Friday, March 30, 2012

Ann Capozzolo: Why I Love the Monkees' HEAD

BMFI continues its The Late Show series of underseen cult and classic films with Head, showing tonight at 11:30 pm. Read why Ann Capozzolo, a lifelong Monkees fan and our programming contest winner, loves the zany 1968 film.

By Ann Capozzolo, BMFI Programming Contest Winner 

Seeing Head on the big screen means a lot to me right now. I’m a big Monkees fan. I’m sure you are aware that Davy Jones, the resident ‘cute one’ in the Monkees, passed away recently. So the timing of this event feels right to me. Also, I never thought I’d actually get the chance to see this movie, which is one of my all-time favorites, on the big screen.

I’ve been a fan of the Monkees since I saw the show on TV when I was eleven years old. As you can imagine, at that age I couldn’t get enough of their silly antics and catchy pop songs.

About a year later, I discovered that the Monkees made a movie after their television show was cancelled, and it was going to be on TV... at 3 AM.  The timing puzzled me, but I set my VCR anyway.

When I woke up, I couldn’t wait to see what zany stuff “my” Monkees cooked up for their movie. I popped the tape in right away while eating my breakfast.

I think I stared at the screen with my mouth hanging open for the first twenty minutes. These weren’t really my Monkees. These Monkees were edgy, psychedelic, anti-war, anti-teeny bopper, basically kind of anti-everything, it seemed. And they were making references that went straight over my head. I must have found it amusing enough to muddle through until the end. But I have to say that twelve-year-old Ann was disappointed!

As I got older and could understand Head more, I came back to it again and again. I love all the psychedelic scenes and the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that the Monkees poked fun at their image and their TV show. Many of the scenes in the movie play out like a Monkees episode, but totally exaggerated and infused with dark humor.

I think that if the group wanted to blow up the entire Monkees phenomenon with this film, they did a great job of it. Just like me at twelve, I can’t imagine that typical Monkees fans at the time would have understood the film at all. On the other hand, cinephiles that may have really appreciated the film probably avoided it simply because it starred the Monkees. I’m glad that Head has gotten some recognition in recent years.

Probably the most often talked about aspect of Head is that it was written and produced by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson about two years before they teamed up again to make the classic Five Easy Pieces. Besides the Rafelson and Nicholson pairing--and, of course, all the awesome psychedelic visuals--the film also has this rebellious, loss-of-innocence feel that I think a lot of movies tried to capture at the time.

From the psychedelic imagery to the great music to a bizarre assortment of cameos, like Annette Funicello and Frank Zappa, this movie has the power to put viewers into a 1968 frame of mine. I hope you all enjoy this psychedelic, plotless cult classic as much as I do!  

Ann Capozzolo won BMFI's Winter Programming Contest by suggesting Head. This post is a version of the introduction she'll be giving at tonight's screening. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnCapo.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Sense of Place: Deron Albright’s DESTINY OF LESSER ANIMALS

By Nina Zipkin, BMFI Intern

Deron Albright’s thrilling feature directorial debut The Destiny of Lesser Animals tells the story of Boniface Koomsin, a Ghanaian National Police Inspector who was deported from the United States a decade ago. He longs to return, but a stolen passport, a dangerous trip to the capital, and an unsolved murder stand in the way of his dream. The film was shot on location in Ghana and was written by and stars Deron's frequent collaborator, Yao B. Nunoo.

Following BMFI's screening on Tuesday, March 27 at 7:30pm, the local director will join us for an audience Q&A. In anticipation of the event, Deron took the time to answer some questions via email about teaching, collaborating, and making a home in Ghana. 

Why did you want to tell this particular story? What is it about Ghana that you find fascinating?

The idea of "place" is a common thread throughout my work. I am really intrigued by the Situationist idea of "psychogeography" and how the physical spaces and social and economic conditions in which one lives impacts the sense of self, the choices one makes, and the life one lives.

When I first traveled to West Africa (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso), to show "The Legend of Black Tom" at FESPACO 2007, I was overwhelmed with the sense of place and began to wonder what it might mean to set a classical genre story in a radically different milieu. Working with Yao Nunoo, Ghana became the obvious choice to pursue.

Filmmaker Deron Albright (center) with cinematographer Aaron T. Bowen
and actor/screenwriter Yao B. Nunoo on set

Once that decision was made, I poured myself into becoming as much a part of the place as I could. By the time shooting began, I had been there nearly seven months living in an apartment at the National Film and Television Institute (NAFTI) student hostel, had traveled around the country quite a bit, kept very in touch with the social and political happenings (including the razor-thin margin election of 2008 and government transition), and was moving daily throughout the city on a motorcycle. In short, I felt like I had a sense of place that would become very important in making the film.

It was another major collaborator on the project--producer and post-production supervisor Dede Maitre--who really helped push the edit of the film to express the sense of place for audiences who might never have been to Ghana or anyplace like it.

What were some of your favorite parts of being a Fulbright scholar in Ghana and what were some of the challenges?

There's nothing like immersing yourself completely in a place and culture so different from one's own, for better or worse! One of the surprising things to me, though, was how different my family lived relative to other foreigners. We were not "behind the walls" as most, but rather trying our best to make Ghana our home, if only for a year. This created some acute difficulties, but it is something of which I'm really proud. Living in the NAFTI Hostel Apartment left us in far less control of our domestic situation than we might have been otherwise. But, on balance, the trade-off was a good one, and when Lori and I returned a year later (for second unit and sound work) we were welcomed back by many as genuine friends. For all its differences, Ghana became as familiar a home as any other place I've lived.

Sandy Arkhurst (The Old Fisherman) with Nunoo
How did your creative relationship with Yao B. Nunoo begin? How do you collaborate?

In fall 2004, Yao answered a casting call for "The Legend of Black Tom." He was the first actor to respond, and really the only one I needed to meet! We both found ourselves very comfortable with each other on that film (which had a very successful festival run in 2006), and explicitly kept open the possibility of future projects. I think the best aspect of our relationship is the freedom we both feel to offer suggestions to the other at any step in the process, as well as the trust we have in the other's ability. Be it at the level of script or production or edit, we are willing to listen to each other and respect what the other has to say. That's not to say there aren't differences or disagreement along the way, but that's where the trust comes in. I think it really shows on the screen. On Destiny, the project from beginning to end, was so in flux, that without the belief in each other, we never would have made it.

In addition to being a filmmaker, you teach at St. Joseph’s University. What do you hope your students take away from your classes?

First and foremost, whether it is either film criticism or film making, I hope to engender a lasting appreciation for the medium. From an audience perspective, cinema's combination of storytelling and artistry (i.e., of content and form) requiring a complicated technical apparatus, all set within a specific cultural context, makes for an extraordinarily rich array of inquiry. From a filmmaking point of view, I hope that students begin to appreciate the power of the tools at their disposal, and can begin to explore how those tools can make original and meaningful work. And underlying both is the authenticity of emotion that allows filmmaker and audience the ability to connect in an important way for both.

Thanks for sharing such great insights into the film, Deron!

Do you have questions you want to ask Deron yourself? Come to the Q&A after BMFI's screening on Tuesday, March 27.

Nina Zipkin is a senior at Bryn Mawr College currently interning at BMFI.

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Movie Picks

By Mike Mazzanti, BMFI Intern

Instead of making jokes about leprechauns and large consumptions of alcohol for Saint Patrick’s Day, I will focus my attention on films starring famous Irish actors and actresses. With the 17th just around the corner, you can celebrate your Irish heritage with a few of these films, or just admire the awesome accents from afar.

Liam Neeson
Pick: Schindler’s List
In Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Liam Neeson was nominated for an Oscar for his starring role as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved over a thousand Jews during the height of the Second World War. Based on a true story, this stirring and heartbreaking masterpiece was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won seven including Best Picture and Best Director.
Most Irish Role: Gangs of New York
In Martin Scorsese’s ten-time Oscar-nominated Gangs of New York, Neeson plays Irish immigrant leader ‘Priest’ Vallon.

Cillian Murphy
Pick: Sunshine
With the sun beginning to dim, a small team of astronauts are sent out to reignite the dying star and mankind’s future. Visually striking and intelligent, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine has all the makings of a sci-fi classic. Thanks in large part to strong performances from Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis, and Mark Strong, this cerebral drama is both grim and touching.

Honorable Mention:
28 Days Later
In another of Boyle’s sci-fi flicks, 28 Days Later, Cillian Murphy stars as Jim, a bicycle courier who wakes to find London seemingly deserted; as Jim travels the streets, he soon learns the truth behind the abandoned city and the creatures lurking in the shadows.

Maureen O’Hara
Pick/Most Irish: The Quiet Man
In this romantic comedy, Irish-born American boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne) travels to his homeland to reclaim his family’s farm. He soon falls in love with Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), the fiery sister of the bullying landowner. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, The Quiet Man won two, including Best Director for John Ford.

One tough broad: Maureen O'Hara in John Ford's The Quiet Man

Colin Farrell
Pick: In Bruges
In Bruges follows Ray (Colin Farrell), a rookie hit-man with a guilty conscious who is sent to lay low in Bruges after a hit goes awry. Accompanied by veteran assassin Ken (Brendan Gleeson), they await orders from their hot-tempered and extremely principled boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). Instantly bored with the small town, Ray soon gets into a tangle of trouble and romance with the locals, tourists, and a film crew in this witty pitch-black comedy.

Honorable Mention: Tigerland
Farrell stars as Roland Bozz, a young man trying to fight the military system, only to find it fighting back in Joel Schumacher’s gritty war drama.

Peter O’Toole
Pick: Lawrence of Arabia
In a film that has been called the epic of all epics, Peter O’Toole stars as T.E. Lawrence, a complex and controversial military figure. Sweeping and spellbinding, director David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography.

Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole star in Lawrence of Arabia

Honorable Mention: Becket
In Becket, winner of the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Peter O’Toole stars as King Henry II alongside Richard Burton.

Brendan Gleeson
Pick/Most Irish: The Guard
Brendan Gleeson stars as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, an unorthodox Irish cop who is forced to work with a fish-out-of-water FBI agent (Don Cheadle). Brimming with dry wit and subversive humor, The Guard is an impressive directorial debut from John Michael McDonagh that is both raw and hilarious.

So, if you’d like to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with a flick or two, give a toast (okay, just one joke) to one of these Irish stars.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Programming Highlights

By Nina Zipkin, BMFI Intern

Spring is upon us and gorgeous weather isn’t the only thing that Bryn Mawr Film Institute patrons can look forward to this season. The new issue of our programming guide Projections arrived yesterday at BMFI! Here’s a look at some exciting upcoming events.

Come join us for some classic cult favorites at The Late Show, our ongoing film series devoted to showcasing underseen and unusual cinema. Kiss Me Deadly (1955), a definitive Cold War-era noir thriller, will be screened on 35 mm on Friday, May 25 and don't miss Maggie Gyllenhaal’s indelible performance as Lee, an executive assistant who embarks on a not-so-conventional relationship with her boss (James Spader) in Secretary (2002) on Friday, April 27.

And speaking of office assistance, in honor of Administrative Professionals Day on Wednesday, April 25, there will be a One Night Only showing of Nine to Five, the gleeful workplace revenge comedy starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Join us for free coffee and a karaoke sing-along of the snappy theme song.
 Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Dabney Coleman and Jane Fonda

Another series to look out for is Author! Author!, where writers give us their insight into classic films. Ben Taylor, the author of Apocalypse on Set: Nine Disastrous Film Productions, will discuss Werner Herzog’s infamous Fitzcarraldo (1982) at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, April 3 before the film's 8:30 pm screening. Then on Tuesday, April 10, a filmed discussion featuring author Susan Orlean (who was portrayed by Meryl Streep in 2002’s Adaptation), author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, will be broadcast in HD before our 8:30 pm screening of The Return of Rin Tin Tin (1947).

We know that you care about the stars on screen, but what about the stars in the sky? Director Ian Cheney's new documentary about light pollution and its effect on our night sky, The City Dark, will be shown on Monday, April 23 at 7:30 pm as part of the Green on Screen series... just in time for Earth Day. Haverford senior Maya Barlev, the student coordinator for the public observing program at Strawbridge Observatory, will introduce the documentary.

Zorro (Douglas Fairbanks) faces off against his nemesis in The Mark of Zorro, showing on May 22 with a live original score!

On Tuesday, May 22, fans of silent movies are in for a treat. Douglas Fairbanks (ever the epitome of derring-do) stars as the titular hero in The Mark of Zorro (1920) and Philadelphia’s musical quintet Not-So-Silent Cinema will perform their original flamenco-based live score. Ole!

Speaking of music, "iconic" is the best way to describe the musical score from 1981’s Chariots of Fire. The inspiring film about two rival track stars at the 1924 Olympics can be seen on the big screen on Wednesday, May 23, introduced by Dr. Robert Good, Bryn Mawr Hospital’s Chief of Orthopedic Surgery for the “What’s Up, Doc?” series.

On Wednesday, May 30, the 1953 classic From Here to Eternity will be shown in conjunction with a one-night Cinema Classics Seminar, taught by BMFI’s Director of Education, Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D. The eight-time Oscar winning classic, which takes place in Hawaii before the attack on Pearl Harbor, boasts an all-star cast of Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, and Frank Sinatra. The stand-alone Cinema Classics Seminar is one of many fantastic film courses being offered this spring and summer on such diverse topics as early Walt Disney, the films of Vincente Minnelli, screenwriting, and action films.

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in "From Here to Eternity", showing May 30.

And you could very well be watching the work of the next Scorsese or Hazanavicius if you attend the Tri-Co Film Festival on Wednesday, May 2 at 7:00 pm, where young filmmakers from Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore Colleges will be screening their work.

High school students with cinematic ambitions can spend their summer vacation at BMFI’s Summer Filmmaking Workshop, now in its fourth year. From June 25-August 2, 12 students will produce, write, direct and edit a film that will be shown on the big screen at the end of the program. Early applications are due Friday, March 30 and the final application deadline is Monday, April 30.

These are only a fraction of the programs and events that BMFI's offering this season. We hope that you'll check out a copy of Projections or visit our website for more information about our upcoming programs. We hope that you check out all of our events online at See you at the movies! BMFI members will receive Projections in their mailboxes this week, but anyone can pick up a copy at the theater.

Nina Zipkin is a senior at Bryn Mawr College currently interning at BMFI.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cafe Under New Management

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager, BMFI

Last Thursday, March 1, the cafe located at Bryn Mawr Film Institute officially changed hands.

In a letter posted in the cafe, MilkBoy owners Tommy Joyner and Jamie Lokoff thanked their customers for their patronage over the last five years. The pair stated that the change was "due to our expansion in Philadelphia and the relocation of our recording studio, also in Philadelphia." They added, "It was very important to us and BMFI that we hand off this business to the right operators. We feel that we have done that with the new owners. They are very excited and we encourage you to get to know them and embrace the new energy."

Natalia Carignan, the cafe's new owner, poses with cafe manager Mike O'Malley. 
Under the new ownership of Natalia Carignan, patrons can expect changes to the space and menu down the line, but regulars will recognize the same friendly faces behind the counter and the cafe will continue to provide Counter Culture Coffee.

"We'll have the same great coffee and employees, but with a new feel," Natalia said. "We look forward to serving BMFI's members and filmgoers."

According to the article about the transition, the new cafe will still offer discounts to BMFI patrons and students. If you have money left on your MilkBoy gift cards or reloadable swipe cards, you can still use them at MilkBoy Coffee's Ardmore location.

We appreciate all that MilkBoy Coffee has brought to our table (pun intended) and wish them the best for the future. It has been a pleasure having them here at Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

Hank Mandel's FIVE FRIENDS

By Nina Zipkin, BMFI Intern

Bromances may be a hit in Hollywood, but what role do meaningful male friendships play in a man's life, and how can they be cultivated?

Hank Mandel, the 65-year-old subject of the new documentary Five Friends, will share his insights as part of a panel discussion about male friendships following the screening of the movie at BMFI on Wednesday, March 14 at 7:30 pm. Based on Elbert Hubbard's saying, "My father always used to say that when you die, if you've got five real friends, you've had a great life," director Erik Santiago’s poignant film focuses on Hank's relationships with his five closest friends.

In anticipation of the event at BMFI, Hank took the time to answer some questions about his experience working on the film:

How did you decide to share the story of your friendships?

It was a very personal process. As I looked back on my life, I was very blessed to have five amazing friends in my life dating back from 40 to 10 years--all of these men supporting and growing with me through life. I wanted my two daughters to know these friends better and understand the importance of men having intimate, healthy, and strong male relationships. I thought making a film about these friendships would be a great gift for them to have. I thought the guys might like it as well. I discussed it with my wife and together we decided it would be a good thing to do for me and the kids.

Hank Mandel and his friend Scott in the new documentary, Five Friends

What was it like being followed around by the cameras?

This was easy, they were quite invisible. Erik Santiago, the director of the film, our cinematographer Sean Conaty, and their fantastic crew were masterful over the weeks and months of shooting. We shot about 50 hours of film for what turned out to be a 67-minute documentary. The crew was young, professional, and really enjoyed the topic. It was an all-male crew, except for the second camera woman, who really found the experience exciting and interesting. She enjoyed seeing the dynamics of men in very personal relationships. It made everyone on the crew think of their own relationships with men. We had excellent and diverse places to shoot on the two coasts, which I believe made the film more interesting.

Hank Mandel (right) with his friend Charlie

How did you collaborate with director Erik Santiago to create the film?

Erik and I had known each other for about 10 years. We worked together making training films at the bank where I worked. We knew how to work closely and collaboratively, but we never expected to do anything like this. We have very different talents and have found ways to collaborate and create an exciting and engaging film. We ended up with the same vision of the film. He did an amazing job editing the film with Kyle Gilbertson which made the story of the film quite impactful as it unfolds.

We were surprised how powerful the film was for men and women when we started holding focus groups with an uncut version of the final film. We wanted to see how men and women would react to the film. It was because of these focus groups that we began to understand that "Five Friends" was much more than a film for my daughters. It was a film that both men and women found as important, relevant and profound. Focus group audiences around the country encouraged us to see the film as an significant piece of work that needed to be shared broadly with both men and women.

You have had a wide-range of work experiences. What do you see as the connecting threads between the different stages of your career?

Great question. The clearest thread is ME! I am an eclectic individual with pieces of creativity and relationships throughout my life. Growing up in New York City, I loved theater and enjoyed being in and directing plays in school and camps. I went to Ithaca College as a Theater major and worked for five years producing and directing shows for the Country Music Association when I was in my late 40s. I have my graduate degree in Social Work which in many ways is a degree in understanding yourself and others in various relationships and situations. Both of my parents died when I was 30, so I think I found male friendships to be profound and important connections to fill my parental void. They were substitutes for family, since my brother and I lived far apart and had very different interests in life.

Hank with his friend Bob in Five Friends

Is there a lesson that you’d like to impart to your daughters from this experience of making the film?

I have tried to live a life of intimacy with my family and balance work with relationships at home. I hope I have done a decent job. Both my daughters love the movie. Years ago, my oldest daughter, Briana (30), had lunch one day with me and one of my friends, Barry. She was amazed by the quality of our conversation. It opened her eyes to the possibility of emotionally in-touch men. The movie was profound for her because: (a) she knew the friends and (b) she discovered things about me and my life she did not know. We hugged each other for a long time after her screening. It was wonderful, we are very close. Lauren, my youngest daughter (22), sat on my lap and cried after the movie ended. She said, "The best part of the movie is that she could share it with her children." (Whenever and if she has some.) It was very touching! She is very creative and loving! 

I think both of them see the quality of the collaborative experience with Erik and myself and how we work together and share life together. He is not one of the "Five Friends", but he and I have worked together in a way that makes us very special colleagues and "brothers". The lessons for my daughters are all about male relationships and for them to look for healthy, introspective, emotionally connected and smart men in their lives. I think they both do this now.

Is there a message or a lesson about male friendships that you hope people take away from the film? In your opinion and in your experience as a therapist, why is it a subject that’s so rarely addressed?

There are many lessons to be found in this documentary and it is wonderful that each person who sees the film finds lessons relevant to their lives. This is why the film has become so popular for men's groups, gender study programs at universities, therapy sessions, between friends, for both men and women at any age, and for the general public at movie venues. It is a story that has been needed in our society. Men are thirsty for male relationships, they just frequently do not know how to find them and nurture them. Our society often confuses male intimacy with male gay relationships. They are quite different, but have similar qualities of profound intimacy.

Hank hugs his friend Barry in a still from Five Friends

Men, in our society are often taught to be strong, hold their feeling inside and solve their own problems. Men are expected to achieve, but not expected to love other men unless it is "family love". Our society puts men in specific "strong behavior roles" that often do not meet their emotional needs and sense of isolation that men struggle with throughout their lives. Pop culture also puts men into stereotypes of being awkward, stupid, insensitive, funny and macho. This not real. It is a corner we are painted into while society provides women all the emotional opportunity and skills to be intimate with other women and men. The film Five Friends shows the audience that men are totally capable of as many complex and important emotions as women. This was a story ready and needing to be told.

Thanks for sharing such great insights into the film, Hank!

In addition to answering questions as part of the panel discussion after the film screening, Hank Mandel will also be a featured speaker at a workshop about male relationships at Widener University on Saturday, March 17.

Nina Zipkin is a senior at Bryn Mawr College currently interning at BMFI.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Actress Emily Blunt Visits BMFI

Last Tuesday, February 28, BMFI was fortunate enough to host a members-only sneak preview of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, followed by a Q&A with Emily Blunt, who stars in the film. Unfortunately, not everyone who wanted to attend was able to secure seats, which we truly regret. However, you can get a taste of the delightful Q&A thanks to BMFI member Diane Mina Weltman's thoughtful coverage.

Gone Fishin’—in Yemen?
By Diane Mina Weltman, BMFI Member and Guest Blogger

Three things made BMFI’s screening of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen very special:
1. It was a sneak preview (the film opens nationally March 9);
2. It was free to members;
3. Actress Emily Blunt answered questions after the screening.

It appeared to be an act of movie magic to see the British actress walk down the theater aisle at the film’s end and take a seat next to BMFI President Juliet Goodfriend, ready to field questions. The full house applauded heartily not only for the actress, but for the film in which she stars opposite Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott Thomas. Ms. Blunt’s visit was a very sweet digestif to the charming comedy.

Actress Emily Blunt signing posters promoting her new film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, at BMFI.

Filmed in Morocco, Salmon Fishing pairs a visionary sheik (Amr Waked) and Dr. Alfred Jones (Mr. McGregor), a government fisheries wonk, to introduce salmon spawning in the Middle Eastern country. As the sheik’s PR consultant, Harriet Chetwode Talbot (Ms. Blunt) helps both men as the unlikely project becomes a reality. The film shows what the sheik’s seemingly bottomless wallet and the fishing expert’s understated knowledge can produce when they collaborate on the same dream.

Ms. Blunt explained how her preparation for this role, and others, draws first from the script. “This film is an adaptation from a book and I read about four chapters of it and then I was starting—as brilliant as it was—to find it unhelpful... I’ve done adaptations of books before, and I usually read a bit of the book and put it aside because I think you have to go off of the script more than anything,” she noted. As a teen in England, her acting skills emerged not from formal training but from a broader education that included experiential learning which included sending her to Tanzania to build classrooms. “The experiences I had were more relevant,” she explained. “I don’t have anything to compare with a formal acting education because I am not trained that way.”

On the heels of Meryl Streep’s recent Academy Award win, Ms. Blunt was inevitably asked about working with the famed actress in The Devil Wears Prada. “She’s incredible, generous and warm,” as she recalled her first table read with the cast of that film. “She told Annie [Hathaway] and me that, ‘I think you’re both very good—and that’s the last nice thing I’ll say to either of you.’” Ms. Streep remained in her steely character for the rest of the shoot. “She is lit from within—so authentic,” Ms. Blunt mused.

Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor star in Lasse Hallström's Salmon Fishing In The Yemen.

In Salmon Fishing, Ms. Blunt enjoyed the depth of her character’s spirit stating,” I admired how conflicted she was and how she persevered because grief can be boring to watch all the time.”

As for what makes her happiest about her job, the young actress explained, “It’s kind of like this Neverland that you exist in for a few weeks [when you’re filming], but really, the people—the actors, the crew—are what I take away from every experience.”

Having worked with some great actors, Ms. Blunt admitted to feeling it was “quite intimidating at first because you feel you have to do your best to keep up with them because they do such extraordinary things in every scene and every moment.” She added that the biggest lesson she’d learned from them is that “they have fantastic confidence, guts and they try something new every time and are open to everything.” She added, “The best actors are interested in life, in people, in soaking you up.”

Ms. Blunt’s warmth filled the theater as she encouraged someone with screenwriting aspirations to persevere even though “this is a most cruel business. What happened to me was incredibly lucky.” She stated earnestly that her agent “reads all scripts that are submitted.” The actress consistently seemed as open as the well-known actors whom she admires, confirming she is always a student, learning from the best.

There is an introspective moment in Salmon Fishing, in which the sheik confirms his unwavering belief in the project not due to an oversized need to spend his wealth, but from a spiritual interpretation of the finer points of casting a fishing line. The sheik, an enterprising angler, sees fishing and faith as cogent means to the same spiritual end when he explains why anyone fishes. “You persist because you are a man of faith; you’re rewarded for your faith with a fish.”

Tuesday night’s audience was not only rewarded with a smart film, but with some unvarnished insights from its leading lady who persists with a very open heart. We were all hooked.

Diane Mina Weltman is a BMFI member who enjoys attending performing and visual arts events and writing about them. Check out her blog, A Subject for Consideration.