One thing I enjoy at a film festival is the opportunity to sit through a question and answer session with the director after I have watched his or her film. The spice added to any film is the director’s in-put dealing with the nuances of his/her project. It holds the audience captive! A ticket holder gets to witness two events for the price of one: both the film and a discussion with the director.
There was a steady stream of questions by the audience after the first screening of Phoebe in Wonderland. The question, “Where did you get the idea for the story?” jumpstarted an interesting 20-minute dialogue. Barnz told us that he used Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to address the theme of what it feels like to be an outsider. He had taken up a subject matter that he himself had experienced. He was an outsider growing up and he knew he was different. His film was an attempt to explore the outsiders’ world and to ask what it is like for those who deal with the outsider on a regular basis.
Comments from the audience are also part of the Q & A. One audience member remarked on the unusual sensitivity with which Barnz portrayed the homosexual feelings of Phoebe’s young friend. A woman from the Lewis Carroll Society noted that it was the best presentation on film that she had seen using the Alice in Wonderland theme. She praised the way in which he used Alice’s confusion to serve as an analogy for the confusion brought on by Tourette’s syndrome. The director responded that initially he simply wanted to give the main character an obstacle to overcome. As the storyline developed, the obstacle became Tourette’s.
There was a wide range of questions, everything from the research he had done on Tourette’s prior to writing the script to the budget (which he unwilling to divulge), to how he came upon such seasoned actors for an independent film. To the last question he explained that, Felicity Hoffman was his next door neighbor. She knew he was writing a screenplay and wanted to read it. One thing led to another and she agreed to play the part of Phoebe’s mother. Many critics believe that her performance in Phoebe in Wonderland is her best. I agree! She was fabulous! All of the actors were superb! The film was the perfect combination of an intriguing script combined with the right talent so that the directors’ message was flawlessly executed.