We sat down with director Oren Shai and the cast of THE FRONTIER Jocelin Donahue, AJ Bowen and Izabella Miko to discuss their new film screening at SXSW.
Laine, a young woman on the run from the law, turns up at The Frontier, an isolated desert motel. She is offered a job by Luanne, the owner, and, hoping to lose herself in the obscurity of the place, accepts it. But soon Laine realizes she has stumbled into an even bigger and more dangerous situation.
I became fascinated by American culture at a very young age. Growing up in Israel, I longed for my particular interpretation of the American dream. It was unbearably romantic, consisting of sock hops, burgers, and shakes. I basically wanted to be friends with The Archies circa 1957. My fascination intensified as I became aware of the complex, charged social and political realities that escaped a child’s eye. It is an exploration that informed my work ever since, first in my short films, and now in The Frontier, which I view as sort of a love song, and swan song, to a golden age of Americana.
Set in the 1970s, most characters in The Frontier are relics of other eras. Fixtures of a past scrambling to make sense of the present, looking at an uncertain future. The solution: money. They all need it – to get away, to find security, or to return to old glamour. Each character festers a wound that time caused and cannot heal – they’ve been forgotten. The Frontier, as an idea, is their hope; as a location, possibly their tombstone.
Laine, the heroine, is a woman of her time. Coming into adulthood during a period of disillusionment and turmoil, she is lost and looking for purpose, which she grows to believe comes in the form of a duffel bag full of stacked green bills.
Rooted in film history, The Frontier and its characters are inseparable from various stations that informed my love of cinema – falling for Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap, being terrified by Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter, entranced by Renée Jeanne Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc, Louise Brooks in Diary of a Lost Girl, Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, and dazzled by the glorious excess of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
The experience I wanted to create is comparable to that of holding an old paperback novel in your hands – highly stylized, yet gritty, the pages disintegrating in your hands. Visually striking like the artwork of Robert Maguire and Robert McGinnis, and in the footsteps of authors like James Cain, David Goodis, Day Keene, and their contemporaries. We always called The Frontier a Noir. I wouldn’t like to put it in a box, but if I had to, I’d call it Pulp.