Nilsson, Rob: Indie Director (Heat and Sunlight)

Rob Nilsson, the first American director to win both the Camera d’Or at Cannes Film Fest and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Fest, returns to independent filmmaking this fall with four new features: PERMISSION TO TOUCH, LOVE TWICE, NEXT WEEK IN BOLOGNA and DEVISED.

In PERMISSION TO TOUCH, Rob Nilsson reprises his role as photographer Mel Hurley, the lead character in his 1988 film, HEAT AND SUNLIGHT, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

Now 30 years older, Hurley has been commissioned to take erotic photographs of Funmi Marlowe (T. Moon) for an upcoming gallery show. Mel and Funmi collaborate and clash as the boundaries of professional and personal become blurred.

Shot in a single day in Nilsson’s trademark Direct Action improvisational style, PERMISSION TO TOUCH premiered at the 2015 Mill Valley Film Festival and was praised by festival programmer KD Davis as “a thoroughly provocative mix of reality, action, spontaneity, and intelligent scripting…a deeply meaningful dialogue on the intimate erotics of filmmaking.”

HEAT AND SUNLIGHT will also screen at The Metrograph that evening and Nilsson will be in attendance. For ticket information, visit

New Yorkers can catch a sneak preview of PERMISSION TO TOUCH (a Citizen Cinema/Fandor Production) when it screens at The Metrograph on October 22.

Nilsson’s film-within-a-film, LOVE TWICE, will be given its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in San Rafael, CA, on October 6, the opening night of the festival. It will screen at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.

In the film, Sal, a screenwriter played by Deniz Demirer, labors over his chaotic screenplay entitled LOVE TWICE – which he sees as a sensitive character study, but his producer Lester (John Cale) envisions as a modern Conradian story with “genre elements.”

Set in the Caribbean of Isla Mujeres, Sal’s film features Luz (T. Moon), a Trinidadian trapeze artist, and Ken (Jeff Kao), a Chinese American businessman having an illicit affair. But Ken visits Sal, unhappy about the way he’s being portrayed. And Sal, in an alcoholic stupor, is falling in love with Luz. Chadwick (Carl Lumbly), an actor playing Rodrigo, an island fisherman, wants to quit the project because of Sal’s erratic behavior and even the screenplay itself (played by Nilsson) badgers Sal, advocating improvisation over written dialogue. With his characters complaining, his sister on his case, and Lester about to arrive on his yacht, Sal decides to enter his own screenplay as a character, hoping to court Luz for himself and to convince Lester to fund an art film rather than a potboiler.

Nilsson will be at the Syracuse International Film Fest, which will take place October 19-23, for the world premiere of NEXT WEEK IN BOLOGNA on October 21. The film was conceived, cast and shot in seven days during a Master Class Nilsson ran with 20 students from around the world at the International Filmmaking Academy’s 2015 summer program in Bologna, Italy. A pickpocket cinema projectionist narrates three intertwining stories of tourists who visit his city one summer – a timid adjunct professor from Australia, an apostate ex-priest and a cautious Icelandic girl – in a tongue-in-cheek nod to Italian neo-realism.

Screening on November 10, HEAT AND SUNLIGHT – praised by The Hollywood Reporter as “narratively wild and aesthetically risky…a remarkable feat” – tells the story of a love affair between a photographer and his dancer girlfriend, which unravels in the last days of the Biafran War. It features a score by Brian Eno and David Byrne.

Nilsson just wrapped up his latest film, DEVISED, which has been submitted to film festivals in the U.S. and Europe.

The late director John Cassavetes (SHADOWS, FACES, A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE) once remarked, “Nilsson’s films are beautiful, exciting, imaginative, unfamiliar, and outside of that, very good.”

The Archives of the Sundance Collection at UCLA are the repository for Nilsson’s collected filmwork, including NORTHERN LIGHTS (winner of the Camera d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival), HEAT AND SUNLIGHT (winner of the Grand Jury Prize Dramatic at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival), SIGNAL 7 (the first small-format video feature to be blown up to film and distributed worldwide) and the groundbreaking 9 @ NIGHT Film Cycle – a series of nine feature films that Nilsson shot over a 14-year period featuring players from the Tenderloin Action Group (later known as the Tenderloin yGroup) workshop that he founded with homeless, street people and inner city residents in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. 9 @ NIGHT won the Marlon Riggs Award from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. Select films are available for purchase at