Brooklyn duo collaborate on new indie film

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Hannah waits for the train to Boston in the new movie ‘Hannah Ha Ha’. Photo courtesy of Fair Oaks Entertainment

A new film about a not-so-ambitious young woman from a small town whose lifestyle is thrown into question when her business-like brother comes to town will premiere later this month at the Slamdance Film Festival, a venue of independent films which takes place in Park City, Utah, at the same time as Sundance.

The film, “Hannah Ha Ha,” is executive produced by Brooklyn Heights resident Roger Mancusi and co-produced by Eastern New York’s Emily Freire. They met through mentorship through the Brooklyn-based filmmaking program Reel Works, which pairs teens with professional filmmaker-mentors.

Mancusi invited Freire to become involved in the project, then increased her role from production assistant to co-producer. Freire is originally from Brooklyn; Mancusi’s family is originally from Brooklyn, then moved to Long Island, and he later moved back to Brooklyn, he told the Eagle.

The film, which is set in Sharon, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston (the hometown of the co-writers and directors Jordan Tetewsky and Joshua Pikovsky), is about a 26-year-old woman, Hannah, whom the film’s ad describes as a “good-hearted city girl.”

Hannah spends much of her time helping her father, who suffers from an unspecified illness; teach another youngster to play the guitar; work for a neighboring farmer; doing odd jobs like walking the dog and mowing the lawn; and listening to a music call broadcast.

The arrival of Hannah’s brother, played by Roger Mancusi, turns her life upside down. Photo courtesy of Fair Oaks Entertainment

Hannah’s daily routine is disrupted by the arrival of her brother (played by Mancusi), who returns to the area to be closer to their ailing father. The brother challenges Hannah about her future, pestering her to get a “real job” with a 401-K plan, health insurance, a chance for a promotion, etc. He specifies, with accuracy, that at 26, this is the last year that she can be carried under her father’s insurance.

So she starts looking for jobs. First comes an investigation at the local public library. Next comes an interview in an office where the interviewer asks questions such as “How many bricks are there in London?” (Mancusi said corporate employers sometimes ask such questions just to see the reactions of interviewees.) Finally, she gets a job at a fast-food restaurant in Boston where her boss spends most of his time hanging out. while she works hard.

One point the film tries to make, Mancusi said, is that the small-town, suburban lifestyle that Hannah feels comfortable in is eroding as market forces push young people into cities. This is accentuated by the closure, towards the end of the film, of a local glacier, another symbol of the eroding community.

What drives Hannah, says Mancusi, is “community, being a reliable person, on a smaller scale.”

The title, “Hannah Ha Ha”, he told the Eagle, is a tribute to an earlier film, “Funny Ha Ha”, by Andrew Bujalski. And even though the movie’s star is called Hannah Lee Thompson, it’s a coincidence and not based on her life.

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