U.S. subprime crisis stars in Venice film festival
Venice, Italy • Florida’s realtors and tourism authorities probably will not be using "99 Homes" in their promotional material.
The Sunshine State looks pretty shady in Ramin Bahrani’s Orlando-set drama, one of 20 films competing for prizes at the Venice Film Festival.
The movie stars Andrew Garfield as an evicted construction worker who sells his soul to the devil — or at least to Michael Shannon’s reptilian real estate agent — and takes a job evicting other struggling souls to earn enough money to get his family home back.
A portrait of a financial system stacked in favor of the winners, it’s "Wall Street" for the subprime mortgage era, and the director says he wanted to show a different side to a state famous for "golf carts and retirees, Magic Kingdoms and castles."
Bahrani, the director of grittily naturalistic indie movies including "Chop Shop" and "Goodbye Solo," researched the film by visiting real estate agencies, hedge-fund managers, fraud attorneys and foreclosure courts in the state.
"After two or three weeks in Florida, I was dizzied by the corruption," the American director told reporters in Venice on Friday.
Garfield and Shannon also dived into first-hand research. Shannon spent time with a real estate agent, while Garfield, like his character, stayed in a motel occupied by families whose homes had been repossessed.
The actor said he found the evictees remarkably willing to talk.
"It felt like they needed to share it constantly throughout the day to make sense of it," Garfield said. "Because it felt completely irrational and of course unjust, the situation they were in."