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Ralph Arlyck, director of ‘I Like It Here,’ talks about passing time, having no regrets, staying independent Story-level




In Ralph Arlyck’s “I Like It Here,” his first film in 18 years, the American documentary filmmaker reflects on his life while spending time with neighbors, friends, colleagues, children, and grandchildren, while making peace with physical and the emotional obstacles of getting older, and reflect on the serenity and wholeness that comes with entering the later years. The film is screening in the International Competition at Thessaloniki Intl. Documentary Festival on March 10.

At first, Arlyck thought he would make a film about his neighbor Ernie, a Hungarian hermit who lived north of his farm, but “it soon became clear that he wasn’t going to accept that,” he tells Variety. “At that point, I realized that it wasn’t actually Ernie that was biting me. It was what we all face: aging and these questions that become very prominent in front of your face. You’re getting old and you can’t do what you used to do. You’re going to die… All these questions. I really realized that’s what I wanted to do in a movie.”

And he adds: “It’s a shock. One day you realize that you are, in fact, in this category of people who are near the bottom. As I say at some point in the film: How did this happen? You just fumble around in your daily life and suddenly it hits you: yes, I’m in this category.”

But Arlyck has no wish list and no regrets: “As the title suggests, I like it here, which suggests je suis bien. Why waste time thinking about other lives you could have lived? I don’t find it very useful. No, I would say I don’t regret it.”

As you probably guessed, the “here” in the film’s title has a double meaning: here on Earth and here on your farm. “In terms of the second meaning, I was always a bit self-conscious because it is a privileged physical place. I am very lucky to be able to live in that environment. And so, in thinking about and shaping the film, it’s been a concern that my life is so special and privileged and lucky. But ultimately, that’s the reality. I have to admit that.”

Arlyck considers being called an “American independent documentary film bow puppet” to be an “exaggeration”. “When I started making movies, there were a lot of us who really wanted to do basically what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to receive input from many other people, many executives, producers, television directors.” He recalls that in the late 1980s, under the Carter administration, they lobbied Congress for more federal funding for public television, which resulted in the passage of the Public Television Bill. “We have something. We have legislation that designated more money for independents. That was a really interesting experience, where you can actually get access to the people in Congress and you can talk to them,” he says.

Now, however, he argues, “you still run into the same problems because streamers are buying so little independent material. They usually commission their own work. But there’s still a whole series of production out there of people who want to start projects themselves, who don’t want to be commissioned. And that is still difficult. And so, in a way, the streaming platforms have replaced the television networks.”

Arlyck, who produced the film himself through his Timed Exposures production company, adds: “I started out thinking this would be my swan song,” but he intends to make more films, and more specifically in Africa. “I was in Africa in the Peace Corps for two years. I would like to do that”.

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