NYFF’S di­rec­tor re­cently made his nar­ra­tive film de­but with ‘Diane’

Variety - - New York Film Festival - By AD­DIE MORFOOT

Kent Jones has never liked re­ject­ing films sub­mit­ted for the New York Film Fes­ti­val. But now that he’s writ­ten and di­rected “Diane,” NYFF’S di­rec­tor likes it even less.

“Diane,” his nar­ra­tive film de­but, re­volves around a self­less widow (Mary Kay Place) strug­gling to help her drug-ad­dicted son (Jake Lacy). The film de­buted at this year’s Tribeca Film Fes­ti­val, where it earned the top prize for nar­ra­tive film and picked up screen­play and cin­e­matog­ra­phy awards. In Au­gust, IFC Films ac­quired the U.S. rights to “Diane,” which it will re­lease the­atri­cally in early 2019.

Jones, who has di­rected sev­eral doc­u­men­taries in­clud­ing “Hitch­cock/truf­faut” (2015), got the idea for “Diane” long be­fore he took over as di­rec­tor of NYFF in 2012.

“Since I was very young I’ve been moved to make a movie set in the world of my aunts and un­cles and cousins,” Jones says. “Then I saw Mary Kay in ‘The Rain­maker’ and I de­cided that it re­ally had to be for her.”

In the 1997 Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola film, Place plays Dot Black, a wo­man whose son is dy­ing of can­cer. It was Place’s ap­proach to the role and the hu­mor she brought to it that ap­pealed to Jones. “That and the way that her char­ac­ter car­ried sad­ness,” he says.

It took Jones decades and plenty of drafts to com­plete the screen­play for “Diane,” but it took just 20 days in early 2017 to shoot the drama. When mak­ing the movie, Jones called upon the knowl­edge he had gath­ered from watch­ing and writ­ing about films as well as in­ter­view­ing and be­ing friends with sea­soned di­rec­tors in­clud­ing Martin Scors­ese, who ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced “Diane.”

“Olivier As­sayas once told me that di­rect­ing is con­stantly an­swer­ing ques­tions,” Jones says. “He said, ‘you are re­spond­ing to ev­ery­thing. Is the re­sponse al­ways right? It doesn’t mat­ter, you just re­spond.’ That was re­ally im­por­tant to me to hear him say that.”

Jones has known Scors­ese for 27 years. The two met when Jones worked as the di­rec­tor’s video ar­chiv­ist in the early ’90s. From 2009 to 2012, Jones served as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the World Cinema Foun­da­tion, founded by Scors­ese. To­gether, in 2010, the pair co- di­rected the doc­u­men­tary “A Let­ter to Elia.”

“Marty has al­ways been sup­port­ive of me mak­ing a nar­ra­tive,” says Jones. “My friend­ship with him is some­thing that’s at the core of my life, and in­evitably it’s re­flected in ‘Diane.’”

In his role as fest di­rec­tor, Jones is un­usual for mak­ing a nar­ra­tive film on the side. “They are two very dif­fer­ent jobs,” he says. “They stand in con­trast.”

Now that he’s made “Diane,” Jones has even more re­spect for film­mak­ers and the film­mak­ing process, in­vok­ing Frank Capra’s com­ment: “no­body starts out to make a bad film.”

That said, Jones points his fin­ger at film­mak­ers for those movies that do turn out badly. “Gen­er­ally when a movie doesn’t turn out well, the film­maker is ly­ing to them­selves about some­thing on some level,” Jones says.

“Diane” won’t be at NYFF, but Jones will be. He won’t be leav­ing New York City for the fes­ti­val cir­cuit for at least a month. In ad­di­tion to NYFF, he is get­ting mar­ried in Oc­to­ber.

“I’ve al­ways been com­fort­able do­ing a lot of dif­fer­ent things,” he says. “I like it that way.”

Mom’s the Word

Mary Kay Place stars in “Diane,” the nar­ra­tive film de­but of Kent Jones, who has been trav­el­ing with it around the world.

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