Films That Shaped Me: River Gallo

The filmmaker explain why these 10 films are their all time favourites...

HUNGER Listen Up issue cover star, HUNGER TV takeover-er and all-round inspiring person, River Gallo is exactly the voice we need at the end of the decade and the start of a new one. As well as a vital intersex advocate, River is a talented filmmaker and actor, best known for the critically acclaimed Ponyboi  – which was produced by Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Seven Graham. Graduating with a Masters from USC School of Cinematic Arts, film is an important part of their life, and so we got River to curate a list of ten films which have had the biggest impact on them so far…

Double Life of Veronique

I was introduced to the Double Life of Veronique film by an eccentric writing teacher when I was 18 at university in New York. I was so captivated that I wrote an entire essay about it’s themes of faith, parallel universes, and doppelgängers (I recently found said essay and it still holds up tbh lol). This film is deliciously strange, otherworldly, and has a haunting sensuality that has stayed with me for years since I’ve seen it. My favorite film from the polish visionary filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski.


Cinema Paradiso

I saw Cinema Paradiso for the first time in my Italian class in high school, and the angsty lovelorn teen in me had never felt more seen. It also reflected to me my own budding love for the magic of and power of cinema itself, how the movie theater is a place to dream, to find refuge,  but also to find yourself in.  Also who doesn’t love an Italian love story.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Probably my all-time favorite film. A heartbreaking and affirming story about falling in and out of love. The film at it’s core conveys how we can’t run from our memories of our past lovers, how the good can coexist with the bad, and how our experience of life is shaped by this bittersweet dichotomy. From the magical cinematography to the brilliant writing to the incredible cast (Kate Winslet, Jim Carey, and Kristen Dunst HELLOOOO), it was and is very formative film for me as filmmaker. I sometimes still act out some of Clementine’s monologues from the film.


Lost In Translation

Lost in Translation is dreamy and quiet look at two Americans in Tokyo coping with their loneliness and unexpectedly finding love and friendship in each other. I’m a sucker for a love story if you can’t already tell. Scarlet Johansen’s and Bill Murray awkward and poignant relationship as two strangers looking to find connection, always resonated with me in the bonds we are capable of created via the shared experience of feeling like an outsider. As a filmmaker, Sofia Coppola’s directing taught me the power that a narrative can take on in it’s stillness, graceful smallness, and how sometimes the space and silence around a something can be so evocative.


Forest Gump

I mean, an American Classic. Forest Gump is the the kind of movie that whenever it’s on tv I have to stop what I am doing to watch. I love this Forest Gump because of the simple story that a man with a good heart, who is seen as stupid to everyone else, can go on to achieve the most glorious accomplishments. It’s an epic hero’s journey, that seamless weaves iconic time periods in America.  Also Sally Fields, Robin Wright, and Tom Hanks?! Acting gold!


My Neighbor Totoro

A lot of my growing up happened at my family’s Salvadorian restaurant in New Jersey, and right next door was a video rental store. I’d go in, bat my little 5 year old eyes, and rent movies for free haha. My Neighbor Totoro was one movie I would take out over and over again. So magical and whimsical, one of my favorite animated movies. I saw  a lot of myself in Mei, the younger daughter who stumbled upon a secret enchanted Forest in her backyard and discovers a big furry friend in Totoro. It’s just so cute!!!


American Honey

American Honey is a divine and ephemeral exploration of the search for freedom that’s unique to American highway landscape. I spent a lot of time when I was younger on the road and have always found highways and driving a nostalgic place for respite. American Honey does something really difficult in that it expresses the gritty reality of being a disenfranchised person on the road while also beautifully capturing the longing to find oneself via the journey travelled. Also the gorgeous cinematography, hilarious cast–a mix of both actors and non-actors, and the revelation that is Sasha Lane, just amazing.


Mulholland Drive

A David Lynch exquisite masterpiece. Even now after seeing Muholland Drive many times I’m still left with so many questions, and I think that a fabulous thing. David Lynch’s work has helped me gain the perspective that sometimes the unanswered questions we are left  with can be more tantalizing than ever having an answer. At times unsettling and disturbing, at other times funny, while always oozing that Lynchian spell-binding quality Muholland Drive is a classic.


Garden State

Another one of the those movies I saw in high school and stuck with me forever. Garden State centers on a young actor/waiter, played by Zach Braff who returns to his hometown in New Jersey after his mother dies. The film captures that dread you feel going back to your hometown and confronting all the ways you’ve changed seeing the people you grew up with, but even more frightening how much you’re still the same. Especially being from New Jersey, this one always strikes a chord, usually involving me crying. It’s so funny and moving, and a young Natalie Portman is just lovely.


Thema and Louise

If there was ever an embodiment of feminism in movie form THIS IS IT. The emotional journey and  transformation that Thelma and Louise go through form being women victimized by their circumstances to the owning their bodies and their fucking crimes is sensational. I’m sucker for a road movie, and this one takes the cake as the road movie of all road movies. In the end, Thelma and Louise is about the love and camaraderie in sisterhood that these two women find, that no man or institution could ever break. Gina Davis and Susan Sarandon are at their best, and a young shirtless Brad Pitt is the cherry on top!


19 December 2019