Arts News

‘Dirty Girl’ director talks about debut of feature

Every school has one: The girl with a big mouth that your mom warned you about. She has the sassy attitude, the scandalous clothing and the I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that only a teenage girl can really master.

For openly-gay director of the film Dirty Girl, Abe Sylvia, that girl was Dirty Debbie. And although he doesn’t know where she is or what she’s doing now, she is the inspiration for his first movie.

“Whenever I ask people who the dirty girl was at their high school, they can always respond without missing a pause. It’s obvious she had an impact on everyone,” Sylvia said. “But when I ask who their third best friend was, no one can even remember.”

Dirty Girl, which opens in theaters later this fall, is the story of Danielle (Juno Temple), the high school slut, and her friendship with Clarke (Jeremy Dozier), the not-so-closeted token gay kid at a school in Norman, Okla. Danielle constantly argues with her mother (Milla Jovovich). Clarke’s father (Dwight Yoakam), struggles to accept his son’s sexuality, and the two kindred souls connect when they are placed together for a group project.  When Danielle’s mother gets engaged to a conservative Mormon (William H. Macy), the two teens ‘borrow’ a car and set out to find Danielle’s biological father (Tim McGraw). The cross-country trip and search for her father helps the two connect on a way that they both need and have never before experienced.

Set in the 80s, it has a campy, but eclectic feel that will have 30- and 40-somethings bouncing in their seats to the outstanding soundtrack that features familiar songs from Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, Sheena Easton and Belinda Carlisle.

The movie originally screened at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews and was immediately picked up for wide distribution in one of the biggest deals from the festival. It made the rounds on the festival circuit winning numerous awards, including the top prize at the Provincetown Film Festival.

“The movie is about more than just a simple friendship. It’s a true love story between these two friends. Maybe not romantic, but it’s something everyone can relate to,” Sylvia said. “The movie is for everyone, but I do think gay men will be able to connect with it especially well because of the bond that develops between the two characters.”

Dirty Girl is Sylvia’s debut film and it has received rave reviews. The Hollywood Reporter called it, “a sweet ‘n’ sassy period comedy with a Juno sensibility and the soul of Little Miss Sunshine.

But all the success and attention isn’t getting to Sylvia’s head, who was raised in the small town of Norman. He attended high school at a school for the performing arts and landed a job on Broadway after his first audition. After moving into the all-star cast of The Producers in 2001, he realized he didn’t want to be a dancer anymore. He attended the UCLA Film School and is anticipating his first film’s release.

“It really has been a lot of hard work, but it is possible,” Sylvia said. “I know there are a lot of young artists in conservative places, like Norman and Utah, but with dedication and drive, it’s possible to make an impact.”

Sylvia has several projects in development, including a musical and an HBO venture. Despite a diverse background in dance and musical theater, he found his home in film.

Seth Bracken

Seth Bracken is the editor of QSaltLake

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