The Filmmaker

Naftali Beane Rutter is a writer, director and editor. His newest music video is a dance epic for UNDERWEAR, by Peck the Town Crier. His short film credits include The Trial of Shahawar Matin Siraj, an examination of the case of a young Pakistani man who was convicted of conspiring to bomb the Herald Square subway station in downtown Manhattan, and Your Neighbor's Steps, about two young guys from Brooklyn who decided to make two magical portals connecting Brooklyn and New Orleans. Both of these films were broadcast on national television, and have been screened at festivals, galleries, and museums across the United States. Naftali has collaborated on a wide range of projects, working as an editor, producer and cinematographer on feature films, commercials and series for PBS/NOVA, the Wall Street Journal, and TruTV. He is currently writing a narrative feature, a ghost story about a journalist's encounter with a whale. TODAY is his first feature documentary.


I first walked amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Fall of 2006, when I was working as a cinematographer in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.  Bay St. Louis is a summer vacation spot right on the Gulf of Mexico, and it was still completely decimated when I arrived. 

On my last day of the shoot in Bay St. Louis, I was wandering around the wreckage taking still photographs.  Walking through abandoned houses and splintered trees, having never been to an area in the aftermath of a war, I got the feeling that this was probably quite similar to what a place looks like after it's been bombed. 

I came upon a light blue house that looked like it had been split in two by a giant's foot, but the front porch was still in one piece. From the yard, I saw right next to the front door a big pile of something that looked like papers.

After I stepped onto the porch, I realized that this pile of papers was actually many many envelopes full of photographs. I knelt down, and began to look through the envelopes, discovering ordinary pictures of everyday life--- children in the back of a pickup truck, a young mother holding a baby.  What first struck me about these pictures was that bright colors of mold--- in reds and purples and yellows-- had grown around their outer regions, creating a natural picture frame that was sublimely beautiful.  These moldy frames laced the life within them with a surreal kind of magic and they imbued the details-- the expression on the woman's face as she held the baby, the reflection of a white cat in a black lamp--- with a divine significance.

This transcendence of everyday life to something beyond the ordinary, amidst the context of destruction, made me remember the days after September 11th, which I had experienced first hand at the end of a summer in New York City.

In those strange grey days in Manhattan, when we were all trying to find our way back through the shock, the most comforting parts of the day were the small vital things--- eating meals, walking together, brushing our teeth, doing laundry.  These were the moments in which we rediscovered the rhythms of our laughter and our lives.

So after kneeling on a light blue porch in Mississippi that had been stomped on by a giant hurricane, I decided to go to New Orleans to find three families, and make a movie about the vital moments to which we must return in order to recover from the smallest and greatest of storms.  Thus began the adventure called TODAY...

-naftali beane rutter-