Brooklyn duo collaborate on new independent film

January 13, 2022 Raanan Geberer
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‘Hannah Ha Ha’ focuses on decline of small-town way of life

A new film about a small-town, not-very-ambitious young woman whose lifestyle is challenged when her corporate-type brother comes to town will premiere later this month at the Slamdance Film Festival, a venue for independent films that takes place in Park City, Utah, at the same time as Sundance.

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The film, “Hannah Ha Ha,” is produced by Roger Mancusi, an East New York resident, and co-produced by Emily Freire, from Brooklyn Heights. They met through a mentorship through the Brooklyn-based filmmaking program Reel Works, which matches teens with professional filmmaker-mentors. 

Mancusi invited Freire to be involved in the project, then increased her role from production assistant to co-producer. Freire is a native Brooklynite; Mancusi’s family originally came from Brooklyn, then moved to Long Island, and he later moved back to Brooklyn, he told the Eagle.

The film, which takes place in Sharon, Massachusetts, on the outskirts of Boston (the hometown of co-writers and directors Jordan Tetewsky and Joshua Pikovsky), concerns a 26-year-old woman, Hannah, whom the publicity for the film describes as a “good-hearted townie.”

Hannah spends much of her time helping her father, who is suffering from an unspecified illness; teaching another young person how to play guitar; working for a nearby farmer; doing odd jobs like dog-walking and lawn-mowing; and listening to a music call-in show. 

The arrival of Hannah’s brother, played by Roger Mancusi, turns her life around. Photo courtesy of Fair Oaks Entertainment

Hannah’s day-to-day routine is disrupted by the arrival of her brother (played by Mancusi), who moves back to the area to be close to their ailing father. The brother challenges Hannah about her future, nagging her to get a “real job” with a 401-K plan, health insurance, chance for promotion and so on. He points out, accurately, that at age 26, this is the last year she can be carried under her father’s insurance.

So she begins to look for jobs. First comes an inquiry at the local public library. Second comes an interview at an office where the interviewer asks questions like, “How many bricks are there in London?” (Mancusi said corporate employers sometimes ask such questions just to see interviewees’ reactions.) Finally, she gets a job at a fast-food restaurant in Boston where her boss spends most of his time loafing while she works hard.

One point the film is trying to make, Mancusi said, is that the small-town, suburban way of life in which Hannah feels comfortable is eroding as market forces push younger people to the cities. This is accentuated by the closing, toward the end of the film, of a local ice-cream shop, another symbol of the community being eroded.

What makes Hannah tick, Mancusi says, is “community, being a reliable person, on a smaller scale.”

The title, “Hannah Ha Ha,” he told the Eagle, is an homage to an earlier film, “Funny Ha Ha,” by Andrew Bujalski. And even though the star of the film is named Hannah Lee Thompson, it’s a coincidence and not based on her life.

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