An interview with Ryan Murdock, director of ‘Bronx Obama’


Brayden Parker

Ryan Murdock, director and produce of "Bronx Obama" speaks after his film. Photo by Brayden Parker
Ryan Murdock, director and produce of “Bronx Obama” speaks after his film. Photo by Brayden Parker

In Bronx Obama Ryan Murdock, the film’s director and producer, asks the question: “How much does it cost to chase the American Dream?” He started by asking the question about Louis Ortiz, the subject of the movie, and during the making of the film it is a question he asks of himself, as well.

The story of how the documentary came to be loosely follows the story that he tells in his first feature film. Trying to create this movie and then having it show at the True/False Film Festival while also having the movie go through a rigorous application process was no easy task, he said.

Following the first ever screening of Bronx Obama at the the Little Ragtag Theater in Columbia, BearingNews caught up with Murdock for a short Q&A about the film and his own personal story.

Brayden Parker: Briefly, where were you at before Bronx Obama and how did you decide you wanted to make a feature film?

Ryan Murdock: My undergrad degree is in radio and TV Film and I made a college thesis short film and since then I have worked in radio doing documentary storytelling and in TV doing documentary storytelling. But I never directed a feature. When I first kind of explored Louis’ story, it was the first time I came across a story where it was that ‘Aha’ thing. Its a visual story and there is so much depth to it and contours to it and the timing was right. This had the ingredients to a feature. So I just kind of bet the house on it.

BP: How did you try and get your movie to True/False?

AM: A lot of filmmaker friends have spoken highly of True/False. And if you look at their lineup its stellar films and films that I really respect. So it was definitely a place I wanted to show the film and so we sent it in and submitted it on the website. It made it from the beginning to the top I guess.

BP: At what point did you decide what the purpose of this film was going to be?

AM: Its always been tough for me to kind of boil it down into one mission statement. But pretty quickly after meeting Louis and following him around for a couple days I could see this real identity conflict. He had this opportunity to reinvent himself but it comes with a cost. And I think its very tied into the American Dream. Obama is always talking about the American Dream and keeping it alive but in some ways that involves reinventing yourself and it comes with a downside too.

BP: In parts of the film its evident that Louis struggles with “Is it worth it?” Did you ever wonder if this documentary was worth it?

AM: Sure, its been a long haul. Its been a three year project. So there were definitely times where momentum was tough to come by and it was unclear where the story was going to go. We had 200 hours of footage and that was a lot to wade through. I also feel like I filmed 2012 and then relived 2012 through 2013. So there were times where it would have been nice to get it past. Then I brought some people on board who really helped me out and were able to keep that momentum going.

BP: Being a first time feature filmmaker, you had to sort of reinvent yourself. While making the movie, did you ever feel like Louis in that sense?

AM: I think that’s a nice little way of putting it. It’s funny because we used to call the film “The Audacity of Louis Ortiz” which was a play on Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope”. And Obama was sort of the unlikely candidate that just did it. And people would always joke ‘if you did a making of this film it would be “The Audacity of Ryan Murdock” because he dropped everything and did it.’ Sometimes it was risky and I wasn’t sure if it was going to work but I just had to give it a shot. I feel like its the right story and I feel like its the right time. I guess Louis is like that, too.
By Braden Paker
Bronx Obama shows again at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the Picturehouse and at 3;30 Sunday in Big Ragtag. You might want to read a review of the movie here.