Alumnus Antonio Mendez Esparza '08 Wins Independent Spirit Award
March 8, 2018
Alumnus Antonio Mendez Esparza ‘08 won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards for his film, Life and Nothing More, which he wrote and directed. The John Cassavetes Award is given to the best feature made for under $500,000, and is presented to the writer, director and producers of a film.
Life and Nothing More, Esparza’s third film, follows Andrew, a young African-American teen, and his mother, Regina, who is a single parent. The family lives in present-day Florida, and Andrew, "standing on the edge of adulthood... yearns to find his purpose as a young African American in today’s America. With his mother longing to find more to her life than parenting, Andrew is forced to take on the mounting pressure of family responsibility. His search for connection with an absent father leads him to a dangerous crossroads." According to Jonathan Holland of the Hollywood Reporter, "the film examines themes such as families, boyhood, the institutional obstacles standing in the way of African-Americans, privilege, and systemic racism."
in an interview with John Hopewell of Variety, Esparza discussed his inspiration for the film after living and teaching in Tallahassee, Florida for two years, and a desire to interview single mothers in that area (Esparza’s wife was a single mother). In this process, Esparza learned about these families' experiences, and also the criminal justice system. “The more I researched,” Esparza told Variety, “the more [certain subjects] became part of the film."
When asked about being a Spanish and white director working on a film portraying African-Americans, Esparza said “Why should I tell this story? Do I have the right? For me, a film is an act borne of a desire to understand, and then to create, from that understanding, a work of fiction [emphasis made by Esparza). In a way, that question, and the approach to film, drives me to make the film as we did – embracing the non-professional actors, their experiences, and observing their lives as they blossom on set.”
Life and Nothing More opened the Film Comment Selects series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center last month.
Esparza’s previous films include Here and There (2012), which follows a Mexican immigrant who worked in the U.S. and returns to his village and family after many years, and Time and Again (2009).