Announcing the Release of My New Movie, “Autumn Lights”!

I’ve been sitting on this secret for awhile. Finally, thanks to this Deadline article, I can announce the release of my new film, Autumn Lights:

Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to U.S.-Icelandic co-production, Autumn Lights. The mystery drama will go out in a limited theatrical release on October 21 with a day-and-date VOD debut.

Autumn Lights is the story of an American photojournalist who uncovers mysterious secrets in rural Iceland. When he inadvertently becomes implicated in a crime scene, he sets out to investigate the landscape, where he meets an enigmatic married couple and becomes entangled in their seductive life.

The story was written and directed by the talented young filmmaker Angad Aulakh. It stars American up-and-comer Guy Kent in the lead role, alongside the Italian actress Marta Gastini, who rose to fame in The Rite with Anthony Hopkins and the three seasons of Borgia. Aulakh has written characters that are both philosophical and personal, and the actors have preserved their complexity by bringing restraint to the roles. Kent’s brooding loneliness and Gastini’s fickle flirtatiousness are perfect matches for an Icelandic wilderness that is simultaneously austere and transcendent. They respect the subtext. The viewer can only imagine the depth of feeling that boils beneath the surface.

It has been said of Spielberg and Kubrick that the one thing that unites their seemingly divergent styles is that they always know exactly what they want on set, and they get it. Working with Aulakh feels similar. He is a deeply reflective auteur, and he has a clear vision that never wavers throughout the film. It is an immersion in loss, both in the sense of losing someone and in the sense of being lost. It asks us to contemplate what loss really means, and whether it is possible in these moments of unhappiness to find, almost mystically, great beauty.

As you can tell from the trailer, the cinematography is magnificent. It is a triumph of classical style by Árni Filippusson. The film is a tribute to the beauty of the Icelandic countryside, as well as the underrated talent of Icelandic filmmakers like Filippusson. The cast is filled with some of Iceland’s best actors and actresses, who are long overdue for this spotlight on the world stage. Tucked away on this island that they call home are some of the best-kept secrets working in drama today.

I’ve been working on this film as Executive Producer for several years. I have watched Aulakh and Kent pour their passion and precision onto the screen, and the result is exquisite poetry. I hope you watch it, and I hope you enjoy the experience half as much as we enjoyed making it.

Wall Street’s Rap Sheet Tells a Harrowing Story

There’s a serial killer on the loose.

This heartless criminal is slaughtering nations left and right.

For two decades, it’s been feasting on unsuspecting governments.

With each victim, its power grows.

And now, it’s at our front door.

The first reported crime occurred in 1982. That was the year when Mexico defaulted on its debt. For over two decades, Mexico and its Latin American neighbors had been borrowing money from American banks to finance their growing economies. The 1960s was a good time to be a finance minister south of the Rio Grande. Governments were flush with cash from the economic boom, largely financed by loans. When inflation drove U.S. interest rates into the double digits, Latin American governments found themselves with whopping interest payments. By the 1980s, they simply stopped paying the bills. Lenders fled, and a massive financial crisis swept through the region.

But interest rates eventually came back down, and the lenders returned. Again banks like Goldman Sachs lent money to the Mexican government, and again investors panicked. In 1994, another financial crisis struck Mexico and — in a so-called “tequila effect” — spread to Brazil. This time, the American government stepped in. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who used to be the Co-Chairman of Goldman Sachs, engineered a $20 billion bailout that saved his old firm’s ass.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the “East Asian miracle” was lapping up the money that was spilling out of Latin America. Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan — the “Four Asian Tigers,” they were called — were industrializing faster than any country ever before, and Wall Street was more than happy to slake their thirst for investment funds with the cool liquid of debt. Until, of course, the bubble burst. In 1997, it became clear that investors had been too optimistic and asset prices had gone too high, especially in real estate. Lenders ran for the exits, and the local economies took a bloodbath.

When the “East Asian miracle” turned into the “East Asian crisis,” investors started to question all their foreign holdings, especially the loans they made to the Russian government. Just to be safe, they fled Russia too, leaving the Kremlin no choice but to default on much of its debt. The shockwave rippled all the way to Wall Street, where the mammoth hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management nearly crumbled from a bet gone bad. Their bankruptcy probably would have brought down the global economy, had the big American banks not stepped in and bailed them out.

These titans of Wall Street were hardly daunted by this near-death experience. First, they plowed their money into the American stock market and then, when that tanked at the turn of the century, into the American housing market. This too fell, and with it, the global economy.

But that was not all they bet their chips on. Led by Goldman Sachs yet again, the American banks spread their money across Europe — trading with hedge funds in Iceland, buying up mortgages in Spain, and yes, funding a widening budget deficit in Greece. When the bubbles burst, tax revenues plummeted, and governments started running out of money. Without central banks to buy their bonds, several countries ran the risk of defaulting on their debt. But the powers-that-be didn’t want that. They wanted the big banks to be repaid. So they took it out on the workers, slashing government spending and making the recession worse.

Only one culprit has been present at all of these crime scenes. It doesn’t take a detective to see that Wall Street has been duping naïve borrowers into excess debt time and time again, only to get away with it and strike again in a new location. In fact, after each conquest, the American banks found themselves bigger and more powerful, systematically demolishing the regulations that had prevented them from such predatory behavior since the 1930s.

In recent years, we have developed an unhealthy habit of blaming the borrower, but there are two parties in every financial contract — and the lender is almost always the more experienced, more sophisticated, and more powerful of the two.

For far too many years, we have allowed our banks to run roughshod over the world. And now, while our nation grinds through high unemployment and Europe suffers through worse, the Republicans have the inexplicable gall to nominate a Wall Street tycoon as their presidential candidate. To these thugs, I say: Leave us alone. Haunt us no more. Haven’t you done enough?


This op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.