David Greenspan, a native of Roslyn Heights and a 1990 graduate of Roslyn High School, recently won the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival, held at the famous resort town on the French Riviera.
Mr. Greenspan won the award for his film, Bean Cake, which was also his thesis film for his master of arts degree in television and cinema from the University of Southern California.
Bean Cake is a short film with the action taking place in Japan and English subtitles being provided for the viewer. It is set in the 1930s and is based on an old Japanese folk story about a boy who travels from his home in the country to the big city. The young boy attends a strange new school, where he is already uneasy due to the fact that he has not received his formal school uniform to wear in class. Instead, he wears his traditional rural Japanese clothing.
On the first day of school, all Japanese school children are asked: "What is most important to you in this world?" Being the 1930s, the students are expected to answer, "The Emperor." However, the film's young protagonist, not wise to the ways of the world, answers, when it is his turn, "bean cake," further explaining that his mother makes the best bean cake in the world.
For this, the youngster is expelled from class and forced to sit in the hall, while his fellow students have a few laughs at his expense. He is stuck in the hall for hours, until he finally receives some comfort from a young girl who gives him a pillow to rest on. Soon, the boy's mother comes to school to talk to the teacher. She is told that her son is insolent and disrespectful. However, the teacher gives the boy another chance, asking him, once again, what is most important to you in the world? This time, the boy, with encouragement from his young friend, correctly answers the question. The film ends with the young boy and his new girlfriend enjoying some bean cake at his mother's house. The girl teases him by asking what is more important to him, herself or the bean cake?
Mr. Greenspan wrote and directed the film, and also supervised the cinematography. In addition, he had an original music score written for the production.
"This is the best day of my life," Mr. Greenspan said while accepting the award. He said the film was inspired by the example of Japanese cinema. While at Harvard, Mr. Greenspan spent a year in Japan, where he both learned the language and studied the particulars of Japanese film. At Cannes, Mr. Greenspan said he was trying to emulate certain Japanese directors while in the course of writing and directing his own movie. "I was hoping that you might believe it was a Japanese film from the 1930s or '40s," he told the media.
After graduating from Roslyn High School, Mr. Greenspan attended and graduated from Harvard University. He then enrolled in the graduate school program at USC. Mr. Greenspan currently lives in Los Angeles, where he continues to work on new material.
At Cannes, the Italian film, La Stanza del Figlio won the Palme d'Or award for best film of the year. Two American filmmakers, Joel Coen for The Man Who Wasn't There and David Lynch for Mulholland Drive, shared the Best Director prize. A Canadian, Zacharias Kunuk, won The Camera d'Or for producing the best first film.