Josh Safdie

In the culture we know as "independent filmmaking," brothers and collaborators Joshua and Benny Safdie are true independents. Olivier Pere, a former programmer for Cannes and Locarno, described their work as "guerilla cinema," and their deadpan style and improvisational approach has been compared John Cassavetes and Jim Jarmusch. "We do things cheaply," explained Benny in a 2009 interview. "But even if there was money, the things we do would look the same. Whatever we do, we do the way we want to do it." That would include sneaking cameras into public and private spaces, shooting spontaneously on the streets to get unrehearsed reactions, and working with non-actors.

Like many aspiring directors, the New York natives started shooting on the family video camera (their father was a compulsive videographer) before studying film and filmmaking at Boston University's College of Communication. "They understood that films didn’t have to be these lofty epic undertakings," says BU professor Charles Merzbacher. "Films could be part of their lives." And so they draw inspiration from all around them. The late-night rantings of a stranger on the street outside of Joshua's Boston apartment was the seed from which the 2007 Slamdance entry THE BACK OF HER HEAD sprouted. "All of our films tend to come from things we witness rather than from conventions of film," insists Josh.

After graduating they formed the SoHo-based collective Red Bucket Films with fellow BU graduates Sam Lisenco and Zachary Treitz and high school buddy Alex Kalman, and took on commercial assignments to fund their short films and their first feature. Their work soon started to get international attention. Joshua's feature film THE PLEASURES OF BEING ROBBED and Ben's short THE ACQUAINTANCES OF A LONELY JOHN were both featured in the prestigious Director's Fortnight section of the 2008 Cannes Films Festival (the only American films so honored that year).

Their second feature DADDY LONGLEGS (originally titled GO GET SOME ROSEMARY), drawn in part from their memories of their father, won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards. THE BLACK BALLOON, an offbeat tribute to the French classic THE RED BALLOON shot in New York City, took home the Short Filmmaking Award at Sundance in 2012. The brothers share directing credit on these last two film but all of their films are collaborations with input from their Red Bucket partners, their actors, and of course one another. - Sean Axmaker


Recent Reviews

Straight Hustle


The Ralph Handel Story

Psuedo-documentary about a comedian who isn't funny and his mundane life. You almost feel bad for the dude, but he is so unaffected by everything it doesn't even matter. Ralph...

There's Nothing You Can Do

Always interesting when you can't tell if something is being acted or is real life.....or perhaps a little of both.

Acquaintances of a Lonely John

its easy to relate to this character

There's Nothing You Can Do

Delivers a sobering one-two punch of douchebro-bashing euphoria and complicity in a self-congratulatory façade. Well played, sirs.