December 12, 2002

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Filmmaker Steven Bognar’s ‘Gravel’—
Sundance accepts local film

Of the 50 short films the Sundance Film Festival accepted this year from a pool of over 4,000 shorts submitted, local filmmaker Steven Bognar’s “Gravel” made the cut. It will premiere at the festival on Jan. 16.

Bognar wrote and directed the film, which was shot in Yellow Springs and in surrounding communities with a local cast.

The story explores the relationship of a mother, played by theater director Louise Smith, and daughter, played by local resident Iris Bieri, as they travel across the country in search of the mother’s ex-boyfriend, who is played by local resident Bruce Cromer.

After helping his partner, Julia Reichert, who produced the film, raise her daughter, Bognar wanted a chance to explore the nature of the relationship between mothers and daughters.

“The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most, if not the most, challenging and complex relationships that can happen amongst family members,” Bognar said in a phone interview from New York, where he is currently working.

“Gravel” also provided Bognar an opportunity to direct actors, something a full-time documentary filmmaker does not get to do. Though the film’s actors had more experience with stage performance, they all rose to the occasion, Bognar said.

“The actors make this movie,” Bognar said. “I learned how to direct actors from the actors in this film. That was a gift they gave to me.”

Two other actors from town, Latham Zearfoss and Willa Dallas, make an appearance in the film. Like other film projects Bognar has tackled in Yellow Springs, local participation provided the foundation for a satisfying and well-received result, he said.

Though “Gravel” is Bognar’s third film to appear at Sundance, it is his first fiction film to be accepted. “Picture Day,” a playful short featuring photos of children at an area elementary school, was shown at Sundance in 2000. In 1996, his family documentary, Personal Belongings, was accepted in the documentary category.

“The thrill doesn’t go away,” Bognar said. “Every time you go to bat the odds are so much against you.”

“Gravel” will debut locally sometime after the festival, in late January or February.

—Lauren Heaton