Archive of films Focus / Focus

2001, 106 min

Section: Official Selection - Competition
Year: 2002

An atmosphere of fear, demagogy and anti-Semitism has gripped 1940´s America. New York personnel clerk Lawrence Newman experiences this for himself: after marrying a girl who works for a Jewish firm, he has to decide whether to adopt a passive stance to the violence or stand up to it. The film is based on the novel by Arthur Miller.


Not even the USA could avoid anti-Semitism and racist attacks during the 1940s. Diffident New York personnel clerk Lawrence Newman (William H. Macy) discovers this for himself when he purchases a new pair of glasses and is mistaken for a Jew. Lawrence prefers to avoid conflict and so keeps to the sidelines when his neighbour and one-time friend Fred (Meat Loaf Aday) attacks a woman in the street one night. But violence assumes all kinds of guises and the atmosphere in the Brooklyn neighbourhood begins to thicken. A Jewish news-stand owner also becomes a target for the local racist inhabitants, and after Newman marries the attractive Gertrude (Laura Dern), who works for a Jewish firm, the violence turns on him. The man who has never harmed anyone but has also never stood up for anyone must make a decision: either he will continue to stick his head in the sand or he will face his aggressors.

About the director

Neal Slavin acquired his bachelor’s title in film studies (BFA) at Cooper Union. In 1968 he became one of the first Fulbright Fellows in the field of photography. In 1971 he completed photographs for his first book Lustrum Press’ Portugal, documenting life in Portugal. During the 1970s he became renowned both as a respected artist and a sought-after commercial photographer. He has worked for magazines such as Rolling Stone, New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair. In New York he also began working as a teacher at Manhattanville College, Queens College, the School of Visual Arts and Cooper Union. His work is exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Slavin was fascinated by the controversial novel by Arthur Miller Focus (1945, publ. in Czech in 1949) back in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until thirty years later that, with the help of his friend Michael Bloomberg, who acquired the film rights for the book, he returned to this subject matter.

About the film

Black & white, 35 mm

Section: Official Selection - Competition
Director: Neal Slavin
Screenplay: Kendrew Lascelles podle románeu/ based on the novel by Arthur Miller
Dir. of Photography: Juan Ruiz Anchía
Music: Mark Adler
Editor: Tariq Anwar
Producer: Neal Slavin, Michael Bloomberg
Production: Focus Productions
Cast: William H. Macy, Laura Dern, Meat Loaf Aday, David Paymer

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