Guy Nattiv Interview: ‘Skin’ director
For whatever reason, four out of the five Oscar-nominated live-action shorts focus on young boys in peril. The lone outlier is French-Canadian “Marguerite,” about an elderly woman whose bond with a nurse allows her to re-access her own life.
The Irish short “Detainment,” which has gotten some pushback in Britain, digs into the real-life 1973 murder of toddler at the hands of two 10-year-old boys. The Quebec-made “Fauve” is about children trapped in a salt mine. “Mother” from Spain is about a 6-year-old child who calls to say his father left him alone on a beach and that a strange man is coming near him. “
But “Skin,” directed by Israeli-born Guy Nattiv, will likely resonate at a time when white supremacy, anti-Semitism and fear of immigrants seeking asylum in the States has become part of our national conversation. The story focuses on a family of skinheads, particularly a heavily tattooed father (Jonathan Tucker) who teaches his young son (Jackson Robert Scott from “It”) to shoot guns while he guzzles beer with his buddies, allows him to wildly “surf” on country roads while seated on an upholstered chair that is attached to a speeding pick-up truck driven by his father and subjects him to raucously profane music.
But a chance encounter in a grocery store with a black man who smiles at his child while waiting in a check-out line leads to a malicious parking-lot beating. What happens next is quite unsettling to say the least.
Guy, who is a father of a 5-month-old daughter, Amma (who makes a cameo appearance in the video above along with her producer mom, Jaime Ray Newman), explains the thematic coincidence in his category by acknowledging that “kids are always a cinematic vehicle. My first short movie, called ‘Marbal,’ is also about two kids. One is autistic and the other boy is kind of like his elder brother. I feel like we are bringing love from our childhood. You go back to your childhood and through your childhood, you bring your stories.”
As for the shorts, he notes each one has its own approach. “There was this wonderful short called ‘Caroline’ that almost made it into the five. It showed kids in a completely different way from how I show kids. I go back to Andrea Arnold, who did ‘ Wasp’ (2005’s live-action short Oscar winner). In ‘Skin,’ it’s not about the kid’s point of view.”
He himself was very affected by the first film his father took him to – “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” Nattiv was very moved by Henry Thomas as Elliott and his connection to his alien buddy.
Besides his baby and his Oscar nomination, the filmmaker has another reason to celebrate. Nattiv just came back from the Berlin film festival where his feature-length, same-titled feature, “Skin,” made its European premiere that was picked up by A24. It is based on the story Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell), a white supremacist who had a change of heart and underwent the agonizing process of removing 25 hateful tattoos from his body. Consider it the more hopeful flip side of his short.