In 2004, a man named Frank and his 12-year-old daughter Ruth were discovered camping in a remote area of Portland’s Forest Park. It turns out they’d been there for years, living in a camouflaged hillside shelter with a garden, a waste disposal system and even their own library. Their story is the basis of a new film “Leave No Trace“ by director Debra Granik. It’s her first feature film since her highly acclaimed 2010 film “Winter’s Bone.”
Granik recently sat down with OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni. She said the beauty of the Pacific Northwest is what drew her to make the film.
“The temperate rainforest is a glorious thing to photograph with its textures, its patterns, its shades, its moisture, its reflections,” Granik said. “I said to myself no matter what, this film will be visual.”
At the same time, Granik said the lush dampness of the forest heightened the film’s realism.
“People from other regions of the country are looking at the precipitation and feeling overwhelmed,” she said. “That literally dampened the fantastical nature of the film. You literally are getting damp — you feel like you need shelter.”
“Leave No Trace” was shot in several locations across Oregon and Washington, and the film’s crew strove to include authentic people and places in the film. There are several scenes shot on an Oregon Christmas tree farm. Granik said she was deeply inspired by the work of the families who live and work on that farm every day.
“Seeing the trimming process is balletic,” Granik said. “The command of these two trimming swords and being able to prance through these aisles and keep trimming and moving, trimming and moving.”
The real-life individuals on which the film is based were never contacted during filming. Granik said that was a conscious choice. She wanted to respect their desire for anonymity. Still, Granik has a great deal of respect for the courage and independence of Frank and Ruth, wherever they are.
“I would say live and let live. It’s a very hard thing for mainstream society to accommodate non-conforming individuals. It’s hard for us to even go a couple inches in either direction,” Granik said.
Use the audio player above to hear the full conversation from OPB’s “Weekend Edition.”