Audio Q&A for September 1, 2015: "99 Homes" With Director/Co-Writer Ramin Bahrani
99 Homes, the upcoming intense true-to-life thriller based on actual events from the unfortunate 2008 housing crisis, offered the audience a sneak preview screening of the film on Tuesday evening at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. The film stars Golden Globe nominee Andrew Garfield as single father Dennis Nash, Academy Award® nominee Michael Shannon, who portrays self-made real estate magnate Rick Carver, and Academy Award® nominee Laura Dern as Nash's mother. An insightful Q&A followed the screening with director/co-writer Ramin Bahrani and KCET Cinema Series host/film expert Pete Hammond, that was as intense and eye opening as the film.
Warning: Spoilers below and in the audio!
In 99 Homes the mounting tension begins as Rick Carver (Shannon), self-made Florida real estate magnate who makes a killing repossessing homes, evicts unemployed single dad Dennis Nash (Garfield) - before Nash can even put up a fair fight against a bank that has cheated him. A shell-shocked Nash intends to stop at nothing to get his family's lifelong home back, and protect his mother (Dern) and son Connor (newcomer Noah Lomax) from the fallout. Pushed to the brink, he is lured by the charismatic Carver - the very man who seized his dreams, a man who knows how to work the very system that has ruined Nash - to enter the lucrative, law-skirting world of gaming the banks, the government and ordinary people to make a mint from foreclosures. The hope of regaining his life seduces Nash to makes a deal with the devil and to hide it from his family. But as his mission grows more brutal and ethically bankrupt, and as the cash rolls in, Nash comes to the realization that Carver's world of easy riches comes at a price he's no longer willing to pay.
Bahrani said that the story for 99 Homes originated after he began wondering how the housing market got turned upside down. He started reading books and articles about the financial crisis, met with real estate brokers, and spent time in the foreclosure courts where the fate of a home is decided in 60 seconds. Although the main characters in the film are portrayed by seasoned actors, Bahrani cast non-professional actors in the majority of supporting roles including home owners (many of whom lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina), the clean-up crew and a local sheriff, who is experienced in evictions. While single father Nash is the protagonist and one could argue that Carver is the antagonist, Bahrani said that the real antagonist is the broken system. When asked by the audience about the absence of Connor's mother and the open-ended final scene in the film, Bahrani responded that if the answers had been provided there would be no room for the audience to draw their own conclusions.