By Sally Deering
The 17th Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIFF) takes place Tues, Aug 6 and runs through Sun, Aug. 12, and one of the short films on the festival’s schedule is MANIAC directed by Sam Borowski and starring Bill Sorvino of Jersey City. Borowski, whose films have competed at the Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City – which is produced by Sorvino – will premiere MANIAC at RIFF for the chance to be an Oscar contender in the Best Short Film category.
MANIAC makes its world premiere on Sunday, the closing night of the festival. In the short film, Sorvino plays ‘The Man’ a good guy who does bad things for good reasons.
“It’s about a man who turns to vigilantism after being pushed over the edge,” Borowski says. “Something happens that makes him turn. It’s like violent philanthropy. He’s trying to rid the world of bad people. It’s a socially relevant film. The last few years have been a sort of Depression. If you look at the social and economic climate of the country, somebody who’s not right is affected even more by the fact that things are really tough out there.
“The character of ‘The Man’ played by Sorvino believes in doing what’s right but he breaks the law,” Borowski continues. “We’re trying to look at what pushes people over the edge. It will get people talking on both sides. That’s why I know it’s relevant. It’s very shades of gray; not all bad, but not all good.”
MANIAC was written by Nihad Shalabi, an Intern at Borowski’s The Naoj Company. Shalabi came to Borowski with a story he wrote, Borowski says he liked it, did a rewrite and put it on his immediate ‘to do’ list.
“The story originally reminded me of Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER,” Borowski says, “which is one of my top 20 movies, one of my two favorites, and I saw some homages, I thought if we film it, we should make it look like a 70s film. If we film it that way, it would make it more special. The poster is a mock-up of the original TAXI DRIVER one sheet.”
Borowski also attached an old 70s lens to a state-of-the-art movie camera to get the look he wanted. Even the score by Dr. Calvin Hogue, who is also from New Jersey, has a 70s feel. The film, which runs 22 minutes, is Borowski’s second shot at qualifying for an Academy Award nomination. His short film, THE MANDELA MAKER also qualified when he made it in 2009.
‘With MANIAC, I wanted to do something that could be a contender for the Oscars,” Borowski says. “Short subjects are as important as features. There’s a market for short features. Between the festivals and the Oscars, there are theaters that will do screenings. DVD companies will put out Shorts and there’s also Video on Demand. There’s a cable station in Canada that only shows Shorts. While I make feature-length pictures, I still enjoy doing Shorts from time to time. I’m flexing my muscles; and it’s a great calling card.”
Borowski’s other films include POLLINATION, NIGHT CLUB, THE MANDELA MAKER and KARLOFF AND ME. And while it only took four days to shoot MANIAC, Borowski and his crew filmed in several New Jersey towns including Linden, Clark and Rahway.
Along with Sorvino, the film stars David Harris, who was featured in the films THE WARRIORS and A SOLDIER’S STORY; Joseph D’Onofrio, who played in GOODFELLAS and A BRONX TALE; and Maria Rusolo, who starred as the wife in Borowski’s short film, POLLINATION. Rusolo is also Borowski’s good friend.
“Like any director or producer, I work with whom I’m comfortable with,” Borowski says. “Directors and producers want to work with actors that make our lives easier not harder. And also who’s best for the part.”
Sorvino, also a good friend, is the nephew of legendary actor Paul Sorvino and Borowski sees Sorvino following in his “Uncle Paul’s” footsteps, but carving out his own niche. Sorvino produces the Golden Door International Film Festival which takes place every year in Jersey City and Borowski, who has shown a couple of films in the festival, will be presenting MANIAC this year, too.
“I had to delve into my deepest fears and the most broken parts of my own character from the darkest corners of my mind to create the character,” Sorvino says. “I had nightmares for weeks. It was emotionally, by far, the most challenging role I have ever played. It was also the most gratifying because I feel I gave something to the film that will allow viewers to have a contemplative experience that gives room for thought and discussion.”
Borowski says he was inspired to make MANIAC after his friend Shawn Christensen won the Best Short Film Oscar for CURFEW.
“I was so inspired by how great the work was and I want to do great work,” Borowski says. “Whether I do it with a feature or a Short, I still want to do it. And whenever there’s a story to be told, I’m going to tell it. MANIAC is a socially relevant and important film. It’s entertaining, disturbing and it’s relevant to not just the social but the economic climate of the day. We completed editing two-and-a-half months ago and we’re already premiering for an Oscar-qualifier. We’re very serious about bringing home an Oscar.”
If you go:
Sun, Aug. 11th, MANIAC World Premiere
Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival