Summer with Roxanne


TYPE
: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production

LOGLINE

A visiting Indian documentary filmmaker rents a room in the home of an aging paragon of Weird Austin. As Roxanne packs up to move on, she and Nishtha unpack the elements an American life lived large.

SYNOPSIS

An Indian documentary filmmaker visiting Austin, Texas takes up the camera to record the her sensory impressions of American suberbia, but soon gets drawn into the drama of her aging landlady's life. As Roxanne packs up her longtime home to move on, her formidable connections to the mythos of Weird Ausin become apparent, and she and Nishtha start to unpack the elements of an American life. Summer with Roxanne explores our relationships with possessions and contemplates impermanence. Hilarity ensues.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

My directorial perspective is informed by the Jain philosophy of anekantvad or multifacetedness, which understands reality and truth as multiple and complex. My film recognizes the multiple levels to Roxanne, resisting the urge to pigeonhole or caricature her. What’s more, it spends time not only with the human, but also the non-human beings who are part Roxanne’s life, including: the mementoes and objects that continue to connect Roxanne to her past and to her dead; the 250-year-old live oak tree rooted impassively in her back yard; and Honey, the skittish young puppy who seems perplexed by the changes afoot. Sensory impressions, sound, and the material qualities of objects are all treated by my gaze. This is a home movie in many ways. In subject matter and setting, it concerns the American home. Its stylistic elements echo the home movie too. It begins with me, a documentary filmmaker who usually works with a professional film crew, picking up the recording device at hand—video camera and/or phone—in a hasty attempt to archive the gems of Roxanne’s home, belongings and life. My artistic approach embraces this imperfection, folding it into an experimental aesthetic motivated by anekantvad. “Fuck!” we hear me say as I step out of the house into a blazing-white, overexposed Texas summer day, the cicadas blowing out the audio in her headphones. We keep my cursing and her adjustment of the aperture and volume in the film because they are integral to it; they humorously illustrate the influence of Roxanne, in all her profanity, and of Texas, in all its blinding heat and deafening insect noise, on the experience of filming. My presence pervades the film as its animating eye, the first-person perspective of the film, and in reflections and at the edges of the frame. I don’t edit myself out. This is a truly vérité film, one that does not pretend the director is a fly-on-the-wall, but interrogates the filmmaking as a catalyst to insight, a relationship between filmmaker and filmed. As the gaze of anekantavad confronts the strong pull of Roxanne’s personality and her dramatic present and past, the film becomes an intriguing mix of vérité, character-driven documentary and more experiential aesthetic contemplation. Hand-held, home movie footage shot by me is accompanied by artistic shots of shockingly beautiful elements of the yard, of light, shadow, and fur (Honey’s). These are not cut-aways, nor are they mere beauty shots. The film seeks to inhabit the perspectives of not only me and Roxanne, but also the house, the pool, the tree, the dog, to acknowledge the animate nature of things human and non. Imperfection and beauty work together in the film, producing awareness of the material qualities not only of what was filmed, but also of a/v technologies and the filmmaking process themselves.

KEY CREW

Nishtha Jain - Director

Nishtha Jain is an independent filmmaker based in Mumbai, India. From her first film, City of Photos (2004) to the recent Proof (2019), she has explored the human condition in its myriad states. The politics of image making and self-representation, the complexities of social hierarchies, women’s movements and their struggles against patriarchy, and the lives and struggles of workers are some of the themes her films have dealt with. Her films have screened extensively at international film festivals and in art-house cinemas and have been broadcast on international TV networks. She has won over 22 international film awards. She refuses to contain her curiosity within typical geographical or topical boundaries. As she works on Summer with Roxanne, she is also completing a film on the Indian jute industry entitled Paath Katha/The Golden Thread. During filmming of SwR, she was affiliated with the department of Radio-Television-Film at UT Austin on a Fulbright scholarship. She has been awarded the Global Media Makers Fellowship- 2019 and Chicken and Egg Award 2020.

Deborah Matzner - Associate Director, Producer
Born and raised in Austin, Texas before it as cool, Deborah Matzner is a New York City-based cultural anthropologist and documentary producer. She has written about the media making in India, with a focus on women in the independent documentary filmmaking, mainstream Hindi-language television programming, and contemporary art scenes. Matzner is interested in how those who make culture in postcolonial settings engage with international and local systems of inequality. She also writes and teaches about the senses, addressing the culturally constructed nature of modes of perception and exploring whether and how it is possible to convey sensory experience via experimental techniques in media such as text and video. She is thrilled to collaborate with eminent Indian documentary filmmaker Nishtha Jain on Summer with Roxanne, a film that is very close to Deborah’s heart (and blocks away from her childhood home).

 

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