MEET ELIZABETH WOOD, MORGAN SAYLOR AND INDIA MENUEZ, THE WHITE GIRLS BEHIND “WHITE GIRL”
The women responsible for one of the year’s most controversial films.
The controversy started straight away. In January, White Girl, Elizabeth Wood’s film based on a youthful summer of her own life, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Hours later, at 3:25 a.m., Variety critic Peter Debruge published the first scandalized review. He used phrases like “wall to wall depravity,” “cesspool of reprehensible behavior,” and “unbearably realistic horror show.”
When I met Wood in early August, the 33-year old writer-director was still hot under the collar about the review. Her film, which is in theaters September 2, tells the story of Leah (Morgan Saylor), a pretty, white college-age girl who moves into a sketchy Queens neighborhood and falls for the Puerto Rican drug dealer on the corner. The film is rife with drugs, nudity, graphic sex, and at one point rape. There is exposed male genitalia and cocaine being snorted off of it. White Girl is a challenging film. In so many words, Wood painted a portrait of the Variety critic as an aging square who stayed up late into the night in a state of sustained moral panic in order to pin the first scarlet ‘A’ on her debut feature.
“My opinion may have changed since then,” she said last week, before a screening of the film in New York City. An angelic-looking sprite with a delightfully foul mouth, she was sharing a plate of fried cauliflower with Saylor, whose Leah is a housebroken version of a younger Wood: petite, waist-length hair, a little quieter but still prone to adventurous decision-making.