Feature film Heaven Knows What, directed by Joshua and Benny Safdie, is an uncompromising portrayal of heroin addicts in New York City, based on the unpublished memoir of star Arielle Holmes. The film, which also stars Caleb Landry Jones, screened at the Venice Film Festival, Toronto International, Vancouver International, and just made its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival to critical acclaim. As the Safdie brothers prepared for the film’s festival run, they collaborated with Nice Shoes colorist Sal Malfitano to create the film’s final, gritty look. Heaven Knows What screens at the Tokyo International Film Festival October 26, 28 and 30th, and was recently picked up by TWC RADiUS for release in the second quarter of 2015.
Colorist Sal Malfitano established a quick rapport with the filmmakers, deciding on a hazy and low contrast approach, while also balancing footage shot on several cameras. He sought to unify the footage, story and look of the finished film, as well as to augment the aesthetic that the directors had captured with their cinematographer, Sean Price Williams.
“Joshua and Benny, along with Sean, had a very conscious strategy about the look of the film,” said Malfitano. “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,” said 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 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. Heaven Knows What is definitely born of a passion for filmmaking. It reminded me of the cinema of the 70s,” added Malfitano. “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.”