This year’s 38th edition of Cinema Jove will grant the Luna de València award to one of the most free, innovative and committed directors of recent American indie cinema, Sean Baker (New Jersey, 1971). The director and screenwriter will be recognized in person during the opening gala of the Valencia International Film Festival on June 22 at the Palau de les Arts.
The deputy director of Audiovisuals and Cinematography at the IVC, Francesc Felipe, has pointed out that Cinema Jove is rewarding this year “one of the main figures of current North American independent cinema and one of the most relentless and accurate chroniclers of the darkest and depressing side of the American dream. In his films, Baker focuses his gaze, not without humor, on the marginal classes who survive on the periphery of large American cities”.
Sean Baker is a writer, director, producer, and editor who has made seven independent features over the past two decades. His acclaimed film The Florida Project (2017) received a Best Director award from the New York Film Critics Circle and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe. His previous film, Tangerine (2015), won an Independent Spirit Award and two Gotham Awards. Baker’s most recent film, Red Rocket (2021), premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim and was distributed by A24 in the US and Focus Features internationally. The filmmaker has just finished production on his next feature film.
“Sean Baker is a great portraitist of American ecosystems on the fringes; someone who focuses on non-places, on characters who are trying to float or find some comfort in their habitat”, has highlighted the director of Cinema Jove, Carlos Madrid.
His cinema tends to focus on groups that are underrepresented in the audiovisual, characters who live on the margins of society, but in his portrait, humor is never lacking. Thus, his debut feature, ‘Take Out’ (2004), gave the spotlight to a Chinese immigrant in New York who works frantically to raise enough money in tips to pay off a debt owed to some smugglers, and ‘The Florida Project’ to a girl who lives in one of the week-to-week motels located in the surroundings of Disney World. Next to what is considered the “happiest place in the world” there are families in serious economic hardship.
The B-side of American prosperity
“Baker’s filmography is full of young characters, adolescents, children… in the middle of a crossroads or simply looking for their place in the world. Baker’s camera treats them with great respect, affection and solidarity, without sparing us the harshness, the B side of American prosperity”, Madrid has assessed.
His career has been marked by embracing both the analog and digital formats. The director alternates the experimental spirit that the use of digital cameras gives him with the defense of the use of film. Thus, in 2015 he captured the attention at Sundance with ‘Tangerine’, where he used an iPhone 5S embedded in a Steadicam stabilizer system to investigate the lives of two transgender sex workers, while in 2022, he filmed ‘Red Rocket’ in 16 mm and anamorphic, with the big screen experience in mind to delve into the return of a failed porn actor to his local Texas.
John Waters included his latest feature film to date in his list of the 10 best films of the year 2021 for bringing “fuckin’, fightin’, and frontal nudity back on the art-house screen, where they belong”.
Another fundamental feature of his cinematography is pop chromaticism. In his films, the city becomes one more character to which he associates a color palette. It happened with Kissimmee in ‘The Florida Project’ and with Texas City in ‘Red Rocket’.