“A Bronx Tale:” Ebertfest welcomes Chazz Palminteri and Jon Kilik

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  • Ebertfest attendees participate in a Q&A session following the screening of “99 Homes” with director and co-writer Rain Bahrani and actor Noah Lomax on Saturday.

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I would never deny that “A Bronx Tale” is a great film; it references important dialogue about race relations, gender construction, class discrepancies and morality.

But experiencing “A Bronx Tale” as introduced by Roger Ebert’s wife, Chaz Ebert, viewing it as a personal 35-mm print that belongs personally to Martin Scorsese, and listening to writer and actor Chazz Palminteri and producer Jon Kilik talk about making the film put the story in a different light.

Kalik agreed that this festival is something above and beyond just any of the films themselves.

“As much fun as I have making the movies,” Kalik said. “I actually enjoy this even more because it’s a chance to give back to the community.”

At first glance, the film is a story about a young boy who falls in with a “bad” crowd, which deeply concerns his father.

Additionally, it is a coming-of-age tale, a story about morality and what is right and what is wrong – is there even a right and a wrong? It explores racial conflicts in urban settings in the 1960s; it asks what it means to be a man.

Yet perhaps even more interesting than all of that is the creative process behind the film. Chazz Palminteri, when he was financially insecure, wrote and began to perform a one-man show about his life. Director and actor in the film, Robert De Niro, who was backstage after seeing that same show, simply asked Palminteri to partner with him to make it into a movie – just like that.

That same degree of simplicity and honesty is apparent in every component of the film. Both Palminteri and Kilik emphasized the importance of authenticity again and again.

Palminteri fully acknowledged that his writing has imbedded social messages, but he didn’t necessarily intend for their presence.

By writing the truth, he said, those social messages appear naturally. He went one step further and proposed that an artist has to focus on creating a beautiful and true story. The social activism will then come organically with that.

“I just wrote a beautiful tale, from my heart, about my life. If you set out to write messages … it never happens,” Palminteri said. “Just write something that’s honest.”

Beyond the authenticity of the writing, the filmmakers meticulously completed research on fashion, clothing and setting.

Further, many of the characters within the movie were not and still are not professional actors; they were guys from around the city.

Yet nothing in the film seemed forced or fabricated.

Audibly, the audience was engaged with that degree of reality. There were multiple points of laughter during the film, and the audience was further touched or frightened along with all the characters.

Yet for the all the importance placed on frankness and honesty, the film was anything but simple.

“A Bronx Tale” touches on sensitive, complex issues, whether intentionally or not, that are unfortunately still present in society today, such as gender inequality, racism and classism.

The film was hugely successful in creating a gripping storyline with empathetic characters but also in forcing the audience to reexamine some social issues that we have not solved since the film was released in 1993.

At the conclusion of the film, the theatre transitioned into a deserved standing ovation.

Alex is a junior in LAS.

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