Where Sweet Dreams Die is nostalgia for the present moment.
Remembering Spike Lee’s 25th Hour (2002), Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “25th Hour is as much an urban historical document as Rossellini’s Open City, filmed in the immediate aftermath of the Nazi occupation of Rome.”
Where Sweet Dreams Die is the first mainstream film by the Chicago studio, Ave Fenix Pictures known for its rise in arthouse cinema. Owner Monica Esmeralda Leon and executive producer, who was serving in the United States Army at the time recalled the difficulty in creating the film during the pandemic, “It was tough, for one I’m not around, the pandemic shut us down, we had to move the film around multiple times for over a year and a half – but we never stopped originating – we were always able to capture something and coming to the end it looks like we caught a moment in American history.”
Where Sweet Dreams Die accumulated so much footage over its extended shoot the film was to be released as a mini-series. Leon explained altering it back to a feature film, “It was another hard decision because there was so much good performance. Anyone with us on set were drawn to the performances of Laoutides and Isaac. Continuing with a mini-series meant we’d need to keep shooting and our schedules just couldn’t allow for that any longer. It’s tough because now you need to pick from all these countless artful interactions, but I’m very proud we explored everything we could.”
The first images are of Emmanuel Isaac and Zachary Laoutides from the upcoming Mirza Esho drama-thriller, a modern-day social commentary piece reminiscing on inspirations of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), American History X (1998) and yet at the same time capturing the moment in our history, similar to the 9/11 post aftermath of Spike Lee’s 25th Hour. Mirza Esho’s directorial debut couldn’t have come at a more interesting time in our political turmoil, “Behind every great film, there’s an extraordinary team that makes the impossible possible. Our screenplay is a cultural marvel, carefully crafted to captivate, provoke, and resonate with audiences on a profound level. The cast has embraced their roles with unwavering commitment, breathing life into complex characters and delivering performances that will leave you in awe. Together, we’ve poured our collective talent and dedication into this film, creating a mesmerizing cinematic experience that transcends the screen.”
Isaac, best known for his successful independent roles, plays Ashton Nassar, a Syrian refugee who wants more out of life than just being a taxi driver. Ashton, is only one day away from owning Brunello’s Italian Restaurant, soon to be converted into a Middle Eastern eatery. The owner Luca Brunello tries everything in his power to save his family’s business.
Laoutides, in addition to the screenwriter stars as Luca Brunello, an Italian-American that has inherited his family’s legacy, tradition and landmark, but his gambling addiction along with his wife’s sickness has slowly loosened his inheritance. Taking no responsibility for his own failings, Luca starts to believe the presidential election, changing demographics and immigration has led to society’s decay and his circumstance. Luca decides to take his situation into his own hands by any means necessary. That’s where craziness starts and sweet dreams die.
Laoutides’ resemblance to Robert De Niro is stunningly similar, leaving many to believe the film was a remake of Taxi Driver (1976), “There were for sure inspirations and reflective elements I put into the script. It really was just a simple premise, a guy who thought society was his downfall and he’s taking his aggression out on it. It became more sophisticated when delays took place and it started to spawn new ideas that we explored.”
Isaac also an executive producer and Ave Fenix Pictures President of Film and Television expanded on the movie’s development and dual responsibilities, “The film centering around a Middle Eastern refugee is something close to my heart, because that’s my parents story, so I had to involve myself not just artistically, but I wanted to grow with a film studio that cares about these issues. It’s not easy to produce and also to star in a role, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
With the ongoing expectations of diversity in film, one couldn’t ask more from the production, as a strong team headed by a Latina executive producer, with an infusion of cultures from cast, crew and the debut of Assyrian director Mirza Esho, range is at the film’s core. The Oscars released clarifications in diversity rules commencing in 2024: Best Picture hopefuls will have to meet the standards of two out of four criterions, wherein Where Sweet Dreams Die checks all of them. According to the Oscar standards the film would be diversifying the ranks of Hollywood.
Esho discussed the possibilities, “It’s not just about checking boxes, it’s about the film being good. The story is showing the similarities and differences between desperate people under the current state of the nation. The performances turned into something beyond the script and my imagination – the character depth is just chilling and brutally honest. I don’t believe these performances can or will be easily ignored.”
A release date has not yet been announced. The movie is calendared for the end of the year, but may be pressed into 2024.
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