BIFF filmmaker Hannah Fidell is living the dream

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PITTSFIELD — Thirty-two-year-old Hannah Fidell remembers going to the movies as a youngster to escape.

"Not that I had it bad," the only child of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Greenhouse and lawyer Eugene R. Fidell, said by cell phone on her way to LAX — Los Angeles International Airport — to hop an eastward bound flight. "I mean escape in the sense of just slipping into another world."

These days, the Indiana University graduate is giving others the opportunity to escape. She's making her own movies. Indeed, her third feature-length film, "The Long Dumb Road," is being screened at The BIFF — Berkshire International Film Festival — 7 p.m. Friday at Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington and 11:45 a.m. Saturday at Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield.

A road comedy, "The Long Dumb Road" is a far cry from Fidell's first two features — "A Teacher," a drama about an affair between a high school teacher (Lindsay Burdge) and one of her students (Will Brittain) that premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was screened later that year at The BIFF; and "6 Years," with Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfeld as a young couple about to graduate college when they are confronted by a series of events that threaten their relationship. The film premiered at South By Southwest in March 2015.

"My films tend to be character-driven, rather than plot-driven; (they) have each been incredibly different," Fidell said.

Co-written with Carson Mell, "The Long Dumb Road" stars Tony Revolon as Nat, a 19-year-old, college-bound aspiring photographer, heading to Los Angeles from Austin, Texas, and Jason Mantzoukas as Richard, a drifter mechanic who insinuates himself into Nat's life. Their journey is beset by a bar fight; a family visit by Richard that goes awry; a drunken night with two sisters; and an encounter with a stranger that leaves Nat and Richard stranded in the woods without money and means of communication or travel..

It's not a true story, Fidell says, but it was inspired by a friend who, out of pure naivete, she said, "picked up a drifter because he ... was looking for life stories. He soon developed that feeling of 'oh, no, what have I done just for the sake of a story?'"

"The Long Dumb Road" was shot in 22 days in Mexico with a cast that also includes Taissa Farmiga, whom Fidell directed in "6 Years"; Ron Livingston, Grace Gummer and Casey Wilson. It was the closing film this year at Sundance.

Born in Washington, D.C. in October 1985, Fidell worked in New York for awhile and also studied media at The New School after her graduation from Indiana University in 2007, where she studied film theory.

Her parents, both of whom hold distinguished positions at Yale School of Law, live in Stockbridge. Fidell makes her home in Los Angeles with her artist husband, Jake Longstreth, whom she married in September 2017.

She will be in attendance for both screenings of "The Long Dumb Road," which is among a handful of films in BIFF's juried competition.

She's delighted to be here, she says, and not only because her parents live "one town over."

"First of all, it's such a filmmaker-friendly occasion," she said. "You have the chance to meet other filmmakers, chat with them.

"Second, Kelley (Vickery, BIFF's founding artistic director) programs such great movies without the pressure of having to sell."

She's been making her way successfully, she says, in a business, an industry, that can be unforgiving. She directs, she writes; for movies, for television.

"I'm going between writing and directing; drama and comedy," she said.

At the moment, Fidell is developing a television series for Paramount based on a New Yorker article about six people who were wrongfully convicted of a murder and are doing time for a crime they didn't commit.

She says she loves the collaborative nature of her work. "Everyone is trying to make this one (project). It's truly collective."

"I'm doing it," she says brightly. "I'm able to do whatever I want. It's exciting; liberating."

Jeffrey Borak can be reached at jborak@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6212


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