 of the village code was enacted to prevent,” ends the resolution.

Brown vehemently denied his position at Corcoran creates a conflict of interest, noting that despite statements made by Mallow and his attorney, Corcoran is not the only real estate firm listing the property. Rather it is an open listing, available to any one who can sell the property at its requested $12 million price tag.

Brown added that Gale Conetta, not himself, is the broker who would handle the sale on Corcoran’s behalf and he personally has no intention of selling the building.

Brown also noted that Mallow and his own attorney had argued in front of the board of trustees that designating the façade a landmark would devalue the property.

“It was then brought up that if the landmark was a detriment to the building, I would certainly be working against myself,” noted Brown.

The board of trustees is expected to revisit the matter at its next meeting on Tuesday, December 9 at 6 p.m. The next historic preservation and architectural review board meeting is on Thursday, December 11. 

Cinema Owner Fights Landmark Status

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During his attorney’s first arguments last Wednesday, it was difficult to discern whether Sag Harbor Cinema owner Gerald Mallow believed having his iconic theatre deemed historically significant would make it harder for him to sell the building or bring in possible buyers.

However, one thing was certain — Mallow was not pleased with the concept. He was uncertain what designating the façade of the theatre as historic would ultimately accomplish and cited a battle over the replacement of the Sag Harbor Cinema sign four years ago as the impetus for his concern.

On Wednesday, November 12 the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees held a public hearing on whether or not to landmark the façade of the Sag Harbor Cinema. In August, the historic preservation and architectural review board (ARB) asked the trustees to consider designating the façade as a historic landmark. Shortly after Mallow listed the commercial building for sale for $12 million.

Attorney Diane Leveriere, representing Mallow, argued to the board that the ARB made no rationale for why it would want the village to designate the cinema as a historic landmark.

“It’s arbitrary,” she concluded.

In the minutes of the August ARB meeting where that board passed a resolution asking the board of trustees to consider the designation, the board cites the cinema as “an important feature of architectural character of the village” and calls the façade “of historical interest and worthy of preservation.”

But a more pressing issue for Mallow, according to his attorney, was that the chairman of the ARB, Cee Scott Brown, is the senior vice president of the Corcoran Group, the only listed broker for the Sag Harbor Cinema sale. Leveriere said this posed a potential conflict of interest and that as such Brown should have recused himself from the resolution as he could stand to benefit from the cinema’s sale.

“Is it your position that the designation benefits the property or is a detriment to the property,” asked village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Leveriere countered it was her position that if there is any benefit for Brown in the sale of the property it should be disclosed.

“Maybe I am missing something here,” said Mayor Greg Ferraris. “What is the concern here? Are you worried there will be an adverse economic impact?”

“Yes, that is a concern,” said Leveriere.

Leveriere outlined a section of the village code that states property owners must seek ARB approval for any construction, reconstruction, demolition, or to move the structure, but Thiele was quick to point out that applies not only to historic landmarks in the village, but also structures in the historic district, like the cinema.

“I think what we are stating is there is no additional standards that would apply to a landmark as opposed to a historic district,” said Ferraris, later adding it was his view that landmark status would enhance the value of the property.

Leveriere countered it was rare that landmarked buildings saw an enhanced value to their property as they come with limitations.

“I am not aware of any limitations at this point,” replied Ferraris.

Generally, the addition of a landmark status to a façade or structure simply provides greater protection for that feature, but according to Thiele there are also differences in the standards the village holds for a façade in the historic district and a façade that has been designated a landmark. Unlike a façade in the historic district, for a designated façade there is no default provision if the ARB fails to act on an application. For all applications in front of the ARB, if that board fails to act within 45 days of reviewing an application, the application is automatically granted in favor of the applicant. This does not occur if the façade or building is landmarked. Also, said Thiele, there is a lesser variance standard for the zoning board of appeals to weigh for landmarked buildings, meaning it’s easier to get variances to make improvements or changes on a landmarked building.

Regardless, Mallow said he was “a little upset” and “suspicious,” recounting how residents gathered to save the Sag Harbor Cinema sign after he sought to have it replaced in 2004. Residents, led by the efforts of Brenda Siemer-Scheider, held fundraisers to have a replica of the iconic sign made after it was discovered Mallow intended to replace the sign with one that was not identical to the art deco original. Mallow also cited Brown’s position on the ARB and as a Corcoran realtor as another concern, despite stating moments later that landmarked properties that he has dealt with are generally sold at below their original value.

Lastly, Mallow read a statement saying he would be willing to talk with town officials and community leaders about working out a way to retain the theatre.

While another public hearing is likely to be held in December, Siemer-Scheider noted she likes to think the attention garnered in 2004 over the cinema sign was a boon for both Mallow and the theatre.

“With pride I will say we already designated it,” she said, adding a group was forming in the village to find a way to keep the theatre in Sag Harbor.

On Friday, Ferraris said the board of trustees would send a letter to the ARB asking they review their recommendation and seek only to have the cinema sign itself designated as a landmark, as that is the feature he believes is more iconic on the structure. Should the village designate the sign as a landmark it would not be able to be moved or replaced without ARB approval.

As for the issue of Brown and a potential conflict of interest, Ferraris said the village attorney was looking into the matter.

“We are certainly not going to do anything that would harm Mr. Mallow economically,” he said. “That is one thing I wanted to be sure of and in discussing this with counsel and in my own research, I do not believe there is any adverse economic effect to this designation. And if there is, I would love to be informed about it.”

 

 

 

Bridge to be Named for Fallen Marine Next Month

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Members of the First Battalion Ninth Marine Regiment are returning to United States soil this week following their deployment to Iraq, and in just one month’s time will travel to Sag Harbor to pay tribute to one of their fallen brothers.

This week, the family of Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter announced a formal dedication and unveiling of a public memorial at the foot of the Sag Harbor-North Haven Bridge will be held on Saturday, November 15. The bridge, following state approval, will also officially be renamed in honor of Haerter and veterans across the country.

Lance Cpl. Haerter, a 2006 Pierson High School graduate, was killed outside the city of Ramadhi in Iraq in April. A U.S. Marine, Haerter had just reached the one-month mark of his first tour when a suicide bomber drove into the checkpoint he was guarding and detonated. His actions and sacrifice, said military officials, saved over 30 marines that day, as well as over 50 Iraqi police.

Following Haerter’s death, which rocked the Sag Harbor community, East End residents and government leaders rallied in support of the construction of a memorial granite obelisk to honor the young marine. The monument will be placed on the waterfront, next to Windmill Beach, on land donated by the Village of Sag Harbor.

In May, a bill co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Ken LaValle passed, allowing the Sag Harbor-North Haven Bridge to be renamed “The Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge,” honoring both Haerter and veterans before him.

Members of Haerter’s battalion, some of who were in Ramadi with Haerter the day he was killed, will join the family, community and government leaders on November 15. According to Haerter’s father, Christian, the dedication was planned specifically to fall on a day those men could attend and the proximity to Veteran’s Day, on November 11, is purely coincidental.

“It just worked out this way,” he said on Wednesday. “We also didn’t feel we wanted to steal any thunder from the veterans, even though Jordan is a veteran now. Veteran’s Day is their day, and we really wanted this to be separate. It ultimately had to do with making sure it was a day the battalion could be there.”

On Tuesday, October 14, the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees gave its approval for the ceremony, which is expected to include guest speakers and a fly by, weather permitting.

Sag Harbor Cinema

In other community related news coming out of the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees on Tuesday night, the board passed a resolution directing village clerk Sandra Schroeder to contact Sag Harbor Cinema owner Gerald Mallow and inform him the board will hold a public hearing on granting the cinema building’s façade historic landmark status.

In August, the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board passed a resolution asking the board of trustees to give the façade, already located in Sag Harbor’s historic district, landmark designation. Just prior to this request, Mallow placed the cinema on the real estate market, in one advertisement seeking as much as $12 million for the Main Street, Sag Harbor locale.

On Tuesday, mayor Greg Ferraris said his only concern was ensuring the designation would not negatively impact the owner of the building.

Sag Harbor Village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. reminded Ferraris that as a building in the historic district, the cinema was already subject to much of the same regulation as it would be as a historic landmark. Without ARB approval, persons are prohibited from altering any façade of a historic building, or any building in the historic district for that matter, and must also seek board approval for any construction, reconstruction, demolition, or to move the structure.

The Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing on the designation at its next meeting, on Wednesday, November 12 at 6 p.m. 

Historic Cinema Has $12 Million Price Tag

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Two weeks ago, owner Gerald Mallow confirmed the Sag Harbor Cinema, one of the village’s most iconic facades and businesses, is for sale, and this week a price has been unveiled.

According to a real estate listing, Sag Harbor’s only theatre is available for $12 million. Residents in the village first became aware the cinema was for sale after a voice recording announcing movie times ended with a request that those interested in renting, leasing or buying the historic theatre should contact the owner via e-mail. The recording has since been changed.

The Sag Harbor Cinema has historically screened independent, foreign and art house movies, unlike neighboring theaters, which primarily show blockbuster or mainstream films. In 2004, Sag Harbor residents rallied, and successfully fundraised to restore in-kind the cinema sign – seen by many as a landmark of the village – after word spread the sign would be removed and replaced.

Sag Harbor Village attorney Anthony Tohill said a proposed zoning code in the village – which the village has embarked on to update what officials have called an antiquated code and help protect the mom-and-pop feel of Main Street – actually presents advantages for Mallow over the current code. Movie theatres are permitted in the Village Business District under the proposed code, while the cinema is non-conforming under the current code. In addition to a movie theatre, theoretically, the space could be converted to any permitted use in the Village Business District although any new business would be subject to proposed size restrictions. He added that under guidelines for the Sag Harbor historic preservation and architectural review board, if the sign is deemed a historic feature, it should be preserved.

 

Iconic Cinema Is For Sale

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Independent film aficionados eager to catch the newest flick at the iconic art-house move theatre, Sag Harbor Cinema, may have been surprised this week to learn the theatre is for sale after calling the cinema for times for this week’s film “Tell No One.”

On the Sag Harbor Cinema’s answering machine, following a description of the French thriller, callers interested in renting, leasing or buying the theatre are asked to e-mail sagharborcinema@aol.com.

On Tuesday, Sag Harbor Cinema owner Gerald Mallow confirmed the theatre was in fact for sale, but said he had no further comment at this time.

“I would like to say God Bless Gerry Mallow for trying to keep it going for as long as he has,” said Sag Harbor resident and photographer Brenda Siemer on Wednesday, who, four years ago, rallied residents to preserve the iconic sign that hangs on the front of the building.

The Sag Harbor Cinema primarily screens independent and foreign films, rather than blockbuster and mainstream movies seen in neighboring theaters. Siemer recalled a time when art-house and independent theatre owners had a plethora of diverse and exceptional independent films available at prices an independent theatre owner could afford. That has all changed with the evolution of the film business, she noted, with Harvey Weinstein expanding the independent film market to a point where films are being purchased for millions of dollars. Larger movie theater chains, like United Artists, have also made it increasingly difficult for smaller cinema’s to survive, she said.

“He’s held it together for so many years and I say that is a good thing,” said Siemer.

Siemer is no stranger to the Sag Harbor Cinema or its owner, after she was famously involved in an effort to save the Sag Harbor Cinema neon sign that adorns the theater’s façade. In May of 2004, Siemer and playwright Joe Pintauro rescued the sign after construction workers told them it was destined for the dump. The sign was reportedly in great need of repair. Mallow later reported it stolen to Sag Harbor Village Police, although charges were never filed. Mallow agreed to place a replica of the sign, rather than a different replacement, on the building after area residents mounted a fundraising campaign to save the sign. 

The Village of Sag Harbor is currently under a commercial moratorium while officials re-write the village’s zoning code. The zoning code re-write has been undertaken, in part, to save the character of Sag Harbor’s Main Street – one dominated by independent retailers rather than luxury chain stores, which dominate nearby village centers like East Hampton.

According to Sag Harbor Village attorney Anthony Tohill the proposed code presents advantages for Mallow as movie theaters are permitted in the village business district, while the cinema is non-conforming under the current code. Tohill said the building could also become anything that is permitted in the village business district. Antique shops, book stores, clothing stores, flower shops or variety stores are just some of the proposed permitted uses, although any new business would be subject to proposed size restrictions in the village business district.

Under the proposed code for the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board the sign, if considered a historic feature, should be preserved if at all possible, said Tohill.

It is Siemer’s hope that someone buys the building for theater and gallery space.

“I hope Steven Spielberg reads this because this could be a lovely space to do community outreach through a film school,” she said. “My children love to make films like his children love to make films.”

April Gornik, a North Haven artist and member of Save Sag Harbor, a not-for-profit that sent out an e-mail alert regarding the sale of the cinema said she desperately hoped the theater would ultimately remain in the village as it currently functions.

“It is such a treasure, as a landmark and for the unique service it provides the community,” she said. “It is rarely a wasted experience to go to the Sag Harbor Cinema.”

Photo by kathryn g. menu