I’ve known Bahrani since the mid-1990s, when we were undergraduates at Columbia University in New York. Tall and thin, owl-like in his gaze, deeply knowledgeable about Dostoyevsky and Kokoschka, and full of tremendous plans to write and direct movies, he was so far ahead of everyone else at college that he seemed to us a creature beamed in from Mars to accelerate human civilization. Then we discovered that he had come from some place even stranger than that: North Carolina. The idea that the South had become cool and multicultural wasn’t really bought by anyone in New York back then, and his classmates settled scores with Bahrani by teasing him for his Southern twang. He has lost it now—but he remains, in many ways, a creature of the American South: in his easy-going manner, his ironic humor, but above all, in his ingrained resistance to the idea that America is defined by what its powerful or successful citizens do. America is central to Bahrani’s vision of his work, but this country, for him, lives (as it did for Faulkner, one of his literary heroes) at its margins; taxi drivers, old men without families, street-side vendors, prostitutes, and petty thieves challenge, expand, and enrich America in his films. The idea of an America defined at its fringe is again at the heart of the new script he is working on—called Ship of Fools—which promises to give birth to his best film yet.
I'm in office now but after reading this piece, I wish I could be transported to a theater and watch Goodbye, Solo.