To Dust

Centerpiece Narrative


Shmuel, a Hasidic cantor played by Géza Röhrig (Son of Saul) walks into a community college bio class taught by Albert (Matthew Broderick) to learn about death. If you guessed this was the setup to a blasphemous joke, you’d be halfway there. What you might not expect is how assuredly this absurdist premise holds up as it shifts in tone from pitch-black comedy to odd-couple zaniness to heartfelt poignancy. Struggling to process his wife’s death, Shmuel becomes fixated on understanding the process of her interred body’s material decay and decomposition. What will her body look like after seven days in the ground? How can he be sure of the successful passage of her soul without understanding her body’s progress?

Albert is only slightly better equipped to explain the complicated concepts involved. What follows are illicit dives into anatomy textbooks, outlandish homemade experiments, a road trip to a body farm and the ever-lurking prospect of dybbuk possession. Röhrig (an observant Orthodox Jew who has worked as a real corpse-washer and shomer for Jewish burials for more than 10 years) and Broderick are an unholy match made in deadpan heaven as they embark on this increasingly literal journey into the underground, one shovelful of dirt at a time.  —Tien-Tien L. Jong

Winner, Audience Award, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
Winner, Best New Narrative Director, 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

Director Shawn Snyder and actor Géza Röhrig in attendance in San Francisco
Invited guest: Matthew Broderick

Shawn Snyder grew up in South Florida. After receiving a BA in Religion from Harvard, he spent most of his twenties on the road as a singer/songwriter. The last six years have seen a return to Shawn's long-standing passion for filmmaking, and he's recently completed studies at NYU's Graduate Film Program. His short film,Festus, won the 2014 CINE Golden Eagle Award for Best Student Drama. His last short, Lulu, premiered at the Palm Springs International ShortFest in 2015. To Dust was a part of IFP's 2015 Emerging Storytellers, the recipient of the Tribeca Film Institute's 2016 Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize, and a part of the NYU Production Lab's inaugural slate. Additionally, Shawn is a former IFP/Marcie Bloom Fellow, a current Sundance Institute Feature Film Fellow, and was named one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" in 2016. He received the award for Best New Narrative Director for To Dust at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

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Storyland Pictures, Scott Lochmus: