Trailer: Alan Ball's 'Towelhead'

TOWEL

American Beauty writer and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball’s first directorial outing, based on Alicia Erian’s 2005 novel Towelhead, was originally called Nothing is Private. The film is led by newcomer Summer Bishil – playing 13 year-old Jasira, of Lebanese decent. Jasira is passed off by her mother (Maria Bello) in Syracuse to live with her father in the suburbs of Houston – where she learns about and obsesses over her sexuality, faces local racism, and endures abuse from three different men – her father, her mother’s boyfriend, and a neighbor played by Aaron Eckhart.

It screened for audiences at The Toronto International Film Festival in September and was reamed from both ends of the critical spectrum by Roger Friedman of Fox News and The Reeler’s Stu VanAirsdale. Freidman called the rookie effort from Ball a work that “verges on kiddie porn” from “its graphic depiction of sexual, mental and physical child abuse,” labeling it “the feel-awful movie of 2007.” VanAirsdale, much more highly regarded in film circles in regards to taste and range of palette, nonetheless bashed Private in his own way, stating it was “like Todd Solondz remaking Crash in a cul-de-sac, but with twice the tampons and a quarter of the self-respect.” His vitriolic response was even worse towards the director, whose film treatment stirred such rage in VanAirsdale that he wrote that he wanted to train as a projectionist to work the New York premiere of the film so he could “smuggle the last reel down to the seating level and BLUDGEON THE MOTHERFUCKER [Ball] TO DEATH WITH IT.”

Advanced word hasn’t been entirely negative across the board though – Cinematical’s Ryan Stewart called it an “alternately moving and bitingly funny portrait,” while Jeffrey Wells said it’s “obviously one of the most original, daring films about adolescent sexuality ever delivered by a quasi-mainstreamer.”

Back in September (indieWIRE), Ball said that he wanted to use the title Nothing is Private because using Towelhead would make the story more about race and ethnicity and less about his intended focus, “a universal coming-of-age moment in a young person’s life.” Fast forward to this year – Warner Brothers reverts the name back to Towelhead. Despite Ball’s surprise over the shocked responses (NY Post), he should know by now that Towelhead (scheduled for an August 8th release) has a couple things to be mindful of – the racially charged title, along with a “kiddie porn” tag, and a critic looking to jump out of hiding just to kick his ass.

Posted by Ted Zee on April 27th 2008 | Home Page | 2 Comments Subscribe to this site's feed

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