Summer Sale! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
Movies
Entertainment Movies

'12 O'clock Boys' director is riding high

Lotfy Nathan spent some five years putting together his film about West Baltimore's dirt-bike culture. Now, with national acclaim for "12 O'clock Boys" promising to turn it into one of the year's breakout documentaries after a February premiere at the South by Southwest arts festival in Austin, Texas, he's happily basking in the acclaim.

"The reception in Austin was incredible," Nathan said last week from Toronto, where the film was being shown at the annual Hot Docs festival. "It was more than I could have asked for."

This week, a distribution deal with independent film distributors Oscilloscope Laboratories safely in hand, the Maryland Institute College of Art-educated Nathan is bringing his film home. "12 O'Clock Boys" will get its local premiere at this week's Maryland Film Festival, where it's already one of the hottest tickets.

The 75-minute documentary follows a young boy, Pug, as he tries to become a member of the dirt bike gang that gives Nathan's film its title. Undecided on whether these bikers are criminals, adventurers or just bored kids looking for something to do, "12 O'clock Boys" offers insight without judgment, noting repeatedly that actions have consequences, but leaving it up to the viewer to decide whether one totally counterbalances the other.

As he was preparing a return to Baltimore for the film's local premiere, we asked Nathan about nerves, what people are seeing in his film and how he thinks viewers in Baltimore will react to this depiction of their hometown.

What was opening night like? Were you nervous?

The first screening? Yes. I was most definitely nervous. We had a sales agent and a publicist telling you what kinds of people were in the audience, you have all sorts of members of the industry and press going to these screenings. But the response was great. It was a relief.

What do you think it is about the film that people are identifying with? Why are they embracing it?

There seem to be a few different appeals, and that's why you get quite a diverse crowd. There definitely are some who are just excited about the culture, which is similar to the skateboard culture — that sort of audience. Then you get the "Wire" audience. There also seems to be an audience that wants to engage in this dialogue about the seduction of criminality.

There is an audience that takes it as exciting and celebratory, and there is an audience that takes it with concern and sort of with dread — but at the same time finds it to be a compelling film.

So for some people it's exciting, for some people it's entertaining, for some people it's a cautionary tale?

Yes, I would say that some people say afterward, 'That was awesome,' those people who think it was really exciting. Then there are people who feel like it's really sad, and that the undertones are really grim.

What's your take?

I think it is a cautionary tale. Dirt-bikers are not as simple as just being a reaction [to the environment]. It's wrought with consequence and danger. I think the best that one can do, in trying to show this story, is to show why this kind of rebellion exists — to kind of broaden the understanding of that impulse. I don't think it necessarily answers any questions.

This is going to be your first time showing the film in Baltimore. What do you anticipate?

I anticipate a very divided audience. I think that you've got your most polarized audience in Baltimore, obviously. You've got the people who feel victimized by the group, and feel that they're a terror. Then you've got the riders themselves ... But that's not really the [intent] of the film, to have issues and politics involved. It's kind of beyond me, how this is going to go over in Baltimore.

Are you expecting any of the 12 O'clock Boys to show up?

Yes, I do expect many of the film's subjects to be there. I'm also imagining that some of the city administration would be there.

It could be a real interesting mix of an audience.

Right. I can only imagine what the Q-and-A will be like.

You've been working on this for five years?

Almost five years — four and a half years. The most concerted period was 2010-2012.

Is it turning out to be worth it?

Absolutely. It was a struggle, and it still is. The independent film effort is a difficult one, and the reward is in the reception, most of all.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

If you go

"12 O'clock Boys" will be screened twice at this week's Maryland Film Festival: 7 p.m. Friday at MICA's Brown Center, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave., and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St. Tickets are $10. Information: 410-752-8083 or mdfilmfest.com.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Catonsville resident co-produces Beatles film at Maryland Film Festival

    Catonsville resident co-produces Beatles film at Maryland Film Festival

    Beatles fans in the Baltimore area will have an opportunity to see the history of the Fab Four through an insider's eyes this week.

  • 'Grandma' review: Lily Tomlin shines in story of modern family

    'Grandma' review: Lily Tomlin shines in story of modern family

    We don't get to choose when or where we fall in love with a performer; sometimes it happens when they're doing Ingmar Bergman, and sometimes it's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In." Lily Tomlin joined the cast of that cherished relic of a sketch comedy TV show in 1970, and very quickly millions became...

  • Movie review: 'Transporter Refueled' is running on empty

    Movie review: 'Transporter Refueled' is running on empty

    "The Transporter Refueled" opens without any credits but its title. I think I know why. Being associated with the film was such a career-crippling embarrassment that the cast and crew wanted to withhold their identities until the end, at which point most of the audience would have walked out. Refueled?...

  • 'A Walk in the Woods' review: Mild men Redford, Nolte take a hike

    'A Walk in the Woods' review: Mild men Redford, Nolte take a hike

    In the wake of "Wild," in which Reese Witherspoon's version of Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and reckoned with her demons, we now have "Mild," better known as "A Walk in the Woods." It stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as travel writer Bill Bryson and his buddy, fictionalized by...

  • 'We Are Your Friends' review: A familiar tune

    'We Are Your Friends' review: A familiar tune

    "Are we ever gonna be better than this?" Cole Carter (Zac Efron) entreats his hyped, pulsating crowd. "We Are Your Friends," directed by Max Joseph, isn't quite sure of the answer to that question. But, as an audience, you wish that this promising, but generic film were better than this. "We Are...

  • 'Mistress America' review: An engaging New York story

    'Mistress America' review: An engaging New York story

    It's a 90-year-old song lyric, but Lorenz Hart's description of Manhattan (from the song "Manhattan") as a "wondrous toy" holds newfound allure for the bright young things — 21st century moderns — populating Noah Baumbach's latest chamber-screwball outing, "Mistress America."

Comments
Loading
88°