The indie comedy “Pinsky” is set in motion by the conspiracies of life that may feel painfully universal to many millennials as a young woman in a dead-end job gets dumped by the love of her life, forcing her to move back to the claustrophobia of her family home.
But the film achieves its entertaining tension between humor and pathos through its carefully drawn sense of place, as Sophia, who is lesbian, finds herself once again in the emotional gulag ruled by a domineering and disapproving grandmother in Boston’s Russian-Jewish community.
Screening at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 8-9, “Pinsky” was co-written by its star, Rebecca Karpovsky, and its director, former Fort Lauderdale resident Amanda Lundquist. Friends since high school in Newton, Mass., the two wrote the script based on Karpovksy’s memories of her late grandmother.
But the project also was deeply personal to Lundquist, the daughter of Peter Lundquist, a former WSVN anchor and entertainment reporter. Amanda Lunquist was about 18 months old when her father died in 1990 at 37 of lymphoblastic lymphoma.
Lundquist lived in Fort Lauderdale until she was 8 or 9 years old, and then moved to the Boston area, where her mother had family. Her memory of her father is hazy.
“I think I have one big memory, of him lifting me up and tossing me in the air. But I don’t know if it’s actually real. I think it happened,” she says.
But Peter Lundquist did find a more permanent way to influence his daughter, leaving behind a stack of unfinished scripts that she found in her mother’s basement a couple of years ago.
“A lot of them were not even half-written scripts, the first part of the first act, and I was thinking how sad it was that he never really got through with it,” Lundquist says. “I think a part of me felt that you should just do it [‘Pinsky’] and not think too hard about it. The urgency that I had was probably in part because of the fact that he didn’t finish any of his projects.”
Karpovsky and Lundquist started their script in 2012 while performing in Austin with their Borscht Belt-inspired performance group, Lipschtick Collective. Karpovsky’s experience as a first-generation Russian-American brings vivid life to many of the characters, familiar territory for Lundquist, who grew up with her mother’s Jewish-American family.
“The movie really talks about the Russian-American identity of not fully being Russian, not fully being American. It’s also about not fully being lesbian, not fully being straight. Or not being an adult or even a kid still,” Lundquist says. “You’re just in this in-between place.”
“Pinsky” made its unlikely debut this year at the Moscow International Film Festival, surprising for a film that takes several unsubtle shots at Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. This includes Sophia’s detailed telling of a joke about Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a homoerotic bear hug.
Lundquist was surprised not only that “Pinsky” made the cut at the Moscow festival, but that it was one of a host of films with gay themes, many including graphic sex scenes.
“What we realized is that they accepted us as sort of this punk-rock gesture,” Lundquist says. “Moscow is a huge festival, with multimillion-dollar films screening, and I think they just kind of slipped ours in. They wanted it in the program, but they didn’t want to bring too much attention to it.”
“Pinsky” screens 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, at Savor Cinema, 503 SE Sixth St, in Fort Lauderdale, and 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at Cinema Paradiso Hollywood, 2008 Hollywood Blvd. Amanda Lundquist, Rebecca Karpovsky and actor-producer Ara Woland will attend both screenings. Call 954-525-3456 or go to FLIFF.com or PinskyTheMovie.com.