When Nenad Cicin-Sain introduced his feature debut “The Time Being” at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday, he anticipated what the first question would be at the q-and-a session after the screening.
Just to get it out of the way, he answered it: “My father’s Croatian, my mother is Serbian, my wife is Albanian and I was born in Slovenia,” said Cicin-Sain, 41, saying that everyone’s first question to him is “always about my name.”
With that, the lights went down and the audience watched “The Time Being,” a drama about a young artist (Wes Bentley) who is finding difficulty balancing his struggling career and his burgeoning family when he meets a mysterious patron (Frank Langella).
Cicin-Sain, who has worked extensively in music videos and video installations, evinced a sharp painterly eye in “The Time Being,” composing and editing sequences to create an expressive, even meditative experience – embellished by frequent shots of gorgeous paintings by Stephen Wright and Eric Zener.
After the screening, Cicin-Sain, who moved to Bethesda from Toronto as a child and attended Bethesda Chevy Chase High School before “running away from home” as a young teenager, admitted that “The Time Being” was inspired by “personal struggle.”
In a later phone conversation, he elaborated: “One day I was at the museum with my son, who at the time was about 2 or 3 years old. And while I was there with him, all I kept thinking about was, ‘I should be home working on the script and getting financing for the film.’ Then when I got home I started feeling guilty that I wasn’t with my son. I started to experience this constant duality between my obsession with my work and my family.”
Of experiencing his very first world premiere, Cicin-Sain said, “It felt great. It’s hard to gauge, but from what everyone told me, the q-and-a was one of best and longest they said they’d seen. We’ve gotten a number of calls from distributors asking for information, although no deals have been presented to us.” Still, Cicin-Sain is confident. “The most common response is that it’s original and distinct and you think about it afterwards.”