Family & Companions
An independent filmmaker whose work twice earned the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Victor Nunez has steered clear of Hollywood and remained fairly anonymous, fusing character and place in his intimate, regional portraits of his native Florida. A founding board member of the Independent Feature Project and the Sundance Film Festival, he received his MFA in film production at UCLA and also briefly attended the American Film Institute before souring on the West Coast and returning to Tallahassee, determined to become a southern filmmaker. He began by directing educational and industrial shorts, then helmed three fictional shorts in the 1970s, establishing his practice of scripting, editing and operating the camera, a modus operandi continued on his features. Both "Taking Care of Mother Baldwin" (1970), about a boy's tentative friendship with a woman neighbor, and "Charly Benson's Return to the Sea" (1972), which followed a returning Vietnam veteran as he attempted to adjust to once familiar people and situations, were original screenplays, filmed in haunting, documentary-like black-and-white.
The ambitious and superbly mounted "A Circle in the Fire" (1974), based on a story by Flannery O'Connor, was the first of three successive literary adaptations and also Nunez's first film in color. An almost Hitchcockian aura of dread pervades this gothic tale, seen through the eyes and fears of the three female occupants of a dairy farm, which ultimately goes up in an apocalyptic blaze. He followed with his feature debut (and first Grand Jury Prize winner), "Gal Young 'Un" (1979), adapted from a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings story, but its central battle between an unhappily widowed Florida farm woman and the young husband who marries her for her money allowed none of the moral shadings of the richer, more resonant O'Connor source material. Shot for the incredibly low figure of $40,000, the film was a remarkable accomplishment, even though the acting was less commanding than the script demanded, convincing the director to use big-name talent his next time out. Five years elapsed before "A Flash of Green" (1984, based on the John D MacDonald novel), starred Ed Harris (in one of his best performances), Richard Jordan (who also produced) and Blair Brown. This fine, offbeat story of a reporter investigating a suspect land-fill development deal in a small Florida coastal town flew against free-wheeling, Reagan-era sensibilities while suffering from overlength and plot redundancies.
After nearly ten years of futile Hollywood pitch meetings, Nunez used an inheritance of $400,000 to finance "Ruby in Paradise" (1993), a touching tale of a young girl's self-discovery after escaping the Tennessee backwoods for the relatively cosmopolitan environs of Panama City, Florida. A hit on the festival circuit, his first original screenplay in two decades garnered the director his second Sundance Grand Jury Prize and introduced Ashley Judd as a promising newcomer. The film's muted look also received praise, thanks to Nunez's decision to show it in Super-16, retaining the grainy character of that format. Though he had an unprecedented budget of nearly $3 million for his next feature, the director still shot (literally as cameraman) "Ulee's Gold" (1997) in Super-16, blowing it up to 35mm for distribution. A richly realized drama about a man reawakening to his family responsibilities, it featured the finest performance of Peter Fonda's career. The premise was nothing to set pulses racing, but its power, like in his previous films, lay in Nunez's ability to find and nurture the mystery of ordinary life. It is this very un-Hollywood fascination with real people that makes him anathema to the commercial establishment, despite his track record of one exquisite film after another.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Cinematography (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Editing (Feature Film)
Parents divorced and Nunez returned to US with his mother
Made first film short, the 22-minute, black-and-white "Taking Care of Mother Baldwin"
First film in color, the 60-minute "A Circle in the Fire", adapted from a story by Flannery O'Connor
Feature film directorial debut, "Gal Young 'Un", which he also co-produced, adapted (from a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings story), photographed, and edited; made with help of an NEA grant and funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
Used name-actors for the first time in "A Flash of Green"; directed, adapted from the John D MacDonald thriller, edited and served as director of photography; aired on PBS in 1986; received funding from the three sources for his first feature plus the Rockefeller Foundation
"Gal Young 'Un" aired on PBS
Enjoyed critical success with "Ruby in Paradise", which he helmed, wrote, edited and served as his own camera operator under director of photography Alex Vaclos; film launched career of Ashley Judd
Served as director of photography on "Without Evidence", docudrama co-scripted and directed by Gill Dennis, who had served as a script consultant on "A Flash of Green"
Scored again critically with "Ulee's Gold", starring Peter Fonda in a career-reviving, Oscar-nominated role; wrote, edited and served as camera operator (this time under director of photography Virgil Mirano), filmed like his other features on Super-16, the picture was the Festival Centerpiece Premier at Sundance
Helmed the drama "Coastlines" (lensed 2001)