In this Reverse Shot Talkie, host Eric Hynes takes filmmaker Robert Greene for a walk along the East River to talk about his new film, Actress (out now from Cinema Guild). A work of nonfiction that dances along the edges of documentary and fiction, confession and characterization, Actress follows Brandy Burre, former featured player on The Wire, as she struggles to revive her acting career while playing the real-life roles of mother and homemaker.
Faced with beauty of the New York skyline, Greene acknowledges that his documentary about Burre's life in Beacon, New York (where the director lives next door to his subject), also doubles as an autobiographical portrait of his own feelings of estrangement from the big city. And in matters of form, Greene talks of embracing the distrust viewers have for documentary—to explore rather than deny artifice, uncertainty, or interference. "The whole film is [designed] to provoke the audience. It's to provoke them to think, and to judge, and to feel based on their own experience." Greene says that Burre's being a performer is actually an asset in getting at deeper truths. "She is, as a person, and as a performer, always looking for authenticity. It's not a search for phoniness—it's a search for authenticity," he says, which again dovetails with his own ambitions. "I'm personally always trying to say and feel what I actually think," he says. While Actress foregrounds the interventions of the filmmaker, Greene asserts that the filmmaker is present even in more traditional nonfiction. "Every documentary filmmaker is a character in every documentary," he says.