Zeros and Ones: Abel Ferrara’s Pandemic-Era Feature

After his COVID-era documentary self-portrait Sportin’ Life, Abel Ferrra’s new feature, Zeroes and Ones, is more socially relevant tale, an apocalyptic spy thriller shot at night during the strict lockdown in his adopted city of Rome.

Zeros and Ones
Locarno Film Festival 

The movie, which world premiered at the Locarno Film Fest, stars the estimable Ethan Hawke, who had collaborated with Ferrara before, in a dual role, as a military man of uncertain allegiance and his his revolutionist brother narrative. Hawke provides the prologue and epilogue, speaking directly to camera, in a story that defies conventional expectations or any narrative.Zeros and Ones reproduces the state of unease and insecurity that’s plagued humanity during lockdown, defined by deserted nighttime city streets, and paranoia about who gains from exploiting these empty mental and physical spaces.

The period is unmistakably pandemic, with masks and hand washing clearly in evidence, but it’s like an alternate present in which a shadowy military force controls the empty streets and only the Chinese underworld and Russian overlords operate outside the prescribed spaces.

Narrative Premise: The protagonist, JJ (Hawke), is searching for news of his imprisoned brother Justin, questioning his sister-in-law Valeria (Valeria Correale) before connecting with sinister Chinese criminals who tempt him with lurid sex (lesbian here) and cocaine.


Director, writer: Abel Ferrara.

Camera: Sean Price Williams.

Editor: Leonardo Daniel Bianchi.

Music: Joe Delia.

Running time: 82 minutes


Ethan Hawke, Cristina Chiriac, Phil Neilson, Valerio Mastandrea, Valeria Correale, Dounia Sichov, Mahmut Sifa Erkaya, Korlan Madi, Stephen Gurewitz, Babak Karimi, Carla Lucia Cassola, Anna Ferrara.

Zeros and Ones
Locarno Film Festival