When it comes to artistic endeavors, particularly cinematic ones, the line between reality and fiction often become blurred and at times even indistinguishable. This is exemplified in Actress, which was selected as part of SFF’s Documentary Feature Competition this year. Robert Greene, director of Fake It So Real and an SFF alum, decided to turn his camera on his neighbor, Brandy Burre, who some may recognize from her role on HBO’s series The Wire. Seamlessly blending aspects of cinéma vérité and melodrama, this film is a study in authenticity. What happens when an actor is asked to play herself without any props or obstructions, just their world, and a camera focused in on it? Both Greene and Burre will be appearing at the film festival to discuss this personal artistic collaboration.
This project came to fruition naturally since coincidently, Burre happens to be Greene’s neighbor in Beacon, NY, and the two relocated there from the city around the same time. The two formed a friendship, bonding over their children who at the same age, made for perfect play-pals, without Greene ever being aware of Burre’s former acting career. It wasn’t until Greene got hooked on The Wire that he discovered Burre’s past and decided that he had to work with her—but to do what? Burre, who was a new mom, had hesitations, she admits, “I was happy to be hibernating and didn’t really know what he wanted out of the project. Let’s just face it—I didn’t think my life was that interesting. Not interesting enough to be filmed.” At that point in her life, Burre, exhausted from the industry and pregnant, had decided to take a step-back from acting. Whereas Greene was in a similar scenario, having just moved to Beacon in order to enrich the life of his expected child. Then, there they were, across the street from one another. Eventually, Burre’s itch to act returned and Greene was there, camera in-hand.
However, this is not a role in the conventional sense; Greene is a documentarian and believed Burre to be an ideal subject. “She was a mother, entering her mid-to-late 30’s, trying to maintain her identity. I don’t think there are enough genuine stories about women at this stage of life,” Greene says. So the two began to film, and though it’s evident in viewing that certain scenes were orchestrated, as Greene imposes stylistic effects to certain moments with the use of slow-motion and other varying techniques, the events that unfolded were truth.
Both admit that they had virtually no notion of what the outcome of filming would bring, and over the year and a half long time period they shot, Burre’s life completely came apart. “There’s a lot in the film that we had no idea would actually happen,” Burre explains. “We just started filming.” The end result is an intimate portrayal of a woman faced with the overwhelming task of finding her happiness while still fulfilling her intrinsic motherly obligation. The film exposes Burre as her relationship with her partner and co-parent, Tim, begins to crack, and what follows is an honest and unrelenting exploration into one woman—one complex woman’s reconstruction of an identity. Although the film doesn’t once steer away from the messiness of relationships and familial ties, Greene was nurturing to his subject and, as Burre says, “I knew I was in good hands.” Perhaps this is why this picture provides such a pure insight. Despite its accentuated melancholy, Actress is ultimately heartening, as audiences watch Burre not only want, but reach for, more, never satisfied to settle for solemn.
Robert Greene and Brandy Burre will make their way to sunny Sarasota from Beacon, NY, to represent this piece. Also, Burre will be speaking at the discussion hosted by Side By Side Symposium in partnership with Women Make Movies, an event both the actress and director are excited for. Burre is thankful for the success of Actress because it’s given her a voice to express her concerns in regards to gendered issues in film. “I want to change the face of the industry and to be a part of this symposium is something the movie has allowed me,” says Burre. “Why do we have to ask ‘why aren’t there more interesting roles for women?’ There are interesting women everywhere!”
Make sure to add Actress to your list of go-see’s at the SFF this year.
Friday, April 11th
6:45pm (Regal Hollywood 20, Theater 9)
Saturday, April 12th
2:30pm (Regal Hollywood 20, Theater 11)