On January 10, 2015, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) presented its Career Achievement Award to actress Gena Rowlands. I’m a LAFCA member, and had nominated Gena for the award, which meant that I would have the honor of singing her praises at the awards dinner, along with LAFCA president Stephen Farber, who has known her for years. Gena Rowlands is the greatest film actress of our time, and for her, we wanted to create a night as surprising and kinetic as her performances. That’s a tall order, but we were thrilled when Angelina Jolie agreed to speak after Stephen and myself, and then present Gena with the award. Angelina has known Gena, and her late husband, filmmaker John Cassavetes, since she was a child, so having her there was truly special. (And the best kept secret in town.)
All this was wonderful, but there was one crucial element remaining: a tribute reel that would do justice to the staggering range and complexity of Gena Rowlands’ career. But that wasn’t a problem, either. I simply called on my friend of 20 years, filmmaker Matt Amato, who knows Gena’s film work better than anyone alive — shot-by-shot, emotion-by-emotion.
And so it came to pass that Matt Amato made the insanely beautiful tribute film for Gena Rowlands that we’re pleased to present to you here. It’s definitely unusual for a clip reel made for a critic’s dinner to be presented in the real world, but some things are too good to file away. The movie lover in me insisted that Matt post this online. Putting it together was hard work and sometimes, rather wrenching, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Gena Rowlands taught us, long ago, that in life and in work, you dig deep, and then deeper still, until you mine that most elusive of elements: truth.
This is for you, Gena, with love.
*Special thanks to Stephen Farber and Tim Grierson for their wise and generous collaboration in completing this film.