SF Chronicle Lifestyle // Living: Big Screen
by Catherine Bigelow/SF Chronicle
Big screen: While author-filmmaker and sauve dresser Robert Mailer Anderson awaits news of a distributor for “Windows on the World,” his latest indie feature is already attracting big buzz, and awards, on the festival circuit.
At its world premiere in March at the Sedona International Film Festival in Arizona, “Windows” won Best Humanitarian Film (Narrative Feature). The Method Fest in Beverly Hills conferred Anderson and his cousin, co-writer Zack Anderson, with Best Screenplay. “Windows” also earned Best Narrative Feature from Los Angeles Film Awards, while actor Ryan Guzman nabbed Best Feature Actor; co-star Edward James Olmos won Best Supporting Actor, and his son, Michael D. Olmos, received Honorable Mention: Best Director.
The heartfelt, and surprising, film tells the story of a father who leaves his family behind in Mexico to make money in the United States as an undocumented kitchen worker in Windows on the World, the restaurant that crowned one of the World Trade Center towers. When 9/11 strikes and the family has no news, one of his sons makes the daunting trek to Manhattan to find his father.
Anderson began working on the film shortly after 9/11, which, like everyone, affected him deeply. He was devastated by the New York Times coverage, including a photo essay of people around the world faithfully holding portraits of their loved ones — hoping they’d escaped the building.
Last month “Windows” drew full houses of friends, family and fans at the Vogue Theater where Anderson hosted two screenings co-presented by SFJazz and SFFilm.
“Zack and I try to express that sense of immigration and labor by people who are unseen. There were definitely some dark hours shooting this,” Anderson shared with the audience. “We’re doing a 9/11 film in funeral halls. Not the brightest of places.”
But he was buoyed by his SFJazz Collective pals, including pianist Edward Simon, who composed music when Anderson had written his own tune (and a very fine one, too) for “Windows” after blowing their budget on licensing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
“I was born in San Francisco. And this theater is like a second home where Zack and I cut our writing teeth,” said Anderson, with a joking reference to “Pig Hunt,” his inaugural cinematic effort. “This isn’t a spoiler alert. But for those who know that film, this one does not involve any large animatronic pigs.”