NEW YORK — Heaven Knows What, a new film by directors Joshua and Benny Safdie, recently made its US premiere at the New York Film Festival. The feature is an uncompromising portrayal of heroin addicts in New York City, and is based on the unpublished memoir of star Arielle Holmes.
Heaven Knows What also stars Caleb Landry Jones. In preparation for a festival run, the Safdie brothers collaborated with Nice Shoes’ (www.niceshoes.com) colorist Sal Malfitano, who helped define the film’s final, gritty look. Malfitano established a quick rapport with the filmmakers, and decided on a hazy, low-contrast approach, while also balancing footage shot on several different cameras. He sought to unify the footage, story and look of the finished film, as well as to augment the aesthetic captured by cinematographer Sean Price Williams.
“Joshua and Benny, along with Sean, had a very conscious strategy about the look of the film,” Malfitano recalls. “There is no true black in any of the film, which reflects the world these characters inhabit. It’s very real without feeling like a documentary. They brought a very philosophical methodology to color grading.”
“Sal did a great job persevering through the endless iterations that it took to get this look,” notes the film’s producer, Sebastian Bear-McClard. “We had this clouded, milky haze over the picture that spoke to all of us and Sal did a great job pulling the detail out without compromising that milky disposition.”
Throughout the film’s festival run in Venice and Toronto, the Safdies continued to work with Malfitano to adjust and perfect the color for its New York debut.
“I loved this film from the first time I saw it,” says Malfitano. “Heaven Knows What is definitely born of a passion for filmmaking. It reminded me of the cinema of the 70s. There’s a great story, its raw, both emotionally and aesthetically. I think that’s what critics and audiences are most attracted to, and it’s the type of project that I’m drawn to as an artist.”
Malfitano performed color grading on the studio’s Baselight system.