FNE at Cannes 2022: Main Competition: Armageddon Time

    Armageddon Time by James Gray Armageddon Time by James Gray source: Cannes Film Festival

    CANNES: Acclaimed filmmaker James Gray has scored a well deserved slot in the Cannes main competition with Armageddon Time a deeply personal coming of age story set in Queens New York in the 1980s in the neighbourhood where the director grew up.

    Gray is no stranger to Cannes with five of his seven feature films in competition in Cannes. His critically well received debut Little Odessa in 1994 won a Silver Lion in Venice Film Festival. Of Russian Jewish descent, with grandparents from Ostropol, in Ukraine, whose original family name was Grayevsky, director and scriptwriter Gray drew on his family’s immigrant Jewish roots for Little Odessa which starred Tim Roth and he has returned to mine the rich vein of New York’s ethnically mixed neighbourhoods of the 1980s for Armageddon Time.

    Gray’s two previous films couldn’t be more different with his The Lost City of Z set in the Amazon and Ad Astra set in deep space. With Armageddon Time Gray who also wrote the script returns to a much more personal experience based on family and teenage memories set against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s election and his own personal awakening to a wider world in which injustice plays a role in life but love of family is strong.

    After shooting in the wilds of Amazonia on his The Lost City of Z and his green box heavy Ad Astra the return to the real life and streets of New York comes as a welcome return to his best style.  

    The film as a project was confirmed in summer of 2020 during the height of COVID and only reached completion in time for this year’s Cannes competition. With distinguished cameraman Darius Khondji who has worked with many of the greatest European directors it is sure to bring a European sensitivity to the work despite the gritty streets of New York setting.

    Gray has said that the film was actually shot on the street where he lived as a child not more than 50m from his childhood home. The school where the kids are shown walking in front of is the school he attended as a child. This was possible because the Queens of today is more or less physically the same as it was in the 1980s.

    But as Gray has pointed out the cultural mix of the Queens of today is much different than the Queens he grew up in. When he was growing up his family was the only Jewish family living on his block. So the film captures a time and place in American history that has now vanished culturally even though if the buildings are still the same.

    The film will be distributed by Focus Features and with its all star cast promised serious box office results in USA and further abroad.

    Armageddon Time (USA)
    Directed by James Gray
    Cast: Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Tovah Feldshuh, John Diehl, Andrew Polk, Ryan Sell, Jacob Mackinnon Marcia Jean Kurtz, Domenick Lombardozzi.