Dir. Byron Lamarque, USA, 2021, 82 min.

Screening virtually and at SECCA on Tuesday, May 11 @ 8:30 p.m. Learn more here.

It would have been a fairly simple matter, in screenwriting terms, to craft The Desiring as a standard narrative about a cheating housewife and her betrayed spouse, replete with wild sex scenes and, eventually, a grisly revenge. But Graham Pritz-Bennett’s script is both less and more, avoiding the more salacious aspects of the extramarital affair for a more subtle take on the notions of love, marriage, friendship and desire.

It’s his first feature script, a project undertaken with his creative partner and mentor Byron Lamarque, who directed while Pritz-Bennett wrote and shot it. And while the film takes place in Winston-Salem, where he grew up, its creative genesis runs through Raleigh, Canada and Europe.

Pritz-Bennett attended NC State for engineering and economics after graduating from Forsyth Country Day School. He met Lamarque while studying for a master’s degree in theology in Vancouver; they began shooting short films, music videos and TV commercials.

“[Lamarque] was kind of my film school,” he says. “I started writing this feature up in Vancouver, and Byron and I made a short before making the feature.”

“We started by asking, ‘What if?’” Pritz-Bennett continues. “That itch. We scratched at it to see where it went.”

His influences for The Desiring, he realized, leaned towards Flannery O’Connor and the Southern Gothic esthetic. So he rewrote the script from his home in Scotland, where he’s been living with his wife while she attains her PhD, with an eye on shooting in his hometown.

“It needed to be in the South,” he says.

And so we see establishment shots in downtown Winston-Salem and Belews Creek, where at certain times of the year there is a singular quality to the light in this part of North Carolina.

“I’ve shot so much in Vancouver and Edinburgh,” he says, “[but] looking back this film, all the outdour scenes. We used so much natural light for this feature. There’s just a quality to it that I can’t replicate in the various cities that I’ve shot in.”

He won’t be in town for RiverRun — it’s tough to travel outside of the United Kingdom right now, he says — but he’s definitely feeling the hometown pride. Members of his family will be at the screening at SECCA on Tuesday. And he’s been a fan of RiverRun since he was a kid.

“I really respect RiverRun as a film festival because it has a great balance to it,” he says. “New talent. New voices. So much integrity.”

Find our full guide to RiverRun 2021 here.

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