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“He was of German and Irish bloods. His name was Lester Ballard, a child of god. Much like yourself perhaps.”
These are the enigmatic words that play across the face of Scott Haze, the sneering lead of the James Franco-directed Child of God. Based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, Child of God centers on Ballard’s life as a vicious young outsider in 1960s Tennessee. Without family or friends to tie him to society and its suggested order, Ballard grows isolated and depraved, devolving into an actual cave dweller. His journey of self-destruction involves loneliness, murder and necrophilia. But it you’re familiar with McCarthy’s work, you might expect nothing less.
However, it might surprise you to learn that Franco has directed twelve feature films of which Child of God is the tenth. It surprised me. Apparently right after he starred in Spider-Man 2, Franco tried his hand at helming by adapting a play he wrote into a little known comedy called Fool’s Gold. Though he’s proven prolific in a short time—creating the Hart Crane biopic The Broken Tower, his self-centered doc Francophrenia (Or Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is), and the Sundance Film Festival selected sex drama Interior. Leather Bar.--his directorial efforts have consistently taken a backseat to his more mainstream acting gigs like Alien in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers or the titular magician of Oz the Great and Powerful. But Child of God could prove Franco’s breakthrough as a director, as it’s already got a streak of illustrious exhibitions laid out.
The film, which features a cast that includes Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack, Jeremy Ambler, Fallon Goodson, Vince Jolivette, and Franco himself, will make its world premiere this Saturday at the 70th annual Venice Film Festival. A few days after that, Child of God will follow up one prestigious international fest with another, making its North America debut at TIFF. And few weeks after that, it will screen to the audiences in the US at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 51st New York Film Festival. It’s unknown when Franco’s film will make it to theaters, but its reception at these festivals will be telling on that front. In the meantime, take a look at what he has in store by perusing the promo pics he has released to festivals.