Writer-director-star Kit Zauhar‘s debut feature Actual People is currently streaming on global streaming platform MUBI. The film focuses on Riley, a young woman in her final week of college who ends up having to confront anxieties about her love life, family, and future.
There is a lot happening in Riley’s life as she nears the end of her college years. Riley, an Asian-American girl, attends an unidentified NYC college who is facing the prospect of not being able to graduate. She is also dealing with a UTI, the fallout of a recent break-up, flaky romantic endeavors with uninterested men, and a future put on hold.
At the same time, Riley has met Leo, who is also Asian-American. Leo lives in Philly, Riley’s hometown. He is handsome, and seems to pay more attention than most men in Riley’s life. Maybe he cares about her… maybe this is a sign she shojuld move back to Philly, especially after her NYC roomate decides her energy is not great and she must move out. Once in Philly, Riley is forced to change the course of events that lead her to reconcile with her failures and shortcomings, all in an effort to move on with her adult life.
Actual People is an honest portrayal of young college graduate life. Inspired by mumblecore, a subgenre of independent film characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue, low-budget film production, with an emphasis on dialogue, and a focus on the personal relationships of young adults, the film is truly a slice of life.
Zauhar has written a smart script that brings forth the various emotions surrounding uncertainty in a young person’s life as they reach ‘adulthood’. The film includes moments where we might not sympathize with Riley’s character, yet we understand why she behaves the way she does. Making decisions about “what’s next” when future possibilities are undefined can be difficult but Zauhar’s performance as Riley brings a depth to the character and story that makes it even more poignant.
As a low-budget film, Zauhar has created a story filled with the humour and sensititivies experienced by young people in their early 20s. There is plenty to appreciate, laugh and relate to in Actual People, regardless of age. This indie film is certainly a great addiction to the mumblecore canon, and it provides us with a glimpse at Zauhar’s burgeoning talent as a performer, writer and director.
This past weekend, Zauhar made a trip to Toronto for a special screening of Actual People. I had the pleasure of speaking with her at the MUBI Canada partner event, Salon 51 screenings series hosted by author of Happy Hour Marlowe Granados at Toronto’s Ace Hotel. Zauhar spoke about the process of making Actual People, its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival, and the film being available more widely via MUBI. She is now looking forward to the premiere of her sophomore film, This Closeness, which will take place at SXSW next month.