NYLA Talks

Sean Baker

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Few directors are as humane as Sean Baker. His films dive deep into the problems of American society, but instead of forcing you to cry they offer a special kind of human connection. Despite not being nominated for an Oscar, Baker’s latest feature The Florida Project won the hearts of critics, viewers and Drake.

For the director himself, the most important recognition came from residents of cheap motels. The Florida Project portrays their hidden homelessness through the eyes of children. We met Baker at the Vilnius Film Festival Kino Pavasaris to talk empathy and his relation to European cinema.

Lithuania has a special connection with The Florida Project. It is the birthplace of Bria Vinaitė, the star of the film, who Baker found on Instagram. ‘She’s a natural talent.’ We are hoping to reach Bria by Skype for the next episode.

Despite dark subject matters, Baker’s films are full of joy. „Life is a combination of comedy and pathos. It’s a balance between the two. Shouldn’t film be the same thing?“

Both festival screenings of „The Florida Project“ in Lithuania were sold out. The film will come back to cinemas on April 6. „The fact that there is so much love for this movie here means a lot to me. Who knew this would happen?“

Photography by Berta Tilmantaitė. Podcast episode hosted and edited by Karolis Vyšniauskas, recorded by Kata Bitowt. Original music composed by Martynas Gailius. The studio sound was recorded at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

Further reading:

Tell Universal Stories: An Interview With The Florida Project’s Sean Baker, by Tavi Givenson, Rookie Mag

Review: In ‘The Florida Project,’ Enchantment in a Shabby Motel, by A. O. Scott, The New York Times

America’s hidden homeless: Life in the Starlight Motel, by Carolyn Bick, AlJazeera


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