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'Visitor' director Tom McCarthy enjoys a homecoming

Posted at 5:30 PM on April 18, 2008 by Euan Kerr

Tom McCarthy says he hadn't been back to the Twin Cities since he lived here in the early 90's and so coming back to present his film "The Visitor" at the opening of the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival was a great way to return. About 500 people turned up for the show, and there was an energetic question and answer session after the film.

The film about a repressed college professor who discovers an illegal immigrant couple living in his New York apartment spurred a lot of conversation

"I think people pick up on different storylines, you know, different characters that they trace," McCarthy says. He says some people look at the political undertones in the film, others cue in on the romance in the film.

He says the film was inspired by a trip he took to the Lebanon with his debut film "The Station Agent." After working with artists there he decided he wanted to tell a story about ordinary people who have to live in very different ways, and came up with the idea for Tarek the Syrian man in the illegal couple. He combined this idea with that of another character he'd been noodling over, that of Walter the burnt-out college professor adrift after the death of his wife.

After writing the story he put together a great cast including the character actor Richard Jenkins, best known for his work in "^ Feet Under," and veteran middle eastern actress Hiam Abbass.

He also cast Danai Gurira, a Macalester graduate, and Haaz Sleiman as the young couple.

"All of us come from the theater in some respect," he says.."And so there a real sense of not only community but collaboration. About checking the ego and really making it about the work and trying to make the story and the characters as honest and compelling as possible."

Early reviews seem to indicate McCarthy has succeeded. The movie opens nationally April 25th

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