The Boston Globe

Local filmmaker craved straight talk about death

By Peter Keough
Globe Correspondent / OCTOBER 17, 2015

The act of killing people - mostly with the emphasis on "act" - has entertained audiences since the beginnings of show business. But confronting death itself - the highly personal, existential certainty of nullification - has not had as much appeal.

Richard Tilkin, Boston-based documentarian, doesn't think that such denial is a healthy approach to life's only inevitability and its greatest mystery. In his debut documentary feature "Aside From That" (as in, "Aside From that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?") he discusses the subject with a wide range of mortals, including psychiatrists, philosophers, gravely ill people, a traumatized vet, religious figures, comedian Steven Wright, and a guy in Santa Fe with a parrot on his shoulder.

On the phone from his Boston office, he explains how and why he made a film (details at about a subject that has bugged him since he was 5 years old.

Q. Isn't 5 a bit young to ponder death?

A. I don't know about that, but when I was that age and I asked what happens when people get older I was told that everyone dies. I was like, come on, that can't be right. Since then, whenever I would think about it, whenever I went back to that place, I would feel depressed. That knowledge always just sitting there. I was shocked that other people didn't want to talk about it. It was just very taboo.

Q. Making a film about death is like making a film about life. How did you narrow the topic down?

A. There are obviously a million paths we could have gone down, so we hammered out a treatment. First, we wanted experts. We interviewed people like Dr. John Wynn, who's a death anxiety expert, and Roshi Joan Halifax, who is a famous American Zen priest and end-of-life expert. And the rest happened organically as we started exploring. I also knew we wanted to interview people in the street and we met a lot of interesting people that way.

Q. Do you think kids should become aware of the facts of death at an early age, like yourself?

A. Dr. Wynn says that if you don't talk about it with them they can sense your sadness anyway. They can sense that there's something wrong. In general, he points out that people don't fully understand how profound it is if you don't face your mortality, how such denial can have a negative effect on many things.

Q. Now that you've tackled death, what is there left to face as a documentary maker?

A. My new documentary is about people living with unusual and striking names and how those names have affected their lives. The working title is "The Strange Name Movie." To date we have profiled 28 people. You might say it's on the other end of the documentary spectrum.

Original article available at (subscription required).

The Boston Globe

Boston Film Festival revels in a first

By Loren King
Globe Correspondent / September 05, 2015

Even "The Godfather II" didn't get to shoot its famous Havana scenes in Cuba. The Dominican Republic and other locations had to suffice.

Times have changed. "Papa," which opens the 31st annual Boston Film Festival on Sept. 17, is reportedly the first Hollywood dramatic feature film allowed to shoot in Cuba since the 1959 revolution and subsequent US embargo.

"Papa" stars Giovanni Ribisi as Ed Myers, a character based on the real-life Miami Herald reporter Denne Bart Petitclerc, who wrote the script. Petitclerc, who died in 2006, also wrote the screenplay for "Islands in the Stream" (1977), based on Ernest Hemingway's novel. "Papa" is about the friendship between the reporter and Hemingway (Adrian Sparks), who lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1960 and wrote some of his best-known works there, including his Pulitzer Prize-winner, "The Old Man and the Sea." Myers visits Hemingway and his fourth wife, Mary (Joely Richardson), also a journalist, at their Cuba estate in the late '50s as the Fidel Castro-led revolution is brewing. At Hemingway's urging, Myers files firsthand reports of the tumultuous events redefining life on the island.

Director Bob Yari and his crew got unprecedented permission to shoot inside Hemingway's former estate, Finca Vigia, and at some of Havana's most iconic sites, including the former Government Palace, which was long ago turned into a museum commemorating Castro's revolution. The Grand Theater, closed for restoration, was converted into the bar of one of Hemingway's favorite spots, the Ambos Mundos Hotel. It's here that, in the film, notorious mobster Santo Trafficante (James Remar) tips off Myers that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is spying on Hemingway.

The festival, which runs through Sept. 21 with screenings at the Revere Hotel and other locations not yet announced, also presents the world premiere of the documentary "No Greater Love" (Sept. 19). The film examines the brutality of combat and post-traumatic stress disorder through the story of an Army chaplain, Justin Roberts, who fought with his unit in some of the most horrific battles in Afghanistan and emerged a passionate advocate for soldiers, himself included, who are battling PTSD. Roberts explains that military suicide now claims the lives of more US soldiers than combat. With gripping footage, the film is an immersive look at combat deployment as well as a compelling chronicle of the transition from battlefield to home.

Two fiction features focus on the crime world and its casualties. Writer-director Tim McCann's "The Aftermath" (Sept. 18) stars Sam Trammell ("True Blood") as a struggling addict whose need to retrieve a stolen piece of jewelry brings him into contact with a dangerous underground criminal ring in his small Southern town.

Another world premiere feature is "Evan's Crime" (Sept. 19), directed by Sandy Tung, about a young man, Evan White (Douglas Smith), who is unjustly accused of selling marijuana and cocaine and must contend with an ambitious prosecutor eager to mete out severe punishment.

Local audiences won't want to miss "We the People: The Market Basket Effect" (Sept. 20), a stirring account of the recent epic showdown between the Demoulas family, the shareholders in its supermarket empire, and thousands of employees, aided by community supporters, who spurred a grassroots boycott for six weeks last year. Directed by Tommy Reid and narrated by Lowell native Michael Chiklis ("American Horror Story" and "The Shield"), the documentary traces the rise of the Demoulas family, who first established Market Basket as a single store before expanding the chain across Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The film depicts the protests from loyal employees and customers that erupted when CEO Arthur T. Demoulas was forced out as part of a long-simmering family feud.

Original article available at (subscription required).

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