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Filmmaker
George
Ratliff

Bio by Larissa Zaharuk

New York film director and native Texan George Ratliff is a keen study of humanity’s darker side—both sides of this continent. His latest offering Joshua (best cinematography Sundance, 2007) is a psychological thriller starring Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga which subtly narrates the eerie unraveling of a New York family facing not only post-partum depression, but a fatal case of sibling rivalry.

Ironic, then, that an altruistic action brought the filmmaker east. “I grew up in Amarillo—a really strange place. To get away, I went as far as I knew how,” Ratliff wryly recalls, “—Austin.” “Then when I was nineteen, there was an overbooked flight to Dallas. Me and a buddy gave up our seats and we got two tickets to anywhere. We came to New York and I felt at home for the first time in my life!”

An affinity with this city is ever-present in Joshua, from it’s all local cast, to one off-camera drama: “There was talk about shooting in Canada, but we all wanted to shoot in New York. It's a New York movie about a Manhattan family, all shot in the five boroughs, and I had a great time shooting here,” Ratliff waxes. “It’s so much a character of the movie, I can't imagine any other city suiting it. Also, this is a thriller about a brilliant but bad nine-year-old boy. When you're talking about the smartest kid in private school, New York is the apex.”

Still, the director owes plenty to the ‘lone star state’—all that priceless inspiration for his often discomfiting but always amusing early documentaries. Plutonium Circus (1996) follows “the number one employer in Amarillo”—the local nuclear plant—and the wacky adaptive strategies of the town’s collective, apocalyptic psyche to a company “making five war heads a day, when fifty would disseminate the entire ex-Soviet Union!”

But when the New York transplant turned his camera on a Texas-based, nationally franchised, Pentecostal proselytizing house-of-horrors in Hell House (2001), he had no idea how affirming of his earlier exodus east audience reactions would be. “It’s funny,” grins George, “in Texas, Hell House plays very serious. In New York, it plays like a comedy!”

Another telling response was New York based ATO pictures’ ensuing decision to produce not only Joshua, but a second film in the works; an adaptation of post-modernist Don DeLillo’s book End Zone, which Ratliff describes as “ a football satire: football is war, America is football. A wonderful movie to be had!”

And though End Zone takes audiences back once again to his home state, George Ratliff is here to stay. The proud New Yorker, who currently calls the Upper West Side home admits, “I have two dogs, two kids and a third coming. It's really stupid to live in Manhattan with all that, but my wife was born and raised here. We love Manhattan!”

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