Ira Sachs, a personal filmmaker
Ira Sachs, Spotlight of our 2019 edition, is known for being a queer independent filmmaker, but he could better be described as a personal filmmaker. His films tell tales of everyday life, based on his ability to direct his actors with great naturalness, to the point where they are able to convey deep emotions in a subtle manner. Sachs is able to do so in part because he draws upon his actor’s life stories. In his own words: “I'm interested in what actors reveal about themselves through the structure of the character.”
The combination of his interest in everyday life and his actors’ strong emotions, together with the filmmaker’s sensitivity, has allowed him to address issues such as drugs, gay marriage and gentrification with a kind of intimate realism. Therefore, the actions of his gay characters go beyond the LGBT experience as they belong to the universality of everyday life.
With his first feature film The Delta, Sachs found his voice as he built his fictional story amidst the reality of its context. Thanks to his next film, Forty Shades of Blue, he received the Grand Jury Prize in Drama at the 2005 Sundance Festival.
Keep the Lights On, released in 2012, examines how abuse and physical distance threaten the intense emotional and sexual connection in a long-term gay relationship, portraying an intimate yet difficult love story with an addict.
Love Is Strange revolves around another gay couple, this time one that is forced to live apart after 39 years of life together, when one of them loses his job, which leaves them with no choice but to sell their apartment and to each go and stay with family and friends. John Lithgow describes the film as “just a beautiful portrait of love, taking the sexual part out of it.” Alfred Molina, in turn states that “It’s just a story about a relationship and the fact that they’re gay men, in a way, is almost irrelevant.”
Little Men tells the story of two prepubescent boys whose relationship is put to the test because of a dress shop rental contract that directly involves their parents. Sachs is very interested in the part that the economic factor plays in our lives, and has therefore included this element in the making of his stories, characters and naturalistic dramas since “It defines so much of who we are and how we experience our day, and the challenges we face. There’s no way to separate some of those questions from the stories.”
In his most recent film, Frankie, a famous actress in her sixties, Frankie, brings together her family to spend their last holiday together. The film focuses on the mundane moments and details of this pleasant yet bittersweet gathering, following the news of Frankie’s terminal cancer.
Through his body of work, Sachs has incorporated the experience of minority groups as something we all can relate to, in an effort to counter and question society’s hegemonic sectors and opting for the most radical stand in independent cinema, that is to say, relying on the content to uphold the stories.