One of the American independent movies premiering at the Miami International Film Festival includes Posthumous, a film directed by Lulu Wang, a transplant from Miami to Los Angeles. Wang's feature film debut stars some high-profile actors from the indie cinema scene, including Brit Marling, Jack Huston, and Lambert Wilson.
Wang and her producer, Bernadette Bürgi, accomplished that bit of a casting coup by simply having a little faith in their work. "We are big dreamers," the director says about herself and her producing partner. "It's our first film, and everyone just said, 'What? You're going for these levels of actors? There's just no way.'"
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She says she had her casting director send Marling a script. "If we get a no, we get a no ... Two weeks later, her people called from CAA, and I get a text message from Bernadette. It's like 7 a.m., and she's like, 'Oh my God! Oh my God! I'm about to pee myself!'" she says with a laugh.
The film follows a curious reporter (Marling) who finds something suspicious about a art exhibition for an artist who allegedly took his own life (Huston). Wilson plays the nervous gallerist who pulls off the exhibit. Wang says she and Bürgi developed the idea together. "Both of us love the old screwball comedies that we rarely see anymore," she says, "and that kind of chemistry and dynamic between the lead male and the lead female."
Wang cites Woody Allen, Preston Sturges, and Billy Wilder as influences as well as films like Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, and The Awful Truth. The 32-year-old laughs when asked how she got into classic movies. "I love Cary Grant," she says. "I love Katherine Hepburn. I think she is unparalleled. I talked to Brit a lot about Katherine as an inspiration because I think Brit has that kind of elegance and regalness about her and sophistication and intelligence."
If the feel of Posthumous came from old-time Hollywood, the idea for the script, Wang notes, came from a more personal place. "I guess I was asking myself a lot about the reasons I want to pursue art as a career and just in my life, being in Hollywood, where it is an intersection of business and art, having to adapt your work to the business ... When I started, I definitely didn't want to make any sacrifices to my vision based on what the market was asking for, and I had people that I was working with who said, You have to do this, you have to do that.'"
She came to Miami when her family emigrated from Beijing; she was only six years old. She went to school at the New World School of the Arts, but she studied music performance with a concentration in piano. It wasn't until her final years at Boston College, where she studied writing, that she took a senior film class and fell in love with movie-making. She started by shooting on super 8 and says she received a lot of encouragement by professors. In 2014, she received the Roger and Chaz Ebert Directing Fellowship, awarded to her at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Though currently living in Los Angeles and choosing to shoot her film in Berlin, Wang says being back in Miami for Posthumous's North American premiere has been inspiring. "It's so exciting," she says. "I want to make more of an effort to come back and maybe sometime shoot a movie here."
Posthumous has its North American premiere at Miami Dade College's Miami International Film Festival on Friday, March 13, at 7 p.m. at Regal South Beach. It also screens Saturday March 14, at 4 p.m. at Cinepolis. Tickets are $13. Call 844-565-6433 or visit miamifilmfestival.com.
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