WHO is he?

American scenarist, actor and filmmaker who has directed more than two dozen feature films, short works, TV movies and documentaries since the early seventies. Ferrara started his career directing pornographic and B-movies before moving on to more reputed Hollywood ventures. He won the Grand Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival in 2005 for Mary (2005).

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Ferrara’s films utilise the genre framework of Hollywood to espouse a political stance. Specifically, a number of these films are critical of American foreign policy, its military-industrial complex and the free rein it gives to corporate entities. These films are generally set in New York. The characters are morally flawed; they make mistakes, suffer and are seldom redeemed. Drug abuse and murder are commonplace acts. Ferrara had a Catholic upbringing and Catholicism has a significant presence in all his films.

Style

Ferrara’s aesthetic is marked by an abundance of gradual camera movements, especially pan and tilt shots. The narrative pace is measured with occasional rapid cutting during action scenes. Acting style is flatter than conventional Hollywood acting and flashbacks and voiceovers are nearly absent. Rather than conventional music score, Ferrara uses popular hits and pre-recorded songs in his soundtrack – an apparent influence of New Hollywood Cinema.

WHY is he of interest?

Ferrara was (and to a large extent, still is) a director of disrepute in America and his films are not exactly audience-pleasers either. It is the French critical establishment, along with certain New York-based critics, that has bestowed on him the status of a genuine cinematic auteur. Debatable it may be, but the internal consistency of Ferrara’s films in terms of their ideas and style is proof enough that he is more than simply a director for hire.

WHERE to discover him?

The narrative of 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011), Ferrara’s latest feature, is set in New York during the eve of an apocalypse that is to destroy Earth’s inhabitants. Despite the doomed fatality of the situation, the city does not become an amoral, free-for-all gaming range, but continues in its natural rhythm with everyday life nearly intact. Ferrara’s meditative film uses a fictional premise to reflect on the world we live in – a world mediated by projected images, which, like some mutant species, would outlive the entirety of humanity itself.