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Armageddon Time – The hour of the apocalypse looms as it releases

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The seventeenth edition of the Rome Film Festival that has enlivened the capital in recent days with exclusive film screenings, events and red carpets is almost over. And last night, Thursday October 20, James Gray’s latest film, the autobiographical Armageddon Time – Le temps de l’Apocalypse, also hit the big screen at the Auditorium Conciliazione.

With Armageddon Time – Le temps de l’Apocalypse, James Gray returns to the cinema with an autobiographical story as sincere and unfiltered as it is sometimes intense and painful in which he recounts his childhood by tackling delicate issues such as that of racial and social discrimination. To interpret the film, the two oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Anne Hathaway as well as Jeremy Strong and the very young actor Banks Repeta. The film, distributed by Universal Pictures Italia, will be released in our cinemas from March 2, 2023.

(L to R) Michael Banks Repeta as ‘Paul Graff’ and Anthony Hopkins as ‘Grandpa Aaron Rabinowitz’ in director James Gray’s ARMAGEDDON TIME, a Focus Features release. Courtesy of Anne Joyce/Focus

Synopsis Armageddon Time – Time of the apocalypse

Armageddon Time – The Time of the Apocalypse is set in New York in the early 1980s. Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) is an eleven-year-old white boy from a middle-class New York Jewish family. A rebellious boy both at school and at home, determined to pursue his dreams. Moreover, despite his young age, he immediately demonstrates a strong sense of justice. He attends the sixth year of a public school in Queens and it is there that he will first face the inequalities of a brutal conservative and discriminatory system. Indeed, he forms a beautiful friendship with the only black classmate, Johnny (Jaylin Webb), who in addition to having a disastrous family situation is forced to suffer racial harassment on a daily basis.

Paul’s parents, believing that Johnny had a bad influence on their son, decide to make him change schools by enrolling him in a private establishment. However, this estrangement will not prevent the two companions from continuing their friendship. A black boy and a Jew who have in common the desire to redeem themselves socially with a plan that, however, will turn into a disaster in which survival goes through something uncomfortable, cruel, painful. Throughout the story, there is therefore a very important character in Paul’s life, his grandfather, who will be a guide for him.

James Gray as an adult: “It became a ghost story. It was difficult”

During the press conference, the director James Gray, when asked why he decided just now to tell his story, replies: “Why not? I made two films one after the other. One in the Amazon jungle, which nearly killed me, and the other in space, with Brad Pitt attached to wires. I needed to get rid of the artificial part and be honest with myself. I wanted to rediscover why I love cinema. Also, I had seen Amarcord recently for a meeting with the schools, and I’m not saying this to flatter the Italians, but Fellini is my favorite director. I found it deeply touching how personal it was and also how he used the historical period and Mussolini to create a bigger canvas for the film.”

With Armageddon Time, the director had to trace different phases of his childhood, some of which were also very painful. And when asked if he had trouble bringing them back to the screen, he replies: “While I was making the film, no. I was too busy making a whole series of practical decisions like choosing the lights, the actors, the camera. However, when I arrived in the editing room, I was more impressed than expected with a feeling of melancholy. Because I realized that all my family members except my brother are dead. And it became a ghost story. I tried to revive my family somehow. I felt a sense of privilege to be able to do something like this. But it was also very difficult, I don’t feel any kind of catharsis. I would like to make more films of this genre even if it does not make me feel comfortable. Anyway, yes, it was difficult, unpleasant”.

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