Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker originally from Chapel Hill, is hosting a showing of his film “Havana Motor Club” at the Silverspot Cinema tonight. Staff writer Peggy Mullin spoke with Perlmutt about his experience with the film, his Chapel Hill roots and his tips for aspiring filmmakers.
DTH: So you’re a Chapel Hill native, correct?
BP: Yes. I moved there when I was four, but my father was raised there. We’ve been there since about 1954.
DTH: Did you attend UNC?
BP: I didn’t, but my two brothers did for undergrad, and my sister for med school and my uncles and my father and grandfather taught at the med school.
DTH: When did you get interested in film? What developed you into being an expert in your craft?
BP: I was an English major at Brown, but I took a few film classes. My specialty within English was screenwriting, so I got familiar with the film process early on.
DTH: The film showing at the Silverspot Cinema tonight is called “Havana Motor Club,” about the underground street racing scene in Cuba. What is it that caused you to take on this subject in particular?
BP: I love Cuba, and we were actually down there doing some other documentary work when we noticed this racing culture present. We thought it would be a really unique way to tell the story of the politics present in Cuba at that time, and we were right.
DTH: Is it bringing back memories to be back in Chapel Hill?
BP: For sure. I’m definitely excited to be presenting this project which we’ve been working on for so long to an audience in Chapel Hill. Plus, showing it there means that a lot more of family will get to see it on the big screen, which is exciting. It’s where I grew up, so it holds a lot of significance for me to be back.
DTH: I noticed that the film got attention at Tribeca — what was that like?
BP: Yeah, we were nominated for Best Documentary in 2015. At that time, there was a lot of buzz about Cuba. Obama had just traveled there, and it was right around when travel to Cuba became re-established. So we were fortunate to have completed this project at that time, when all of these factors were kind of coming together in a perfect mix.
DTH: That’s really fortunate for you all. Do you have any tips for students who might be interested in filmmaking or documentary at all? What do you think benefited you most as an undergraduate?
BP: Honestly, I was helped the most by what I learned in pursuit of my English degree. You can learn filmmaking skills at any point, but to make documentary work you have to familiarize yourself with the people and the situations. I would say that as an undergraduate, you should pursue whatever it is you’re passionate about, because everything will come together in the end. It takes natural skill to do this work, but it’s also about really diving into the subject matter and feeling confident enough to tell those stories.
DTH: Where can students find the film?
BP: It’s accessible on iTunes for anyone who wants to see it, or the showing at the Silverspot is (tonight) at 7:30 p.m.