Morris From America – Review and Director and screenwriter Chad Hartigan’s interview via Berlin
- Casting – Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, Lina Keller
- 91 min
- German distributor – Farbfilm-Verleih
- German release date – 3 November 2016
The romantic and coming-of-age misadventures of a 13-year-old American living in Germany.
Grade B – ★★★★ – Colourful comedy/drama dealing with integration and gap between America and Germany. It is also a guilty pleasure to enjoy glimpse of teenage romance. Earnest performances of Craig Robinson, Markees Christmas and Lina Keller for this delightful surprise in the independent film landscape.
Morris from America won two prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and a Special Jury Award for Craig Robinson.
Interview with the director Chad Hartigan
A colourful independent film in Germany.
It was always my idea that the movie would be a mix between the things I love about mainstream American comedy and teen sex films and everything that I love about European art house coming of age films. So for that’s in my opinion very awkward, real, sincere and then the American mainstream is very colourful with music, energy & comedy. I tried to mix it and I think in the end it came out a bit more American than European. From the very beginning, I just wanted it to be very colourful.
When I came to Germany one of the first things I noticed was the graffiti presence everywhere. Those graffiti colours inspired me for Morris appearance. I thought it could be great for Morris to stand out even more therefore we always dressed Morris in black and white and the other kids in colours.
Casting the actor Craig Robinson.
We’ve tried other actors at first because I was initially thinking that it would be someone younger and someone fit, you know, like a professional soccer player.
But then someone mentioned Craig and I was a big fan of him and his comedy and I thought maybe it could work. It could be something different.
I met Craig because we have the same agency in the US so I got to meet him and we talked. I just thought it was worth it. Even with the soccer part of the drama and the big monologue at the end, I knew it would be hard but most of the movie is him and Markees. I knew Craig would be great and would bring out the best of Markees and their relationship.
Markees had never acted before and I needed someone who could really make him feel comfortable and make him do good.
So I cast Craig anyway even if I thought the other stuff were bad but then he actually did great at everything. I’m very happy that he got his nomination (Craig Robinson got a Gotham nomination as Best Actor for his work in Morris From America).
Working with teenagers.
For them, my philosophy on casting is in general to find someone, the closest to the character so that I have less amount of work on the set. Lena is to me a lot like Kathryn and Markees a lot like Morris. You don’t have to be that active on the set. It’s more about keeping them focused or making sure they are saving their energy because it’s a long day. Kids can be very excited by one thing and two minutes later not excited at all. It’s a different job because it’s more about keeping them focused and keeping them present whereas with adult actors you don’t have to worry about that.
Thanks to Farbfilm Verleih and Entertainment Kombinat.
Interview made by Kinowoo via Berlin.