Short Term 12
“A small way of saying thank you to the people who choose to work in this environment” was how director Destin Cretton described his competition entry Short Term 12, focused on the experience of a foster care facility worker and the troubled kids she tries to protect. Quizzed on the extent to which the film comes from his own experience, Cretton discussed his own similar work shortly after college, but was quick to clarify that the movie’s events are entirely fiction. “It’s based on very real things,” he said, mentioning the stories and anecdotes he’d used as a form of research in writing his screenplay.
“We’re dealing with bigger themes, themes bigger than even the foster care system can contain,” said lead actress Brie Larson of the film’s seemingly cross-cultural appeal. Its SXSW screening success has found an equal here at Locarno, the loud whoops and standing ovations following its screenings a sure sign of its crowd-pleasing quality. But it’s a crowd-pleaser by coincidence, rather than conceit: “I don’t think that this movie is preaching,” said Cretton; the film’s enormous success, to him, is indicative only of the universal appeal of its ideas, the “things that go beyond country boundaries,” as Larson put it.
On shooting the film, Cretton called it “a very intense, very difficult, but also extremely life-changing time” and an introduction to the hardships of the world. “For me, personally, there is nothing more difficult or more joyous than making a movie with people I care about,” he said, discussing the duality of the filmmaking process’ fun and the frustrating need to ensure everything unfolds as planned. He interrupted Larson to insist she was underselling herself; each pointed to the other as the root of the movie’s real success.
Asked about the independent world in which he’d made the film, Cretton lamented that “a lot of the Hollywood industry is based on hype”. For him, the film, the story it tells, and the things it has to say should be the essence, not marketing concerns of money-making potentiality. “This movie doesn’t seem, on paper, like something that would be sellable,” he said, citing his disability that it had already found some deal of success. Still, he seems quietly confident of its fortunes, and rightly so: under the wing of a faithful distributor, riding a wave of rave reviews, sure to keep a crowd enraptured, Short Term 12 looks set to be the next indie hit.Ronan Doyle