Movie Reviews

Jazzy Director & Stars Discuss Reuniting With Lily Gladstone For The Unknown Country's Spiritual Sequel

Summary

  • Jazzy
    explores childhood innocence and friendship through the eyes of a young girl whose world is changing in significant ways.
  • Director Morrisa Maltz shares the inspiration behind the movie and why she brought back Lily Gladstone after working together on
    The Unknown Country
    .
  • Jazzy
    stands out by telling the story from the kids’ viewpoint, with adults taking a supporting role in the narrative.



Jazzy, which premiered at 2024’s Tribeca Film Festival, follows the titular young girl from age 6 to 12 as she and her best friend Syriah navigate the highs and lows of childhood. While their curiosity and innocence are at the heart of the story, the realities of the world come crashing down around Jazzy (Jasmine Bearkiller Shangreaux) when she learns that Syriah (Syriah Fool Head Means) is moving away. Jazzy must confront the heartbreak of possibly losing her friend and how their relationship will change as they grow up.

Jazzy is a poignant (albeit loose) follow-up to The Unknown Country, which featured Killers of the Flower Moon star Lily Gladstone as Tana, a grieving woman on a Midwestern road trip. Filmmaker Morrisa Maltz made the conscious decision to switch perspectives for Jazzy, though Gladstone still reprises her role alongside Quantum Leap‘s Raymond Lee. They are two of the few adults ever seen on screen, as the movie is meant to highlight the world through a child’s eyes. Maltz also reunited the team from The Unknown Country, including screenwriter Lainey Bearkiller Shangreaux.


Related

What Happened To Mollie Burkhart After Killers Of The Flower Moon

After the tragic events depicted in Killers of the Flower Moon tore apart her Osage family, Mollie Burkhart remarried and stayed in Oklahoma.

While at Tribeca Film Festival, Screen Rant interviewed Jazzy director Morrisa Maltz and the young stars Jasmine Bearkiller Shangreaux and Syriah Fool Head Means about the years-long development process for the film. Maltz discussed reuniting with Gladstone after The Unknown Country, her approach to focusing on the kids’ stories, and what inspired her to make Jazzy.


Jazzy Director Reveals How An Early Cut Of Unknown Country Inspired The New Sequel

Jazzy


While Maltz didn’t initially plan to make a sequel to The Unknown Country, focused on Jazzy, her interest in this young girl’s journey shined through in an early cut of the first movie. This inspired her to tell Jazzy’s story and explore life through her younger perspective.

Morrisa Maltz: Really early on in making The Unknown Country, I probably had a cut that was four to six hours long that I had a friend watch. I remember her saying at some point, “Wait, who’s that little girl? I think you just want to make a movie about her.”

That was clearly because I met Jazzy when she was five, and I’m an only child, so I have very little family. I don’t have nieces and nephews; I don’t have kids yet, so watching Jazzy grow has been the closest child in my life. It was just a natural progression where we had a lot of footage from The Unknown Country of her when she was little, and then she loved doing the movie. Lainey also loved doing the movie, so it kind of was organic, like, “Wait, why don’t we just start making a Jazzy movie and see if it works?” I forget when we started officially, but we had that footage and started maybe officially trying out Jazzy in 2020, which was right after we wrapped The Unknown Country. So, it’s been a while.


Jazzy, you get to be a storyteller in this. They’re your stories that are being crafted. What’s that experience like for you in getting to work alongside your godmother?

Jasmine Bearkiller Shangreaux: It was really fun, and I really enjoyed acting. It was different since instead of The Unknown Country where I was in it a little bit, but the Jazzy movie, I was in it a lot more. So it was a little more hard work, but otherwise I had fun working with Morrisa, and we did a bunch of fun activities around Spearfish and the reservation.

Syriah, this was your film debut. What was the most challenging aspect of it for you?

Syriah Fool Head Means: The scene where we were fighting and I was supposed to be mad at her was the hardest part because we had to film it over and over again.


Jazzy Director On Reuniting With Lily Gladstone

Lily Gladstone in Jazzy Tribeca Film Festival 2024

Gladstone returns in Jazzy, despite a very busy few years that includes Hulu’s Under The Bridge, but she is no longer at the heart of the story. Maltz explained why she wanted to bring Gladstone back reuniting their “cinematic family” and continue to explore this world that she first created with Gladstone in The Unknown Country.

Morrisa Maltz: It’s amazing. Out of The Unknown Country, we really built, I guess what you would call a cinematic family, in some ways. Making that film was very difficult, but it was absolutely amazing and we all really bonded over that. So the idea that we could all come back and just continue our little world was just lovely. There’s nothing else that I can really say other than how amazing it is to be able to also just have these collaborators that believe in what we’re doing, believing in what they’re doing . It’s really what you dream of when you’re wanting to make things.


How about for you, Jazzy? Lily is the one adult we really get to see you with on screen. What’s that bonding experience like?

Jasmine Bearkiller Shangreaux: She’s a really kind person, not in movies, but once you meet her, she’s really nice. Also it was really fun because I had a fun time bonding with her in the movie, and she’s really good at acting. So if I’m acting again or something like that, I was like, Hmm, I need advice. I could just go up to Lily and say, Hey Lily, I need advice. I know she’s in a few other famous movies, and so she has a lot of experience. So I think my relationship with Lily is really good, so I can always look up to her if I ever need to.

How about for you, Syriah? Are you excited to try acting again?

Syriah Fool Head Means: Yeah, I’d like to do it again, but I’m also really good at taking photos.


Jazzy Director Explains Why Adults Aren’t A Prominent Part Of The Movie

Jazzy

It is notable that Jazzy stands out in part because this is not just a story about kids, but it is told from their perspective. Adults are not prominently featured in their story, with Jazzy and Syriah instead focusing on their world as they see it. Maltz broke down what inspired this decicions and how it came about surprisingly organically.

Morrisa Maltz: At some point, I think, I forget when the decision happened, but at some point we realized that if we actually told the story and left out actually physically seeing adults, that we would really be focused in on the kids’ world in a way that would make them feel like adults and make what they were going through feel really heightened.

We didn’t set out to make that [choice], but at some point in the process we were like, Oh wait, that might work. And so then we really took time to cultivate. When we do see adults, what would those shots be like? What would happen? What moment is that? When is that an important moment? When do you start as a kid, paying attention to adults in that way?


The funeral sequence is really when everything comes together. We have a reunion with the friends. We have all the family members gathered. We see traditions take place. What was that experience like? What are your favorite memories from filming that?

Jasmine Bearkiller Shangreaux: My favorite memories was just overall, probably when we were going around when we stole the fried bread and just ran away. That was really fun and also funny since we all laughed and enjoyed it. That was also my favorite scene because of the fried bread. It was good.

Syriah Fool Head Means: My favorite part was when we were all just spending time together and bonding behind the scenes.

Morrisa, when you sat down and knew that Jazzy was happening what was the thing that you really wanted to stand out most?


Morrisa Maltz: Jazzy. I think as I am getting to know myself a bit better with each project as a filmmaker, I’ve never been super attracted to a tight narrative story, but I am attracted to telling stories through emotions and making that a centerpiece of having a lot of feeling throughout a film. And so really exploring what the kids were feeling and what they were going through and giving that a lot of weight was what I was interested in most.

About Jazzy

Jazzy navigates the space between childhood and young adulthood. When her best friend moves away, Jazzy experiences both a sense of loss and her first inkling of independence.

Jazzy premiered at Tribeca Film Festival on June 9 and is currently seeking distribution.


Back to top button