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Posted December 10, 2015 by admin in Resource
 
 

Catatan Produksi Film 99 Homes (2015)


About the Production

99 Homes vs. 1 Realtor

For director Ramin Bahrani and the film’s two stars, Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield, 99 HOMES is a breakout film, as urgent as it is suspenseful.

The film takes audiences on a mesmerizing trip as it traces the rise and fall of a greed-fueled realtor and his victim-turned-protege. What begins as a shocking forced eviction of a Floridian family soon turns into a money-churning partnership, but one in which a clash of personalities, and between right and wrong, keeps amplifying the stakes at every turn.

The year is 2010 and the place is Florida, which leads the nation in foreclosures. In the last decade, housing prices magically doubled then tripled, as loan money and risky mortgages flowed fast and furious. But now, as crisis rocks the nation, whole subdivisions are going belly up. While many struggle to survive, Rick Carver smells opportunity. At the behest of big banks and the government’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he becomes the go-to guy who can flip foreclosed homes at lightning speed, by any means necessary. He’s in the so-called “Cash For Keys” business, which compels tenants out of their homes or turns to threats and weaponry if they refuse. It’s a job for those willing to see what they can get away with — but even among his peers, Carver crushes the competition.

Carver collides with Dennis Nash when he, in typical pitiless fashion, throws Nash and his family out of their home. Their first encounter is incendiary. Carver couldn’t care any less about Nash’s roiling emotions … or that he’s a single father who would do anything to keep his family afloat. And yet, Carver is impressed by something in Nash, by his tenacity, his fierce pride, his willingness to go to the line. After seeing the full force of Nash’s work ethic, Carver makes him his newest recruit.

Nash quickly learns the shady, dangerous ways of Carver’s methods — how to face off with angry, frantic people while maxing your personal profit — but Nash is not quite like Carver. Carver fervently believes in what he is doing. A master of self-made proverbs, he believes that “America doesn’t bail out the losers; America was built by bailing out winners.” Nash, on the other hand, just wants a home, his home, even if it means risking his life – until he begins to see the price is his soul.

Nash’s seduction by Carver, and the awakening of his own moral power, fascinated Ramin Bahrani. “It’s a deal with the devil story,” says the director and co-writer. “It’s a Faustian bargain where Andrew Garfield’s character has to work for the very man who evicted him in order to get his home back. He learns how to run scams on the banks and the government, which is satisfying. Then he learns how to evict people just like himself, which is unsettling. But once he starts crossing the legal lines, he has to wonder if it’s still about protecting his family and regaining his home, or if it’s becoming about cultivating a darker part of himself, seeing what he can get away with. He has a lot of reasons to be angry but he has to ask himself: how far is too far in this situation?”

 

What Would You Do To Save Your Home?

At heart, 99 HOMES unfolds in the tradition of the classic criminal-mentor story — a theme in Hollywood that has spanned from Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in THE HUSTLER to Gordon Gekko and his stockbroker protege in WALL STREET. But unlike previous incarnations, 99 HOMES is set in a world rarely seen in cinema, a unique financial realm that coldheartedly divides the haves and have-nots, a world that is stacked against the “little guy,” yet welcomes corrupt bankers to get rich with impunity. In order to learn from Rick Carver, Dennis Nash must blind himself to the damage he knows housing seizures cause to men like himself.

“When Dennis Nash starts working for Rick Carver, initially it’s only for money – and Dennis believes he’s truly doing honest work,” notes Ramin Bahrani. “But then the deceptions begin when he lies to his family about working for Carver, and when he’s suddenly asked to evict other families, he has a lot to weigh. As Rick says to him, “you did honest, hard work building homes your whole life, and what did it get you but me knocking on your door to evict you? That’s a question a lot of people have been asking.”

Though the story hinges on of-the-moment realities, the film is structured with the breathless suspense of a thriller, something new for Bahrani. He says the more research he did on the reality of forced evictions, the more he realized all the key elements of the suspense genre – the high anxiety, the lurid temptations, even the deadly weapons — were already organically there.

“One thing I learned is that all real estate brokers involved in foreclosures carry guns because there’s a risk of violence every day,” he explains. “It’s a field where corruption and temptation are rampant and there’s a long history of scams and forgeries, so it’s on the edge of the crime world.”

99 HOMES is also very much about clashing definitions of what home means in our times.

Home may have once been the private hearth where a family connected, but today, homes have become – especially for wheeler-dealers like Carver – a hot global commodity and investment for the superwealthy. Carver’s own home is an opulent luxury palace, but it means little to him since he plans to flip it in a few months for a profit. Meanwhile for someone like Nash, even a very modest home is the essence of his being – the symbol of his ability to build a haven for his loved ones.

“A home isn’t a room. A home isn’t stuff. A home is a community. A home is a family. A home is people together,” observes Andrew Garfield. “And when you take away that thing that defines you … what do you have left?”

Adds Laura Dern: “So many of us believe in the idea that a home evokes safety, but what is so scary in 99 HOMES is that the homes of these families become the place where you are not safe at all.”

Michael Shannon says he views home very differently from Rick Carver. “Being an actor is a very nomadic lifestyle so you are always trying to find a home wherever you are – that’s why home for me is much more about the people that you are with than the actual structure. And I think one of the beautiful things in 99 HOMES is that Andrew realizes that even though he has these opportunities for a more luxurious home and more money, it’s not going to be worth it if he loses his family in the process. He sees that when the people who you love are with you, it doesn’t really matter where you are.”

The irreconcilable differences between struggling homeowners and wealthy realtors led Bahrani to his title. On the one hand, the title refers to the big payday Carver and Nash are hustling towards. But in addition, Bahrani liked that 99 HOMES echoes Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s coining of the now-ubiquitous phrase “the 99%” – referring to the vast majority of the world’s populace who don’t enjoy the mega-wealth of the 1%, who partake in nearly a quarter of the world’s riches. The purchasing of a home for the 99% is very often the greatest dream of a lifetime, the endpoint rather than one more move in a vast, scheming game.

Concludes Bahrani: “The idea of home is something very emotional for most people and at the center of those emotions is family. So that’s why a home becomes something so powerful to an ordinary man when it is suddenly ripped away.”

 

Foreclosure’s Ground Zero: Florida

From the start, Ramin Bahrani knew he wanted to set his story in Florida – the sun-soaked Southern state where real estate boomed explosively, then crashed like nowhere else. He began the process of making 99 HOMES with an eye-opening journey to the panhandle. The troubles continue even now; in 2014 one in every 400 Florida homes was in foreclosure.

Still, Bahrani wasn’t so much interested in the dry statistics as in the extreme ways that real people react to the high-pressure situation of losing one’s home – and to the equally extreme, if highly profitable, venture of taking homes away.

“I started researching by reading books and articles about the financial crisis, but I really like to be on the ground, so I started spending time in Florida,” Bahrani explains. “I visited the foreclosure courts, what they call the ‘rocket dockets,’ where they decide your fate in 60 seconds flat. I spent time with real estate brokers; I spent time in the motels where families live after they’ve been evicted and have nowhere to go; I met hoodlums and con artists. And I learned all the methods of cheating the banks, the government and homeowners.”

Bahrani also spent time with those who were cheated. These included Lynn Szymoniak, a West Palm Beach fraud attorney who was shocked to find herself suddenly foreclosed upon for no apparent reason. Unwilling to just give in, Szymoniak set out on a quest to expose the practice of “robo-signing,” a vast, scandalous conspiracy of falsified documents that dropped thousands into the horror of the foreclosure maze with no recourse. She became a symbol of a system as un-policed as the Wild West. “Lynn led a law suit to the tune of $95 million against the banks and won,” notes Bahrani. (The government joined Szymoniak’s case against Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo and Citigroup and she received an $18 million whistleblower fee.)

In addition, the writer-director witnessed the harrowing reality of evictions-in-progress, and saw first-hand the acute hazards of the process. “They are very frightening events,” he says of evictions. “We’ve all heard statistics on the housing crisis, but unless you have gone through it, you probably haven’t really seen what it’s like for a family in the middle of it. I witnessed that and it’s emotional and terrifying on both sides. It’s terrifying for families and it’s equally terrifying for agents doing the eviction because angry home owners will try to retaliate.”

Another surreal realm Bahrani explored is that inside Florida’s low-rent, roadside motels that line Highway 142, the road to Disney World, where evicted homeowners frequently flee in search of a roof over their heads. Within them, he says, you see it all. “These motels will often be populated by gangbangers and prostitutes on one side, and then in another section they’ll have migrant workers or day laborers — and then you have ordinary families with kids in school who have been evicted from their homes,” he describes. “There are so many kids in these motels that the school systems have to send buses to them.”

All of this became woven into the taut narrative of the film. Bahrani wrote the film with Amir Naderi, an accomplished international filmmaker in his own right whose films include the Iranian classic THE RUNNER and the U.S. drama VEGAS: BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Together they fleshed out a story Bahrani developed with his long-time collaborator Bahareh Azimi (CHOP SHOP). “Amir is someone that I’ve admired since I was a college student,” Bahrani comments. “I was lucky to come to know him and to get mentorship from him on some of my previous films. We started talking about the idea for this film early on and he became a vital part of the writing process.”

The script they created together was raw and stripped back, letting the ticking-clock of the story and the friction between the two main characters escalate without distractions. Bahrani says his hope is to use the unadorned suspense of 99 HOMES to bring people into this world where greed and need are still colliding in explosive ways, but without trying to shoehorn in simplistic answers.

“It doesn’t matter which side of the political, economic or social spectrum you reside on, we all can see is that something’s wrong with the system,” he comments. “Most of us know someone who has lost their home, almost lost their home or know someone who lives in fear of losing their home. The mix of that fear with nail-biting tension had the producers of 99 HOMES exhilarated. Says Ashok Amritraj of Hyde Park: “The film is a combination of an intense thriller with the acting moments of an inspiring drama. Ramin saw all of that going in and he brought a real vision for it.”

Adds producing partner Kevin Turen: “At its heart, 99 HOMES is the story of a man trying to save his family. It starts out with that simple, basic drive — then it escalates into themes of seduction, corruption and greed. Ramin has done an amazing job making that all work as a thriller. You feel so engaged with the characters’ lives, that you’re on the edge of your seat.”

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