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May 02, 2003 - Image 77

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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* FREE DANCE TALK one
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Victor Rasuk and Judy Marte in "Raising Victor Vargas." •

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tions to encourage his inexperienced
performers to improvise.
"I continually asked them, 'How
would you react in a particular situa-
tion?"' he says. "This put them in a
vulnerable position in a way. If an
actor looks surprised [in the movie],
it's because he was surprised when
we were shooting. They're not
pulling faces on cue."
The script also began incorporat-
ing stories from the actors' real lives:
Like Rasuk, the fictional Vargas
experiences sibling rivalry and clash-
es with his grandmother, his legal
guardian and an immigrant from the
Dominican Republic.
The female leads, including Judy
Marte as Vargas' love interest and
Melonie Diaz as her best friend,
introduced "their own ways of deal-
ing with an environment in which
boys can be very sexually aggressive,"
Sollett says.
The result is the hyper-realistic
Victor Vargas, in which a self-pro-
claimed stud learns a thing or two
about girls when he puts the moves
on his wary neighbor, Judy (Marte).
According to People magazine, the
low-budget comedy is a "rare film
about teens that gets them right."
Sollett, for his part, grew up in a
Reform Jewish home where his
father, a newspaper photographer,
encouraged his son's interest in mov-
ing pictures. As an adolescent, Sollett
encountered the movies of Woody
Allen, which he says, helped him to
discover "the culture of Manhattan
and the world of art films.
"In Allen's movies, characters debate

about Bergman and Fellini, and if
you're 12 and don't know who they
are, you can pick up on those refer-
ences and look into them," he says.
By age 16, he had his own Super-8.
camera, although he wasn't as cocky
or handsome as the fictional Vargas.
"I warited to be cool and to fit in,
but I didn't," he says of his high
school years.
After graduation, he was rejected
twice from NYU's film school before
succeeding on the third try.
These days, however, Sollett has
reason to be as confident as his
Vargas protagonist. Among other
kudos, Sollett's film was lauded by
About Schmidt director Alexander
Payne as the best American movie he
saw last year.
Its stellar reception at Cannes and
Sundance may place Sollett among
filmmakers, such as Darren
Aronofsky, whose career kicked off
on the festival circuit.
The Jewish director, who has
become close friends with his actors,
sees parallels between their Latino-
American background and his own.
"There's always a generation gap
with relatives from the Old Country
and a falling away of religious obser-
vance," he says. "So it's not such a
distant experience."

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Raising Victor Vargas is scheduled
to open Friday, May 16, at the
Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak.
Check your local movie listings.
(248) 542-0180.

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2003

77

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