3 Backyards (2010/2011)

Opened: 03/11/2011 Limited

IFC Center03/11/2011 - 03/24/201114 days
Cinema Village...03/25/2011 - 04/14/201121 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

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Genre: Drama

Rated: R for for a scene of sexual content.


From writer-director Eric Mendelsohn, the only two-time winner of the directing prize at Sundance (first for JUDY BERLIN in 1999 which also starred Edie Falco) comes 3 BACKYARDS, the story of three residents of the same town over the course of one seemingly perfect autumn day. The film looks past familiar suburban exteriors and instead peers deeply into the private lives of its characters as they embark on tiny, personal journeys that eventually carry them vast distances from everything that is familiar. A businessman (Elias Koteas) with marital troubles gets "lost" on a business trip without ever leaving town. A little girl (Rachel Resheff) steals her mother's jewelry in the morning and finds herself faced with frightening, adult decisions by late afternoon. A well-meaning housewife (Edie Falco) offers her celebrity neighbor (Embeth Davidtz) a lift and the trip detours into unsettling territory. By day's end, the familiar geography of the suburban landscape dissolves into a place of mystery, loss and potential danger; a dreamscape where identity can be challenged, shattered, and sometimes reclaimed.

Shot on location on Long Island, New York, 3 BACKYARDS made its debut at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival where Mendelsohn won the Dramatic Directing Prize. Among many other festival appearances, 3 BACKYARDS was selected for a coveted spot in Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA's New Directors/New Films festival and had its international premiere at the 2010 Deauville Film Festival.

A Caruso-Mendelsohn Production in association with Fred Berner Films, 3 BACKYARDS is written and directed by Eric Mendelsohn and stars Embeth Davidtz, Edie Falco, Elias Koteas, and Rachel Resheff with Wesley Broulik, Kathryn Erbe, and Danai Gurira. 3 BACKYARDS is produced by Rocco Caruso. Amy Durning and Eric Mendelsohn are Producers with Fred Berner serving as Executive Producer. The film was cast by Lynn Kressel and Kevin Kuffa; the music is by Michael Nicholas; the costume designers are Suzanne McCabe and Susan Carrano; the film editors are Morgan Faust and Jeffrey K. Miller; the production designer is Markus Kirschner; and the director of photography is Kasper Tuxen.

Director's Statement

One of the most frequent questions I was asked in response to my first feature, Judy Berlin, was, "What are you trying to say about the suburbs?" It was difficult to answer because until then I hadn't realized I had made a film that was about the suburbs. I feel the same way about 3 Backyards; the images, characters and stories are so personal to me, so intimate, I would never presume to say they are part of some larger comment about anything (let alone suburbia, as I haven't got a clue what's going on there now). I was, however, trying to be emotionally specific and to conjure feelings and visuals I had often experienced while I was living there.

When I was growing up on Long Island, I never once stepped into a real forest. All the exploring and inventing and pretending and hiding that is supposed to happen to boys in densely wooded tracts occurred in the tiny, hedged-in square of my parent's backyard. This occurred out of necessity. Whether or not we ever discussed it aloud, it was clear to everyone that our front yards served a different purpose; they told about wealth, and religious beliefs, and about how the occupants wanted to 'present' themselves to the world. But backyards were another story.

I found my parent's backyard -- and I am not being hyperbolic -- completely seductive. All backyards, in fact, held an allure for me. They were private and secret and personal in a way that the front yard never was (or, for that matter, the side yard -- which I have feelings about as well -- believe it or not!). I saw my first illicit sexual act in a backyard, I pretended to learn fencing with a willow branch in the backyard, I wept in the branches of our apple tree in the backyard. The backyard was a sanctuary, a stage, a cocoon, an escape, a diary, a friend, a hot house, and a cemetery.

I was aware when I was writing this film, that I was interested in investigating another kind of 'backyard' that each of us has. Within all three characters, I was determined to reveal the private, shadowy, rarely acknowledged part of their psyches. Like the magnifying glass I used to use to inspect ants in my backyard, I wanted to put a 'bio-sphere' over the town and the characters and examine them. I wanted to see them sometimes in micro close-up and sometimes from great distances, to see how their identities, seemingly fixed at the start of the day, morphed and shifted against the changing light and landscape as it evolved. I wanted to get to know the secret, shady interiors and vast, scary exteriors of both the characters and the town. In fact, in some way I wanted to make a kind of nature documentary about the entire contents of the day.

That is why I am surprised to find that I have now made three 'suburban' films (there's a half-hour film as well) but still find it impossible to answer the question "What are you trying to say about the suburbs?" This I know is true: I grew up in the suburbs, was affected by the things I saw and felt there, and I have written and directed films about the suburbs. Beyond that, I guess I was hoping the films themselves would tell you everything you needed to know.

--Eric Mendelsohn, Writer/Director