The film follows a ruthless and charismatic billionaire family whose patriarch guns down innocent citizens in his free time, and left many speechless at the Egyptian Theater in Park City. Directed by Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann, the movie features intensely provocative moments including infanticide and brutal public shootings. The family, it turns out, is simply too powerful to face consequences from local police, national defense agents and even their prime minister.
“The problem is that he’s so charming,” director Hoesl said of his leading man Laurence Rupp (whose appeal practically demands a Tom Hiddleston-esque introduction to the American market). “The sunlight is blinding us. We know people like him and we let them get away with it.”
Perhaps not quite like this. Rupp and his wife, a high-powered lawyer played by Urisna Lardi, justify their crimes, buy or destroy their detractors and retire to 3,000 thread count sheets without a care in the world.
Hoesl said he was inspired by a real life European hedge fund manager he declined to name, though he noted this man sat on the board of Deutsche Bank and owned private hunting land in Namibia. The mystery mogul once told Hoesl he could “shoot someone on 5th Avenue and get away with it.” While co-director Niemann was sick with food poisoning and could not stand for the Q&A, Hoesl fielded questions from a lively audience.
The movie walked into the festival with comparisons to “Succession,” which only last week claimed the final best drama series Emmy of its run. Indoor swimming pools, private choppers and even a signature song about mergers and acquisitions peppered “Veni Vidi Vici,” so the comparison was fair. One gentleman asked how the indie film, which took 9 years to complete, managed to land big brand placements like one from lightning rod fashion house Balenciaga.
“Our costume designers is friends with [Balenciaga CCO] Martina Tiefenthaler,” Hoesl said. “That’s how it worked out, and I think they they actually liked the screenplay.”
Another audience member asked about two young girls who play adopted children of the Austrian business titan in the film — one of AAPI decent, the other mixed race.
“There are many examples where privileged or wealthy people adopt children to maybe save them from a poor country,” Hoesl said, erroneously using George and Amal Clooney as an example (a spokesperson for the film later clarified that Hoesl meant Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Those once-married actors have three adopted children).
“They’re their toys, and kind of a little annoying,” he said of the kid characters in his film.
The filmmakers said that above all, the project is a meditation on privilege. Hoesl shared an anecdote that inspired his script almost a decade ago, about a banker’s daughter he once dated. After many drinks at an overpriced bar, his date convinced him to ditch the check. They were immediately caught by the bartender and turned over to the police.
“On the way there, my companion told me that we just have to stick to the story — that we paid cash,” he said. A family friend who was a lawyer wrote a letter on his ex-girlfriend’s behalf and their case was dismissed.
“This was a very important lecture in my life. How easy it is to get away with.”