- 1999 Sundance Film Festival
Getting to Know You takes place one afternoon in a bus station as siblings Judith and Wesley, virtually abandoned by their parents, wait for buses going in two different directions. As they silently sit, Judith is befriended by Jimmy because she is the only one willing to listen to his tall tales about other people in the station. He fabricates a detailed story about a naive woman’s trip to an intimidating Atlantic City, working from fragmented details he has overheard in the coffee shop. His storytelling becomes a game when he sees a pretty woman alone, waiting for her bus, and describes to Judith the events leading up to that moment.
Director Lisanne Skyler, whose documentary, No Loans Today, screened at Sundance in 1995, uses a bold and innovative structure to depict the stories within the film. Drawn from Heat by Joyce Carol Oates, these stories possess such detail and innocent beauty that it is easy to forget they are not totally real. Instead, they express the characters’ fears about love and abandonment and act as a device to bring their personal stories to the surface.
When Judith finally tells her own story, she reveals the way her parents’ unfufilled dreams catalyzed the breakup of the family. It becomes clear why Judith and Wesley are alone, as well as what holds them together. In the end, the characters learn that opening up to someone else helps you discover yourself.
Lisanne Skyler, Director
Lisanne Skyler majored in English at U.C. Berkeley and received a master’s degree in filmmaking at San Francisco State University. Her previous films are Old Timers (1993), a documentary about an Irish bar and haven for the local elderly; and No Loans Today (1995), a documentary about a South Central Los Angeles pawnshop, which screened in competition at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS the following year. Getting to Know You is her first narrative feature.
— Mary Kerr