The 2019 SXSW Film Festival is almost upon us and we can’t wait to have you here! Before you make your way down to Austin, TX, get to know films from our lineup a little bit better with our Filmmaker In Focus series. Dive into our Q&A with director Annabelle Attanasio, as she tells us about her film Mickey and the Bear, which will make its world premiere in Narrative Feature Competition.
In your own words, what does this film mean to you?
Annabelle Attanasio: The dichotomy between familial obligation and personal growth is something I’ve been wanting to share in a film for a very long time. My teenage years were consumed by this sense of obligation I had towards my parents. I felt my family’s problems were my sole responsibility to fix, and spent a great deal of adolescence mediating between my parents and attempting to take on their emotional dysfunction. The movie feels like a culmination of those chaotic years of my childhood. What’s been perhaps most meaningful to me about the process of making this movie is the way it brought me closer to my Dad. It’s ironic, because the movie itself is about an incredibly codependent and fraught relationship between a girl and her father, and stemmed from a very personal place within my own experience with my family. But throughout the many years I’ve been with this story, nobody has stood by my side more than he has.
What motivated you to tell this story?
AA: There are so many father-son stories, but only a handful of father-daughter stories where the daughter is more than a vehicle for her father’s emotions. I am so grateful that recent films like Eighth Grade and Leave No Trace exist, and I hope Mickey and the Bear falls into the expanding canon of films that explore the complexity of the father-daughter bond.
My film contributes something somewhat darker, somewhat outré to that canon. What happens when you are 17, your mother’s dead, and your Dad is single, unstable, and self-medicating with booze and pills? Mickey alternates between traditional feminine roles — daughter, wife and mother — in order to keep her father’s mercurial moods and addictions at bay. Sometimes she nurtures him like she’s his mom. Sometimes she makes him feel important like she’s his little girl. And sometimes, she inadvertently lets her father cross a boundary so he can fill the void of his late wife.
Since writing the script I have met so many girls and women who have gone through some version of this pattern. I hope Mickey feels like a mosaic of all those girls and women who went through varying degrees of the same experience.
What do you want the audience to take away?
AA: The abuse in this film is insidious. It lives in the suspenseful, dreadful space when you’re just waiting for the other person to explode. I hope people take away that sometimes, the subtlest of abuse can be the most terrifying, for it is just a symbol of what is yet to come. Beyond that, I hope the film reminds the audience that dignity and selfhood is a lot more important than loyalty to someone who causes you harm. It permits the audience to let go of what holds them back.
What were you doing when you found out you were coming to SXSW?
AA: It was the middle of the night and I was in Paris for the first time ever. Lizzie, my producer, called me out of the blue and told me the news. We spent a good half hour freaking out in disbelief!
What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?
AA: First off, it made me so thrilled to see that seven of the ten filmmakers in competition have female artists at the helm in some capacity! Secondly, I admire the way SXSW is unafraid to take chances on first-time filmmakers like myself, as well as fresh faces onscreen, like our leading lady Cami Morrone. In fact, pretty much everyone in a major role on our crew was stepping up into that position for the first time. That includes the dozens of Anacondans who got involved in our film, without whom the film would not exist today. SXSW embraces new, unusual voices and a homegrown approach to filmmaking, and we are so proud to be part of both traditions.
Add Mickey and the Bear to your SXSW Schedule. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we share more interviews with our SXSW 2019 filmmakers!
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Mickey and the Bear – Photo by Conor Murphy
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