Goodbye Solo

[I’m literally 11 months behind on posting movie reviews. “Luckily” I haven’t seen many movies, but I still need to get a bunch posted before Cinequest starts…]

Goodbye Solo is a very small film. William (Red West) is an old man who wants a taxi ride to Blowing Rock National Park in a couple of weeks. Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) is a Senegalese taxi driver who William asks to take him on that ride. William is private and doesn’t want to talk much, while Solo can’t stop talking. Both actors are excellent, seeming like real people. The film reminded me a bit of Wendy and Lucy, and I’ll give it a strong out of .

I saw this at the Camera Cinema Club in Campbell, CA on 3/15/2009. The star (Solo) was at the screening to answer questions (there may be spoilers below):

  • This was his first film
  • He was once a flight attendant
  • He is from the Ivory Coast, and his mother was from Senegal
  • He came to the U.S. in 2000
  • He was a model, but also a dog walker, waiter etc. in New York
  • He lived in Los Angeles for a couple of years
  • He couldn’t drive when he auditioned, and everyone stayed clear of the cab when he was driving
  • He went to Winston-Salem for long enough to pick up the pace, the speech, and so on
  • That mountain is amazing–if you have a chance, see it
  • He heard that the director of Man Push Cart was looking for someone, and it took 7 months for Solo to get the part–the director didn’t have much money, so he needed to be sure–during this time Solo auditioned maybe 15 times, including when he moved to Los Angeles
  • A lot of it was shot at night, often in the cab, so there were many shadows
  • Because of lots of night shooting and not sleeping well during the day, Solo drank a lot of Red Bull
  • He learned a lot from Red West (William)
  • Red West appeared in a bunch of Elvis films
  • In Solo’s culture, with an oral tradition, they say that an elderly person who dies is like a library burning, so learning as much from him as possible was natural
  • There is no significance to the date 10/20 that he knows of, other than the autumn colors
  • The film was dedicated to a woman who died of cancer in 2008, and was very helpful and nice
  • There was lots of work in the rehearsal process, taped on video, with lots of room for improvisation–but there was almost no such freedom once shooting started
  • The dispatcher was named Peaches, and was a real dispatcher
  • He will be in a play in New York about apartheid in South Africa [or maybe this is already past by now]
  • The opening scene starts in the middle of a conversation in the cab, and was scripted that way
  • It is kind of a coming of age film, since the decision to let go of William was a key moment for Solo’s growth

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