City Island: Interview with writer/director Raymond De Felitta

Posted on Apr 5, 2010 in City Island, Interviews
City Island: Interview with writer/director Raymond De Felitta

By Emanuel Levy

Raymond De Felitta is the writer/director “City Island,” which stars Andy Garcia, Juliana Margulies, and Alan Arkin. The dramedy was released by Anchor Bay Films in limited cities on March 19.

“I wanted to explore how our painful pasts intrude on our present and future lives,” says De Felitta. “I believe if you’re open enough to life, it is never too late to change and discover who you really are. People are often trapped by fear and made immobile by choices that may not have been good, but have grown comfortable. Being able to admit one’s mistakes and choose a different path can be the turning point in a person’s life, but it can also break a family apart. In the case of the Rizzo family of City Island, it becomes the last chance to hold together.”

 

Learning of a City Island

De Felitta is a long time New Yorker, but he had never even heard of City Island until he read an article in theNew York Times touting it as an escape from Manhattan. “New York is the setting for so many movies that have influenced me,” he says. “But we’ve seen the borough of Manhattan and its residents depicted many times. My interest is in the lives lived in the outer boroughs.”

 

The filmmaker’s award-winning movie Two Family House (2000) explored the dreams of a working man in Staten Island in the 1950s.  “For City Island, I chose a family living in this idyllic little fishing village in the Bronx,” he explains. “The people of City Island are the living infrastructure of New York City: the firemen and police, the factory workers, the secretaries, the cab drivers.”

 

The NY Skyline as a Visual Metaphor

City Island boasts a singular view of the Manhattan skyline, which provided De Felitta with a visual metaphor for the unspoken ambitions of his main character, Vince Rizzo, a corrections officer who dreams of being an actor. “I wanted to see that golden destination through the eyes of a local resident,” he says.  “Even for someone living just across the water, Manhattan can be a place of destiny and dreams, as out of reach as another civilization. Vince goes into the city to take an acting class and hopefully become a new person.”

 

De Felitta cites influences as diverse as Pietro Germi (Divorce Italian Style, Seduced and Abandoned), Woody Allen and James L. Brooks in creating this film. “Germi managed to make every uncomfortable situation both true and funny,” he says. “Woody Allen’s deepest work, like Hannah and Her Sisters andManhattan, shows how dangerously close to the emotional abyss we can fall before being redeemed by life and love. And Brooks’ films combine humor with fearless emotion and always are plotted with an intricacy and emotional ingenuity that I find masterful.”

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