Awards Profile 2019: Rebecca Hall Moves Behind the Camera for ‘Passing’

Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “Passing”

DISTRIBUTOR: To Be Determined
DIRECTOR: Rebecca Hall
PRODUCERS: Margot Hand, Oren Moverman
WRITER(S): Rebecca Hall (based on the novel by Nella Larson)
CAST: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga
SYNOPSIS: “Passing” follows the unexpected reunion of two high school friends, whose renewed acquaintance ignites a mutual obsession that threatens both of their carefully constructed realities. (IMDb)

SCHEDULED RELEASE: To be announced, 2019 (possible 2020 push)

POTENTIAL HIGHLIGHTS:

There is a lot of excitement for Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut. The actress has appeared in a wide range of celebrated films, working with the likes of Ron Howard, Antonio Campos, and Woody Allen. With her first effort behind the camera, Hall has chosen a fascinating novel full of themes that are sure to resonate with audiences. The plot summary doesn’t do much to convey what the story is really about. The novel was first published in 1929, and is set primarily in Harlem. It focuses on issues and questions surrounding race, identity, acceptance, and many other topics that are still relevant today. If handled well, this story has the potential to connect deeply with audiences.

Apart from Rebecca Hall, “Passing” has two other major factors in its favor. They are named Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. Negga was nominated for an Oscar for “Loving” just two years ago. While she didn’t win, her nomination was a good boost for her profile, and a good indicator that the Academy recognizes her talent. Meanwhile, Thompson has a lot of very interesting projects coming over the next couple of years. Mixed with her enthusiasm for taking on a diverse array of characters, she has become a star that seems poised for a nomination when the right role comes along. This could very well be the one that does it.

As for crafts categories, we don’t yet know who is designing the costumes or production, or who is going to score or shoot. But if it keeps its 1920s setting, you can bet Rebecca Hall’s production will be impeccably beautiful.

POTENTIAL CHALLENGES

As exciting as it is to see Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, the fact is that she is a first-time filmmaker, and also a woman. Even if her film is on par or superior to other recent first (or first solo) features, there is still a strong bias in the Academy, despite what many try to claim. With more than 4000 films nominated in 91 years and fewer than 300 of them directed by women, this may wind up being another film whose existence we will celebrate, even if AMPAS doesn’t.

There is also the fact that the film isn’t finished yet, and may not be ready in 2019. It seems likely to emerge during the fall festivals, but will it be crowded out by films from bigger names? Will it even secure a distributor that gives it the attention it will hopefully deserve?

POTENTIAL AWARD CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture (Margot Hand, Oren Moverman)
  • Director (Rebecca Hall)
  • Actress in a Leading Role (Ruth Negga, Tessa Thompson)
  • Adapted Screenplay (Rebecca Hall)
  • Production Design (To be announced)
  • Cinematography (To be announced)
  • Costume Design (To be announced)
  • Film Editing (To be announced)
  • Makeup and Hairstyling (To be announced)
  • Sound Mixing (To be announced)
  • Sound Editing (To be announced)
  • Visual Effects (To be announced)
  • Original Score (To be announced)

POTENTIAL KEY NOTICES FROM OTHER GROUPS

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (SAG Awards): Both Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are loved in the industry; a good performance from either could give the guild a great spot to reward them.
  • Best First Feature (Independent Spirit Awards): Depending on the budget, which is likely not large, this could be a great way to recognize Rebecca Hall

What do you think about Rebecca Hall’s prospects with “Passing?” Comment below and share your thoughts!

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