The pandemic crushed new-vehicle sales last year in the United States, with behemoths like Ford Motor, General Motors and Honda all posting double-digit sales declines. Altogether, the sales slide reached 15 percent, with under 14.5 million new cars hitting American roads, down from a five-year average of around 17 million.
But Mazda — the 13th-ranked carmaker in America — was one of just three to increase sales last year. (Tesla and Volvo were the others.)
The critical accolades piled up, as well. U.S. News and World Report, for the fifth year, made Mazda its Best Car Brand. Every one of its new models that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested was a Top Safety Pick, more than any other brand. It ranked No. 1 in a Consumer Reports survey on the most reliable new vehicles. And then this year, Mazda received the top spot in that magazine’s coveted Brand Report Card,…
Romantic frontier drama “The World to Come” opens the June instalment of International Film Festival Rotterdam 2021 and its director, New York and Oslo based writer-director Mona Fastvold is also set to give one of three Big Talks at the festival this week.
Since the director’s second feature made its debut last September at the Venice International Film Festival, the mid-19th century-set tale of two isolated farmers’ wives in rural upstate New York who fall in love, with the threat of disease never far away, appears to have struck a chord with people.
She says: “I would be having these conversations at festivals – before the second wave of the pandemic hit – and they would tell me about their own love stories, or a person that this film made them think of.
“I think that when we are forced to take a break and we pause and have time to reflect – we can relate more to the unexpected connection that these two women have. And then, of course, there’s the strain of being with just one person while working – that’s all something we can relate to,” she adds.
While the film was shot in Romania and the edit was locked in before COVID hit, Fastvold wound up quarantining in a Long Island sound studio with her family, some of the key actors for ADR and the sound designer.
“Being in quarantine made me view the film in a totally different way. I remember thinking while we were shooting how fragile life must have been for these people, and then here we were, right back there again,” she says.
Starring Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby – whom Waterson recommended and was keen to work with – the film joins a slew of Sapphic festival pleasers in recent years that have included “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Ammonite” and “Disobedience.”
Speaking on a trend that is fast becoming its own genre, she adds: “I think it comes from this need for filmmakers to reclaim our past, and to say that these stories have always happened and serve a place in history even when they’re not documented.”
“There was very little written diaries from 1856 for farmers about their love life and definitely not about their queer love stories, but of course there were plenty. And we’ve seen a lot about men in that time period in that place, so why not focus on these women?”
Fastvold counters that there are “too few queer films being made.” She adds: “It’s not reflective of the society we live in and it’s even harder to get a movie financed that stars two women – it’s much easier to get films made with male protagonists.”
The struggle to find the required financial backing for female-driven stories is in part, Fastvold says, the reason why it’s taken six years for her to make her sophomore feature, following the success she enjoyed with her debut, “The Sleepwalker,” which premiered at Sundance in 2014.
“Usually people just want to keep you at a certain budget level when you’re a female director. But even for my partner [“Vox Lux” director Brady Corbet] who mostly writes female protagonists – financing these types of projects is still tricky despite talk that things are changing,” she says.
For a long time Fastvold worked on a project based on the Norwegian novel “The Bleaching Yard,” which, despite having various cast attached to it, kept falling apart, which she attributes to financing.
In the interim period, she has spent her time producing, writing and co-writing in collaboration with other directors, including Corbet (on his second feature, “Vox Lux”) and Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s “The Mustang.”
After financing on “The Bleaching Yard” project fell through for the third time, Jim Shepard and Ron Hansen’s script for “The World to Come” (based on Shepard’s short story) was directed her way by Whitaker Lader – a producer at Sea Change Media, which she co-owns with Casey Affleck (who also stars in the film with Christopher Abbott).
“This wonderful piece of writing fell in my lap, and I thought, this sounds great to not write right now. But it was not an easy film to make either – it was very hard to find partners who believed in the project and finance it,” she says.
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