It’s with good reason that producer Terrence Malick has gotten top billing in the PR campaign for The Better Angels, namely the ethereal tone and sublime sublunary feel accorded to the story of Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana upbringing that he alone has developed over the course of his career, but it is first time writer and director A.J. Edwards who has actually brought this miraculous film to life. Having worked with Malick in varying roles throughout his last three features, Edwards has gleaned a thing or two about his mentor’s craft and applied them with genuine admiration for and engagement with the material at hand, bringing to life Lincoln’s rural childhood and the impressionistic relationships he shared with his mother Sarah and step-mother Nancy with a startling semblance to Malick’s own work.
Having been relegated to premiere as part of the the New Frontiers sidebar at Sundance earlier this year, The Better Angels received raves from the few people who saw it (myself included) and was quietly picked up for distro by the newly minted Amplify Releasing outfit. Just after the film’s world premiere in Park City, I met up with Edwards to discuss his debut in the rear of a busy little coffee shop on the slope of the main strip. Being one of many film’s on the legendary U.S. president, much research and attention to detail had to set the film apart, and Edwards surely did his time at his local library to prepare. Extremely well versed and still seemingly humbled by his filmmaking experience, Edwards spoke of the lengthy list of histories he consumed, his relationship with Malick, and even how he came to include a segment of Seneca (a Native American language I happen to have grown up familiar with in my hometown) within his film, which hits select theaters today (11/7/14 – Amplify Releasing). Our full conversation can be found below, as well as the film’s latest theatrical trailer: