The Hummingbird Project is a beautiful thriller that will make you laugh. You will be impressed by the performances and the cinematography. You will also question society’s isolating obsession with competition.
It stars a pushed-to-the-breaking-point Jesse Eisenberg, a transformed Alexander Skarsgård, and powerhouse Salma Hayek.
Here is the trailer:
The Hummingbird Project was written and directed by the Oscar-nominee Kim Nguyen.
At the Montreal premiere this week, I had the privilege of chatting with this talented Canadian.
He shared with me that “The Hummingbird Project is meant to be a kinetic experience. It’s about a character who thinks that building this line to make millions is his life’s purpose, but hopefully by the end of the movie, he realizes that isn’t what life is all about.”
Montreal actress Erika Rosenbaum plays Salma Hayek’s assistant, and her lovely daughter Harriette Legault plays Jesse’s niece in the movie.
Erika is one of my heroes. She is an outspoken activist, a talented photographer and a mother of four. She is bright, funny and charming.
After publicly sharing her harrowing experiences with Harvey Weinstein, she was awarded the ACTRA Montreal Woman of the Year Award for her bravery and advocacy work. Her advocacy includes organizing help and provisions for refugees. She also marched recently to protect and the planet and in the 2017 Montreal Women’s March.
Erika credits her dad with teaching her about feminism and the power of protesting injustice.
I had the opportunity to ask her about working with Kim Nguyen and Salma Hayek on The Hummingbird Project. I also asked her about the ripple effects of coming forward and why she chose to participate in Untouchable, a documentary chronicling the rise and fall of Harvey Weinstein that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
What is Kim Nguyen like as a director?
Kim is FANTASTIC. Cool, funny, a great dad. He’s just a stand-up guy. He has a really generous leadership style. Harriette and I so enjoyed working on his set and I would take any role he offered me in the future. As you will see, his casting was incredibly diverse and creative. He has a really open mind and put together a talented group of people. I think people underestimate how rare truly diverse casts are. I just adored working with him.
What did this role mean to you?
I had a wonderful time. It was my first job after publicly sharing my harrowing experience with harassment and assault in our industry. I wasn’t sure if I would be labeled as a “trouble-maker” or if there was still a chance I could be blacklisted. It was still very early in the Me Too movement. I was pretty nervous and feeling very raw. Kim Nguyen is just such a wonderful, creative professional. He runs such a great set and the whole team was so fantastic. Somehow getting hired by him on this cool project made me feel like everything was going to be ok.
How was the atmosphere?
Considering the high caliber star power on this film, it was an extremely chill atmosphere. Everyone was enjoying themselves. The crew was so lovely and everything seemed to run like clockwork. I was on set with Harriette for the family scene on a very busy day in Montreal. There were a lot of actors, including several kids. Jesse and Alex were both in the scene, and it was a really cold day shooting in a pretty small space. It could have been a high stress experience, but everything was really fun and pleasant. It’s not always like that.
Tell me about working with Salma Hayek!
Salma is a powerhouse. She really stepped into that boss-lady role with ease. She is super funny and extremely hardworking. It was a pleasure to watch her work. She is a giant star, but still spent her time in the makeup chair laughing about her kids. I liked her a lot.
Did your daughter Harriette like this experience? She definitely seemed to be in her element. She was adorable!
Harriette loved working on this set. She was only 5 at the time. She was so patient and loved every minute. Jesse and Alex were super sweet with all the kids in that family scene. They made it all so easy on everybody. Harry said she couldn’t believe how easy my job was. She definitely loves acting! She’s got a big part in an indie film directed by Vanya Rose-Kuhrt coming up, so we’ll see if she feels the same after experiencing a large role. It’s really fun to accompany her and see it through her eyes. She’s a natural.
You share your personal experience with Harvey Weinstein in the documentary Untouchable. What made you choose to be a part of this project?
The producer and director of the documentary (Ursula Macfarlane) seemed to be genuinely trying to tell a more in-depth story and we clicked. I’ve been approached for a few different projects, but this was the only one I felt comfortable participating in. They have been so careful and caring during the process. They call and check in because they genuinely care how I’m doing with all of this. It was really hard to tell my story on camera, but I felt like it might help people understand.
How do you feel about your children wanting to be actors?
My two eldest kids have been interested in auditioning and have both booked a few jobs. Having young kids in the business makes me a very cautious mama bear, but the industry is changing. All of the brave men and women coming forward are making sure of it. Our union is incredibly mindful of children, and the crews in Montreal are really among the very best in the world. I’m sure of it. My little girl Harriette is going to have a different experience from me if she follows this path. I’m going to continue to work for her to be safe and treated fairly if she wants this job. I’ll continue to advocate for everyone who deserves to be treated with respect.
What made you decide to come forward with your story about Harvey Weinstein?
It was the first article by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor in The New York Times. I couldn’t believe women were sharing such similar experiences to mine. I didn’t think anyone would dare to go up against him. I was shocked. I actually just reached out to them to say thank you. I had no intention of going public. I hadn’t even told my husband! We spoke several times over that weekend and they convinced me that I should share my story, that many women were coming forward. I felt like if all those people were being so brave and putting their reputation on the line, then I should support them and be honest about what happened to me. It was the right thing to do.
What have been the ripple effects of that incredibly brave choice?
It’s been hard, empowering, scary… a lot of things. I didn’t realize how much the experience had impacted my life until I started to unpack it and share it with the people I love, and discussing it in therapy. I also didn’t fully understand how putting myself out there would give others permission to do the same. There is a lot of shame and secrecy around this kind of abuse. Bringing it to light helps to take some of that power back. I’ve been contacted by so many people who shared their stories with me. It’s been an honour to hold space for them and be trusted with their experience.
What did the ACTRA Montreal’s Woman of the Year award mean to you?
I don’t even know what to say about the Woman of the Year award. I was so surprised and honoured. Mostly, I felt incredibly supported by my community. ACTRA Montreal sent a powerful message by giving me that award. They will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour, and they believe survivors. It was a beautiful way to be honoured by my peers, like a giant hug from all the actors I’ve met along the way.
What did it feel like to be at the Women’s March?
I went with my dad! He is the person who taught me what Feminism was. He was the first man I heard refer to himself as a feminist too! It was a really special day. I have been encouraged by the public discourse and support for the movement and I’m very hopeful, but in some ways, I haven’t seen as much actual change as I’d like. There have been very few stories of legal victories or policy change in support of women. Equality is the fundamental goal of all this, I think, and that goal is still a long way off. Our industry (most industries I guess?) is still dominated by straight white men, and I think the rest of us are ready to have others in the driver’s seat. We are still pushing to get our stories told and to get an equal share of the pie. Every industry is the same, I think. The sea of change is a slow one. Women still have a long way to go.
On the same day that we spoke, the CBC shared this positive news:
The Hummingbird Project is ultimately a movie about slowing down, appreciating the moment and nurturing family and community. Erika is someone who makes our community stronger, and I am deeply inspired by her leadership and bravery. xx
The Hummingbird Project hits Montreal theaters today!