MJZ's Juan Cabral Makes Feature Directorial Debut At Tribeca
Juan Cabral
DGA Award commercial nominee bows "Two/One" in festival’s Viewpoints program
  • NEW YORK
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MJZ’s Juan Cabral--an accomplished commercialmaker as reflected in such iconic work as Cadbury’s “Gorilla” and IKEA’s “Beds,” as well as a 2016 DGA Award nomination for IKEA’s “Monkeys” from Mother, London, and Lurpak’s “Freestyle” out of Wieden+Kennedy, London--is making his feature directorial debut, at a high-profile venue no less. Cabral’s Two/One, which he wrote and directed, is set to premiere as part of the Viewpoints lineup at the Tribeca Film Festival. Two/One is slated for screenings on Sunday (4/28), Tuesday (4/30) and Thursday (5/2).

The Viewpoints platform at Tribeca, which includes narratives and documentaries, recognizes distinct voices in indie filmmaking by creating a home for bold directorial visions and embracing distinct characters or points of view. Past Viewpoints world premieres include Damien Chazelle’s Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009), Felix Thompson’s King Jack (2015), Marc Meyers’ My Friend Dahmer (2017), Marilyn Ness’ Charm City (2018), and Theo Love’s The Legend of Cocaine Island (2018).

Two/One centers on the lives of two men located on opposite ends of the world. Kaden (Boyd Holbrook) is a world class ski jumper in Whistler, Canada, who gets the unexpected chance to reconnect with an ex-girlfriend (Dominique McElligott), the one who got away years ago. Khai (Song Yang) is an up-and-coming executive in Shanghai, China, a loner who encounters at work the girl (Zhu Zhu) he fantasizes about on the Internet. The two guys go about their lives but slowly it emerges that they may be connected somehow, raising questions as to whether one has dreamt up the other, and which life is the reality while the other is a fantasy. Are they in some strange way the same person?

The story sprung from Cabral’s fascination with dreams, how during sleep we inhabit another world, transporting ourselves from one state of being to another. “There’s something scary about going to the other side,” he observed, leading to a gray area as to where and when the real world ends and the dream world begins. When a person goes to sleep, somebody wakes up on the other side of the world. Is there a connection between them? Two/One engages viewers, hopefully allowing them to delve into this uncharted territory and somehow spark a conversation within oneself and even with others.

Cabral recalled directing a couple of commercials years back related to sleep, sort of solidifying his interest in the subject and its implications. 

In his Directors Statement on Two/One, Cabral related, “The plan was to make everything vivid. To allow no difference between what’s real and what isn’t. Let the audience figure out, half way into the story, that what was real might be a dream. And vice versa. Just like the characters in it. Just like when we suddenly realize half way into a dream that we are sleeping. What if these states were made of the same fabric. So I became fascinated with both worlds demanding equal attention and leadership.

“The characters’ stories begin to echo,” he continued. “Actions and details are mirrored in a distorted manner--in the same way dreams tint our reality. Both places, Canada and Shanghai, become one. Giving the film a fluid feel...a bit like jazz. If Khai dozes off during his journey to work, Kaden wakes up for a glass of water. When he goes back to bed, Khai wakes up in the subway to continue his day. If one over-sleeps, the other has insomnia and so on. Until eventually, reality and dream have to battle it out in a dark--almost comedic--way. There is no explanation to these rules, in the same way life doesn’t give offer any explanation. The mystery is behind everything. Maybe even behind an object apparently misplaced. This film wants to shed some light into our mysterious existences.”

No pipe dream
Clearly, Two/One gaining exposure at Tribeca isn’t a pipe dream. Cabral is most gratified that the film was a festival selection. 

Cabral wrote the script some 10 years ago and along the way there were starts and stops to the project, which is not uncommon for a first-time feature director. He observed that the long wait only served to put him in a better position to realize his vision, bringing him together with what turned out to be the right collaborators. Having to cut some pages at one point turned out to be a helpful experience, serving to make the film work better. “It’s been a great learning curve, an emotional marathon,” he said of the process of bringing Two/One to fruition. Cabral added that he has a new found, deeper appreciation for anyone who finishes anything.

Among the alluded to collaborators on Two/One was cinematographer Larry Smith, whom Cabral developed a rapport with during the lensing of a few commercials. Cabral noted that Smith has an impressive track record, working early on in his career with Stanley Kubrick (as chief electrician on Barry Lyndon, a gaffer on The Shining, and lighting cameraman on Eyes Wide Shut). Smith’s cinematography spans such features as The Guard and Trafficker, and TV fare including the miniseries Dark Angel and the series The Alienist. Cabral cited a spot for Nextel in particular on which he and Smith connected. “It was an amazing short story,” said Cabral, noting that Smith attacked the project with natural light and simple tools. “We understood each other from the get-go” and this in turn translated into their teaming successfully on Two/One, making daily life and dreams seem like reality--not distinguishing between the two, leaving audiences to decide which is which.

Beau Bridges rounds out a Two/One cast which includes Holbrook, Yang, Zhu and McElligott. Two/One producers are Chris Clark and Flora Fernandez Marengo. Protagonist Pictures handles international sales for the film.

In addition to his continuing commercialmaking and branded content endeavors via MJZ, Cabral is developing other feature films, scripts and TV shows. On the ad front, he recently directed the Rolex 2019 Oscars campaign featuring filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Alejandro Inarritu, Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron. Cabral’s ad endeavors have garnered assorted awards, including a pair of Cannes Grand Prix honors and more than 25 Cannes Lions.

Credits:

Client Rolex Agency J. Walter Thompson WW & VMLY&R Paul Greco, executive director of music. Production MJZ London Juan Cabral, director; Alwin Kuchler, DP. Editorial The Quarry Paul Watts, editor. Music/Sound KBV Records/KBV Music, New York Tony Verderosa, Alex Wurman, composer. Audio Post 750 London, Sam Ashwell, mixer

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