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Interview: Mark Jackson (War Story)

With the constant reminders of the past affixed to the present, the continual struggle with identity and mental toll associated with the warfare of the photo journalism trade, we aren’t all that surprised that Catherine Keener’s character’s undetermined grace period becomes an extended hotel stay. Sans useless backstory, perhaps her character comes close to erasing herself … which is not unlike the motivations of Jack Nicholson’s Brit-American journalist in The Passenger (original Italian title is Professione: reporter) where one man takes refuge from his nouveau past in a rundown middle of nowhere Spanish town hotel in a fateful misstep that ends up assassinating his former and current self. 

While the 1975 Michelangelo Antonioni film serves as a marker for Mark Jackson’s insular, murky terrain portrait and examination of how isolation manifests itself both psychologically and physically, I’d argue that Antonioni’s oeuvres is the writer-director major influence – no wonder he has a fascination with island-like scapes (L’avventurra) and that the parting shot in Sicily based film echoes of factory look in Red Desert. After 2011’s Slamdance preemed Without, it is with War Story that themes of isolation, alienation and aimlessness are advanced to a weighty anti-climatic resolution. Preemed at the Sundance Film Festival in the well-curated Next section, in my sit-down with Jackson we discussed his collaboration process with an aural enabler in Dave Eggar and his work with a trio of female figures in what he refers to as an action hero after the action in gone in actress Catherine Keener, his treatment of each scene as a thematic still with cinematographer Reed Morano and the nuts and bolts of the protagonist’s psyche with writing partner Kristin Gore. IFC Films releases War Story today. Here is my interview.


Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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