Meet the filmmaker: Haroula Rose makes feature debut with ‘Once Upon a River’ at Vail Film Festival
'You always see these young characters that are guys, and she’s a girl that’s able to do the same things'
Editor’s note: The 16th annual Vail Film Festival returns Aug. 15-18. In addition to more than 40 film screenings, the Vail Film Festival also offers a workshop, panel discussion and more while again celebrating women in the industry. Festival passes start at $50. For more information, visit http://www.vailfilmfestival.com. Festival organizers recommend checking out the website beforehand for trailers, times and more information about each film. The Vail Daily interviewed three female directors attending the festival this year, including Haroula Rose (“Once Upon a River”), Louise Woehrle (“Stalag Luft III”) and Lise Raven (“Snaeland”).
“Local audiences are the best because they’re not there to do business, they’re there to enjoy film,” filmmaker Lise Raven said, “and that’s who we make them for.”
‘Once Upon a River’ tells heroine’s odyssey through adversity
Filmmaker Haroula Rose has been in love with music and movies forever, she said. Her music can be heard on Spotify, TV series including “How I Met Your Mother” and “American Horror Story” as well as other shows and movies.
While Rose has produced movies for friends, mainly documentaries and narrative fictions, “Once Upon a River” is the first feature film that she wrote and directed.
“It’s based on a book that I totally fell in love with,” she said ahead of the Vail Film Festival, where she’ll be screening “Once Upon a River” as well as joining the panel discussion on Saturday, Aug. 17. “The author and I have become really good friends.”
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The best-selling book “Once Upon a River” by Bonnie Jo Campbell — not to be confused with a more recent book with the same title — follows a teenage girl named Margo who lives life on the river in Michigan with her father and battles all sorts of trauma and problems.
“I thought there was something really unique about the character,” Rose said. “She knows how to survive on her own in the wild. I just like that it was an odyssey, and it was a lot about finding your family on the road — and your friends being your family.”
Margo eventually goes on a journey to find her mother.
“You always see ‘Into the Wild’ or ‘Huck Finn’ and all these young characters that are guys, and she’s a girl that’s able to do the same things,” Rose said.
Rose said she “devoured” the book twice in one weekend before realizing she found her first movie idea. Both Rose and Campbell went to University of Chicago, but never crossed paths. They were able to meet, though, after Rose tracked the author down.
“We just got along really well,” Rose said. “We were looking at it the same way: This girl goes through a lot of trauma and we didn’t want her to be a victim but more of a survivor.”
Kenadi Delacerna makes her acting debut in the film as Margo. John Ashton, who was in “Midnight Run” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” also stars in “Once Upon a River.”
“He’s one of the best actors I’ve seen in my life,” Rose said of Ashton. “So I had this guy who was 70 and this girl who’d never done a movie before, and they were so cool to watch together and work with.”
Rose will be at the Vail Film Festival with her producer and two of her cast.
“She’s so sincere, brave and cool,” Rose said of Delacerna. “I just love her so much and think she has a big career ahead of her.”
Part of the inspiration for “Once Upon a River” are old movies that Rose grew up watching set in the mountains and the west, such as “Jeremiah Johnson” with Robert Redford and “McCabe & Mrs. Miller.”
“Since this is set in the ’70s, I hope that people can see those parallels at times,” Rose said.
This will be the first time Rose attends the Vail Film Festival, having heard about it from fellow filmmaker Molly McGlynn, who was featured at last year’s festival with “Mary Goes Round.”
“I’m so happy she told me about it,” Rose said. “It’s my first time in Vail ever and my first time at the film festival.”
‘Once Upon a River’ (feature film)
Director: Haroula Rose
Synopsis: It’s 1978 and Margo Crane, a 15-year-old Native teen, must take to the Stark River on an odyssey. Akin to Huck Finn this is a heroine like no other. The film is based on the best-selling novel “Once Upon a River” by Bonnie Jo Campbell.
Starring: Kenadi Delacerna, Tatanka Means, Josephine Decker, Coburn Goss, Sam Straley, Ajuawak. Kapashesit, John Ashton, Kenn E Head, Lindsay Pulsipher
Length: 90 minutes
When: Friday, 8:30 p.m., followed by a Q&A; Saturday, 3 p.m., followed by a Q&A
Where: CineBistro at Solaris, Vail