Finding EDÉN: The Atlanta Film Festival

By Sarah Woods

In Films For Thought

We caught Edén at the Atlanta Film Festival. From the film’s nod to neorealism, to it’s 100% ambient soundtrack–Edén managed to hit all the right chords to perform cinematic poetry.

Courtesy of Atlanta Film Fest

Eden still, Courtesy of AFF

One of the many reasons to love Atlanta is our film festival. There is something really fun about jaunting around favorite neighborhood spots like the plaza theatre and catching a good premiere. Before the festival packed up it’s projectors last week, Superlux ventured down the road to the Woodruff Arts Center to see Elise DuRant’s Film Edén.
Our very own Loren Falls at the Edén premiere.

Our very own Loren Falls at the Edén premiere.

Elise Durant previously worked in the editorial department on several Woody Allen films including To Rome with Love, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Cassandra’s Dream (as well as notable others). Edén is DuRant’s feature debut, and it is loosely based on her own life experiences. The film has 3 major characters: Alma (as a grown woman and as a kid), her dad, and Mexico (Mexico, the motherland, seems to represent the mother she did not know). The film is beautifully shot and honest. During her Q&A after the screening, DuRant said she was strongly influenced by Italian Neo-Realism. One of the key ideas in Neo-Realism is focusing on the larger environment where the story lives.Edén had a lot of these direct environmental choices. One that stood out for us was the shot of the 9-year-old’s POV as she’s staring at her dad’s feet–which seem enormous. Don’t you remember doing stuff like that as a kid? We certainly do.

Still from Eden, courtesy of Facebook.

DuRant’s choice of singer-songwriter and occasional actor Will Oldham (better known under his musical nom de plume: Bonnie Prince Billy) to play the dad is brilliant and unexpected.The father’s house is crammed with art and culture, a carnival atmosphere in comparison to everywhere else. The exterior and city shots are very austere.Durant’s DP, Vicente Pouso, has a background as a still photographer. Edén has a great number of centered shots, reminiscent of Kubrick – who also began as a still photographer, for Look Magazine.
Centered shots in Edén, courtesy of Facebook.

Centered shots in Edén, courtesy of Facebook.

The viewers were forced to pay close attention to visual indicators and shot choice because of one jarring decision—there is no score. This means that all the sound in the film is diegetic; there is no outside music. This tactic is not completely unheard of (thank you, I’ll be here all week), but it is genius when you want the audience to take note of the space within the story. When Alma is sitting in her father’s truck and the camera stays on her, the only sound the viewer hears is a bird. The bird’s song is so loud and so unique (only heard in that area of Mexico) that it becomes very haunting. The audience is forced to take note of the surroundings Alma is left in; DuRant wants the viewers to know that the space that the story takes place in is as important as the story itself.
Environmental shot, courtesy of Edenfilm.net

Environmental shot, courtesy of Eden’s website by John DuRant.

The combination of sound (or lack there of) and lengthy environmental shots allow Edén to be a modern neo-realistic film. Overall, Edén is a radiant piece of cinema and we’re happy it played in our city. 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the film industry in Atlanta, which means getting to see great films here too.