Directed by Ramin Bahrani • 2007 • United States
Starring Alejandro Polanco, Isamar Gonzales, Rob Sowulski
For his acclaimed follow-up to MAN PUSH CART, Ramin Bahrani once again turned his camera on a slice of New York City rarely seen on-screen: Willets Point, Queens, an industrial sliver of automotive-repair shops that remains perpetually at risk of being redeveloped off the map. It’s within this precarious ecosystem that twelve-year-old Ale (Alejandro Polanco) must grow up fast, hustling in the neighborhood chop shops to build a more stable life for himself and his sister (Isamar Gonzales), even as their tenuous circumstances force each to compete with other struggling people and make desperate decisions. A deeply human story of a fierce but fragile sibling bond being tested by hardscrabble reality, CHOP SHOP tempers its sobering authenticity with flights of lyricism and hope.
In this conversation, recorded remotely in fall 2020, director Ramin Bahrani and author Suketu Mehta discuss the portrayal of working migrant communities in CHOP SHOP and MAN PUSH CART, the notion of global cinema, and the changing appeal of chasing prosperity in America.
Inspired by the naturalistic performances in the films of Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, and Abbas Kiarostami, Ramin Bahrani rewrote the original script for CHOP SHOP based on improvisations staged with his lead actors. Excerpts of those taped rehearsals, featuring Alejandro Polanco, Isamar Gonzales, Rob...