The Arty Semite

The Speedy Success of Richard Zimler's 'The Slow Mirror'

By Jessica Siegel

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It was a miracle three times over, according to Portuguese-American novelist Richard Zimler, that “The Slow Mirror,” the short film based on his story of the same name, won the Best Drama prize at the New York Downtown Short Film Festival on May 2.

“First it was a miracle that we got the money to make this film,” he said by telephone from Porto, Portugal where he has lived for 20 years. “Then it was a miracle that it was accepted into the film festival. And finally, it was a miracle that it won.”

Zimler, who is best known for his series of novels about the Sephardic experience throughout history, including “The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon,” was elated. The film beat out 14 other short films from the U.S., Taiwan, United Kingdom and Canada. It was his first screenplay.

Zimler worked on “The Slow Mirror” with the Swedish director Solveig Nordlund, who he had met when Nordlund had done a documentary about him for Portuguese television. The film premiered at the Fantasporto Film Festival in Porto in March and they are hoping that it will be accepted into the London Film Festival.

“The Slow Mirror” focuses on Carla, an ornithology professor and her gravely ill daughter. On a visit to Barcelona, Carla discovers a mirror that keeps images for several years before reflecting them. She brings the mirror back to Lisbon as a gift for her daughter and “it changes both their lives in mysterious ways,” according to Nordlun.

Zimler says he has more films in him. He already has written a screenplay, “I’m Not Here,” about woman who is the daughter of a Portuguese father and a Jewish-American mother, who discovers that she is pregnant after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. She stalks the two to Portugal and in the process finds out more about her ex-husband and herself. Maria de Medeiros, a Portuguese actress who was in “Pulp Fiction and “Henry and June,” has expressed interest in playing the lead character. “Hopefully with her name and the award, some millionaire or a Portuguese agency will give us some money,” Zimler said.

Working on one film (he acted in two scenes) has already given him a bug. “It was exciting,” he said. “Both the acting and seeing how a film was made.”


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