PART Pan’s Labyrinth and part Fargo, director Anne Hamilton’s debut, American Fable, is sure to enchant and mesmerize Savannah Film Festival audiences.
The visually stunning rural tale, set in the Midwest during the 1980s farming crisis, tells the story of 11-year-old Gitty, the daughter of a struggling farmer. When she discovers her father has been hiding a wealthy man in the family’s silo, she forms an unlikely bond with the stranger and is forced to make a difficult decision.
Through rich color and the eeriness of the darkening field, Gitty’s reality blurs as she encounters a mystic figure on a black horse—The Dark Rider. Hamilton plays with perceptions of reality and fantasy in this story of courage and imagination.
We spoke with producer Kishori Rajan, who’s worked on films like Four, May in the Summer, and more, about bringing American Fable to life and collaborating with a great cast and crew.
American Fable blurs reality and fantasy. Can you talk a little about that?
The genre we use to describe the movie is "fairytale thriller", which is not a normal genre term but it's our effort to encompass the different elements that the film embraces. Anne Hamilton (writer/director) took inspiration from movies like Pan's Labyrinth when writing the story initially. I love the duality between the real-life historical details, and the fantastical visions the lead character has within that environment.
Do you feel this is a distinctly American tale? If so, why?
That's a good question. In some ways no - the movie examines a painful transition in our society (1980s rural America) that a lot of other countries have similarly gone through. I think the tension between urban and rural perspectives, and corporate and small business desires, is something many if not most communities grapple with. That said, this movie is so precise in its 1980s American aesthetic and perspective; the attention to detail in the props and the landscape is one of my favorite things about the film. I think there's a lot of nostalgia the movie evokes that American audiences will identify with in particular.
How does the rural setting influence the story?
The story couldn't exist without the rural setting, and logistically speaking, a huge reason we were able to get through production was because of the local support from the communities in Stockton, Pearl City and Kent, Illinois. They lent us their equipment and know-how, helped house and feed us, and provided so much support and love to all of us out-of-towners.
This is Anne Hamilton’s directorial debut. What was it like working with her?
Anne has an incredibly sharp mind, and executing a precise vision is the most valuable asset for me as a producer. She's also decisive, and it allows for decisions we make on all matters--casting, color choices, music, marketing strategies—to feel cohesive and sure-footed. She has a background in law and philosophy, which has also been a really interesting influence to observe in a director. I believe she has a very long career ahead of her, and I'm thankful she entrusted me with her debut.
It was awesome to see so many women were behind the scenes of American Fable.
Absolutely, and in front of the camera as well. Outside of myself and Anne, the movie rests on the shoulders of our powerhouse lead actress, Peyton Kennedy, and the supporting roles of Marci Miller, Rusty Schwimmer, and Zuleikha Robinson. We're obviously so proud to showcase Peyton's talent, and I think Marci is a revelation to audiences just discovering her.
Outside of cast, we had a lot of female talent behind the screen in department head roles. Our haunting score is from Gingger Shankar, our editor was the invaluable Amanda Griffin, line producer was Carrie Holt de Lama, casting directors were Meg Morman and Sunday Boling, hair and makeup was by Justine Losoya, locations were led by Maria Roxas, and costumes were designed by the prolific Megan Spatz.
All these women are powerhouses in their respective fields. Our script supervisor Sarah Schooley was an indispensable presence to everyone on set, and our production departments were almost entirely female as well, from my Assistant Producer Emily Lesser and Production Supervisor Heather Sharpe, to our production accountant, legal team and entire AD department. We had a lot of terrific female talent in the art department as well.
What initially spoke to you about the American Fable story? How do you think audiences will connect with it?
The character of the "Dark Rider" locked me in when I first read the script. It was unlike anything else I was reading in other scripts at the time. Simply put, I hope audiences feel transported when they see this movie, because that's what my favorite movies do for me.