Vikram Gandhi talks about rediscovering Barack Obama in his latest film, Barry.
When I watched Barry, a portrayal of the most celebrated Presidents of the United States of our times as a chain smoking introvert with an estranged father, it was a bit of a surprise.
But Director Vikram Gandhi explains, “I think it’s very important to see this regular side of people who make it big—to humanise them in some sense so that we understand and appreciate their growth.”
Best known for his documentary, Kumare (2011) and the HBO news series, Vice (2013), this is Gandhi’s debut into mainstream feature cinema.
Having premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival two months ago, the Netflix original film starring Devon Terrell is releasing this month. Here, the New York-based director speaks about the challenges and accomplishments of his venture.
When I read Dreams From My Father (a memoir penned by Obama in 1995), I was struck by how normal his experiences were as a young man. How he was searching for his own identity, figuring out America and trying to understand how the world was, reminded me so much of how I was in college (went to Columbia University too).
This is the most famous person on Earth. Creatively, it was challenging because you’re trying to tell a story that only a few really know. We know he is going to become someone big one day. So how do you tell the story without alluding to the future or without politicising it — that was the challenge.
His issues with his father and his confusion of belonging are one and the same. Race and identity inherently have a lot to do with family and the story of many African-Americans is of broken families in America. They aren’t separate. Here’s a deeper story to tell. His search for his identity and place had a lot to do with reconnecting with his father — a side he has never known.
Trump was able to galvanise everyone’s fear and create an atmosphere we see quite often in Europe or England. These last few weeks are a setback in a sense to the progress we’ve made. Barry’s struggle makes you introspect and after this election, I can say that it certainly represents the path we should be taking.
Barry releases on December 16 on Netflix.
— Lavanya Lakshminarayanan