photos from Mrya's films

The Fairy Queen

Searching for Paradise

Girls Night Out

When You Are Old and Grey

Mix Trailer


Jerky Boys

XXXtasy: Two Days in
the Life of a Saint


L'Amour 2

Butch Patrol

Searching for Paradise
Summary | Cast and Crew | Festivals | Press | Awards | Stills

Gilda Mattei, just graduating from highschool, is infatuated with the sexy and enigmatic Hollywood movie star Michael De Santis. With her new video camcorder she documents her fascination with him, her internal world of dreams and fantasies, and her strained though loving relationship with her dying father. After her father dies, Gilda discovers evidence of his long affair with an Italian woman. Her crush on Michael De Santis takes an obsessive turn and she decides to go on a search to find him. Posing as an Italian journalist with the same name and persona as her father’s mistress, she succeeds in making it on to the film set where De Santis is shooting and to a private interview with him. She finds that De Santis is both exactly what she hoped for and nothing of the kind – just like her father.

Cast and Crew
Cast (in credits order)
Susan May Pratt: Gilda Mattei
Chris Noth: Michael De Santis
Jeremy Davies: Adam
John Pierson : Jim Johnson
Michele Placido: Giorgio Matte
Laila Robins: Barbara Mattei
Josef Sommer: Carl Greenslate
Mary Louise Wilson: Evelyn Greenslate

Produced by
Ruth Charny: producer
Janet Grillo: producer
Myra Paci: writer / director
Jonathan Shoemaker: co-producer

Original Music by
Carter Burwell

Cinematography by
Teodoro Maniaci

Film Editing by
Robin Lee
Beatrice Sisul

Casting by
Karen Meisels
Production Design by
Dina Goldman
Art Direction by
David Schlesinger
Costume Design by
Sarah J. Holden
Makeup Department
Susan Reilly LeHane: key makeup artist
Sanna Riley: assistant makeup artist

Production Management
Sophia Lin: production manager
Derek Yip: production manager: additional photography

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Michael Lerman: first assistant director

Art Department
Charlotte Newman: set dresser

Sound Department
Michael Axinn: supervising sound editor
Dan Ferat: production sound mixer
Fredrick Helm: adr recordist
Bruce Lacey: dialogue editor
Kent Sparling: sound re-recording mixer
Doug Winningham: assistant sound effects editor

Other crew
Dan Brillman: key production assistant
Anne Childers:production coordinator
Matthew Clark: gaffer
Sylvain D'Hautcourt: first assistant camera
Matthew Hale: best boy grip
Deidre Lally: best boy electric
Brian McKee: key grip
Alison Menorca: accounting assistant
Irwin M. Rappaport: production attorney
Dan Riley: legal assistant
Dwight Tudor: second assistant camera
Derek Yip: production accountant

• Festival du Cinema Americain Independent d'Agen, France
• Tiburon International Film Festival
• IFP West/Los Angeles Film Festival, Competition
• San Francisco International Film Festival
• Boston Film Festival, Competition
• Hamptons International Film Festival, Competition
• New Orleans Film Festival, Competition
• Austin Film Festival, Competition
• Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
• Milan International Film Festival, Competition
• Hawaii International Film Festival, Gala Presentation
• Newport Beach Film Festival
• Philadelphia Film Festival
• Southern Circuit Film Festival
• Rhode Island Intrnational Film Festival
• San Diego Film Festival

• Grand Prize - Best Feature Film, Festival du Cinema Americain Independent d'Agen, France
• Kodak Award for Cinematography, Hamptons International Film Festival
• Best Actress Award, Milan International Film Festival

- Janice Page
The Boston Globe
'Don't become too American,' a dying Italian immigrant father warns his teenage daughter. What he means to tell her, though she can't understand it just yet, is: Don't be so literal. Appreciate life's imperfections. Stop searching for paradise and start living as though you've found it.

Brookline native Myra Paci's Searching for Paradise is a deeply personal, somewhat autobiographical work exploring the poignant and sometimes bizarre journey of Gilda Matte, a teenager who can't begin to grieve until she abandons her idealized notions of love. To get there, she'll need to work through a Freudian fantasy that has her obsessing over a movie star to the point of stalking. If that sounds creepy, it's really not; the course she charts is far more sad than scary. Paci's sensitive, multi layered script is helped considerably by some first-rate performances. The little-known Susan May Pratt does a fearless star turn, making the many faces of Gilda natural and engaging. Chris Noth (Big from Sex and the City) makes a credible self-involved celebrity, and ultimately helps the girl discover how to live with loss and disappointment."

- Shawn Levy
The Oregonian
"In Searching for Paradise, writer-director Myra Paci has created a film of delicate emotions and techniques packed with enough muscle and freshness to compare favorably with such recent coming-of-age films as Tadpole and Igby Goes Down.

Susan May Pratt (Center Stage) gives a full-blooded performance as Gilda, a recent Michigan high school grad who loses her father (Michele Placido) and her bearings at around the same time. Unsure of her future plans, she spends her time mooning over a moody actor (Chris Noth) and brooding over the revelation that her dad wasn't as noble as the Dante poems he loved.

Gilda visits her grandparents in New York, ostensibly for Granddad's birthday but really to see if she can find the actor. She does, but only after a flirtation with a Ph.D. student (Jeremy Davies) and learning some hard truths. And, no surprise, meeting her movie star hero isn't exactly as she'd imagined.

Paci's touch is delicate and precise, sometimes floating off for poetic little reveries, sometimes cutting surgically to the most hurtful truths. The ambivalence of tone and content is nicely captured in Pratt's confident performance and her look: sometimes gorgeous and grown-up, sometimes anxious and juvenile. She makes Gilda's boldest adventures plausible, but a daddy's-little-girl aspect gives credibility to her insecurities.

The film has a sense of life lived and observed with care. It makes the future works of its writer-director and star worth looking forward to."

- Marjorie Baumgarten
Austin Chronicle
"Writer-director Myra Paci makes a strong feature filmmaking debut with this understated story about a recent college graduate who deals with her father's death by seeking out the movie star (Noth) with whom she has become obsessed. Armed with only her mini-DV cam, some vague aspirations of getting into filmmaking, and a burning anger caused by her post-mortem discovery of her father's extramarital affair, Gilda Mattei (Pratt) heads to New York to pursue her dreams. Confabulating impressions of her father and the movie star, Gilda adopts the identity of her father's mistress, meets her idol, and discovers that images are merely slippery shards of half-truths. Relative newcomer Pratt delivers a confident performance in this film bolstered by an array of good work."

- Nate Berne
Willamette Week
"Director Myra Paci crafts a structurally innovative film, told sometimes through her own lens and sometimes through Gilda's handheld camera...Pratt herself is shimmering and magnetic. The father-daughter tension is tensely sentimental, and a limo/hotel seduction sequence is both creepy and compelling."

- Katie Shimer
Portland Mercury
"A college-aged Audrey Tautou look-alike deals simultaneously with the death of her father and her downright obsession with an actor played by Chris Noth (the hottie who plays Big on Sex and the City). She buys a video camera to document her father's last days, and also to make tapes of herself to send to the actor. After her father kicks the bucket, she heads to New York for some downtime and then ends up chasing Chris Noth around, pretending to be a journalist. A sweet and surprisingly realistic depiction of young confusion that you can't help but love."

New York Magazine
"We like…Searching for Paradise, Myra Paci’s tale of a beautiful, depressed girl’s obsession with a vain insincere movie star (Chris Noth).”

- Brooke Holgerson
The Boston Phoenix
"Boston native Myra Paci’s film is two parts coming-of-age story and one part Hollywood satire…Chris Noth has great fun playing the self-involved, pretentious star, and Susan May Pratt is touching as a young woman confused and consumed by grief."

- Paul Malcolm
Los Angeles Film Festival
"Few films dare explore the emotional ties between father and daughter with the intimacy and intensity of writer-director Myra Paci’s powerful debut feature.The searing gaze of Paci’s camera never flinches as the aching, vulnerable Gilda opens herself to waves of humiliation and grief. Paci and her razor sharp cast work without a safety net in a frank, uncompromising film about a dreamer who crashes head long into life’s harsher truths."

- C.R.
Citylink/Fort Lauderdale
"Compelling performances and a quirky, true-to-life script distinguish this unusual take on coping with grief and coming of age. When a teenage girl’s beloved father dies, she becomes obsessed with a movie star, played with blasé charm by Noth (Mr. Big on HBO’s Sex and the City). As the besotted Gilda, Pratt is the picture of misdirected passion and youthful awkwardness when she connives to meet Mr. Not-So-Wonderful on a movie set. This is a bracingly original film that offers no easy answer."

Donatella Massara
Donne e Conoscenza Storica
"Fra quelli che ho visto il più bello e interessante è decisamente Searching for Paradise. La regista Myra Paci - bostoniana di nascita - insegna sceneggiatura alla S.Francisco University. E' stata membro del Sundance Institute Directors Lab con il suo primo film - Searching for Paradise, uscito nel giugno 2002 in prima visione al Los Angeles Festival.
Myra Paci ha detto che il suo film è semiautobiografico. E' un cast tagliente interprete del film, come è stato detto; un incastro di attori celebri più che attrici e altre e altri meno famosi collocati esattamente nel posto giusto; come Chris Noth che nel film interpreta il doppio di se stesso al cinema.

La protagonista è una giovane italo americana figlia di un italiano - interprete Michele Placido. Searching for Paradise è un film d'autrice; si avvale di una sceneggiatura attenta, coinvolgente e una ricerca di immagini e interpreti che senza mai esagerare contiene il racconto e rimane impressa nelle spettatrici. E' un film che sollecita una identificazione femminile profonda, allusiva e leggera.

La protagonista è Gilda, porta il nome della figlia di Rigoletto, figlia di un italiano, appartiene per parte di madre alle classi superiori, i nonni sono ricchi intellettuali e vivono a New York. La madre ha fatto un matrimonio romantico. Il padre lo vediamo nei ricordi di Gilda non vecchio però malato e alla fine della sua esistenza. Il padre e la figlia si vogliono molto bene, la ragazza è curiosa, dolce e intelligente; è appena uscita dal Vassar College. Dopo la morte del padre scopre una lettera e si accorge che il padre in Italia aveva una relazione con una giornalista dell'Espresso. La rivelazione della quale la madre era al corrente la sconvolge. Inizia la seconda parte del film quando Gilda decide di mettersi in viaggio dopo un periodo di ospitalità a casa dei nonni. La sua meta è il cinema, vuole diventare assistente producer. Va in Virginia sul set del film dove sta recitando il suo 'grande amore' un attore italo americano, l'interprete è Chris Noth. L'attore che ha girato la celebre serie televisiva di Sex in the city, nel film rirappresenta il suo personaggio di uomo più sexy degli States. Gilda, compagna la sua videocamera, si presenta sul set del film e gli chiede un'intervista facendosi passare per Paola l'amante italiana del padre. L'attore dopo un di battute scopre l'inganno e la invita nella sua stanza. Dopo due tiri di spinello Gilda, fuori di sé, si infuria contro Michael. La ragazza alla fine ritorna a casa e riscopre con la madre tutto il grande dolore della perdita del padre, chiunque sia stato.

Il film è molto bello e innovativo e riesce anche a descrivere una figura di giovane donna complessa e semplice nello stesso tempo, i dialoghi sono reali e mai banali. Le frasi rincorrono le fantasie di Gilda, nei panni di questa donna inaspettata, costretta a pensare a un padre diverso mentre sta soffrendo per la sua perdita. Si mescolano così in lei odio, insofferenza, rabbia, dolore il dialogo muto con il padre che - lei dice - è come tutte le persone morte: intorno a noi, non separate dalla vita. Anche gli altri interpreti sono tratteggiati o con complice simpatia o con indifferenza, ogni donna e ogni uomo però ha le sue affezioni fino al 'divo fuori dallo schermo' umano e affamato assai più che sexy."

Translated Review of Searching for Paradise.
Competition Film at the Milan International Film Festival
"Among the [films] that I saw [at the festival], the most beautiful and the most interesting was without a doubt Searching for Paradise. The director Myra Paci, born in Boston, teaches screenwriting at San Francisco State University and was a fellow at the Sundance Institute Writing and Directing Labs with this, her first, feature film.

The cast is a group of well-known, and less well-known, actors who are brought together in just the right place and time; like Chris Noth, known for his work on the celebrated American television series Sex and the City, who more or less acts the part of himself, one of the sexiest men in the U.S. The protagonist is a young Italian-American girl, daughter of an Italian played by Michele Placido.

Searching for Paradise is an auteur’s film; it uses a well-crafted, emotionally involving screenplay as well as images and actors that without ever exaggerating both carry the storyline and impress themselves upon the spectator. It’s a film that elicits a profound, yet not heavy-handed, sense of identification from the audience.

It is a beautiful, innovative film which succeeds in portraying a young woman who is both complex and simple at the same time. The dialogue is real and never banal and skillfully builds the world of Gilda’s fantasy life. Here we have a girl, Gilda, dressed up in the guise of this unexpected mistress figure, obliged to think of her father in a new and different light as simultaneously she’s mourning his loss. Thus hate, rage, pain, and intolerance for his and others’ foibles are all mixed up together in a silent dialogue with her father. All the characters are treated with complexity and sympathy, even the “male diva on the big screen” – Chris Noth’s character – who is shown to be not just a distant icon for her adoration but to be human, with decidedly human appetites."

Donatella Massara
Donne e Conoscenza Storica
November 2002


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