Mark Webber appeared at the Prince Theater Saturday for the Philadelphia Film Festival screening of his fourth directorial project, ‘Flesh and Blood.’
Some families like to watch TV, eat dinner or take vacations together. Mark Webber’s family likes to make semi-autobiographical movies together.
Webber appeared at the Prince Theater on Saturday for the Philadelphia premiere of his film Flesh and Blood. In the film, he, his mother Cheri Honkala (yes, that Cheri Honkala, who ran for vice president with Jill Stein) and his little brother Guillermo Santos play versions of themselves reenacting various made-up or actual events in their lives.
What may sound like an indulgent vanity project on paper, isn’t. The family has many stories to tell, including their past struggle with homelessness, both Webber’s and Guillermo’s fathers struggling with health issues, Honkala’s activism and Guillermo’s diagnosis with Asperger syndrome, to name just a few.
The film does a beautiful job telling these stories. Webber’s direction, writing and acting transcend the material (check out the full review on page 20.)
Webber talked about his movie on the red carpet moments before the screening began.
You grew up in Philadelphia, so what does it mean to you to come back and direct a film in it?
It’s great, man. Philly has informed so much of my work as an artist. I love this city, and I always feel so happy to come back. To make a movie in North Philadelphia where I grew up, it’s incredible.
The movie has already screened at festivals across the country. Does it feel different to screen it in your hometown?
Yeah. There are so many people from the neighborhood, from the badlands, showing up. People who wouldn’t normally come to 16th and Chestnut and see an art house film, and they’re also in the film. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to have people who are in the movie be there in their town to be able to celebrate themselves and their work.
You wrote, directed and acted in the movie. Which would you say was the hardest of the three?
Directing my mom. She just wouldn’t listen to anything I said. She’s used to directing me, so suddenly the tables have turned. That was seriously the hardest thing. Even just trying to manage her here tonight continues to be the hardest thing about it [laughs].
But she’s incredible in the movie, and it’s a huge gift to me that my mom and my brother were willing to participate in making this piece of art with me.
So, what was your favorite of your three roles?
I just love making stuff, man. I love making films. I work with the same team; the same DP, the camera operators, the same editor, the same producers who are friends, so it’s really cool to make this collaborative piece of art together. Filmmaking in general is my passion. It’s a lot of fun.
Usually movies aren’t family projects quite like this. How did making this movie impact your family off the screen?
The movie is still pretty much happening in real life. The things we explore in this movie are steeped in reality and real-life relationships. It’s pretty trippy to sit and watch and know the story is continuing. My father actually is in the final stages of his life, and my brother’s father.
It’s a beautiful, reflective process when I sit and watch it. I think my mother and my brother have the same experience. They’re able to reflect on our lives, and that’s why I make movies. So people can relate to them and in turn feel a little more connected to the world.
Did it being semi-autobiographical make it easier or harder to film?
Way harder. I’ve been an actor for awhile, and it’s a lot easier to work as an actor in a traditional film setup. Using elements from your real life and real family members and people who aren’t actors is incredibly challenging on every level. But that’s what’s ultimately the most fulfilling and rewarding about the process, too. When you’re doing something different and unique and it works out, it’s even that much more fulfilling. ••
If you go…
The Philadelphia Film Festival continues through Oct. 29. For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit filmadelphia.org/festival.