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The Man who is ‘Almost There’

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Festival.  Find the rest of them  here  or  download the podcast  on iTunes.

83-year-old artist Peter Anton was only known in his community of East Chicago before filmmakers Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden stumbled into his life. The film “Almost There” follows Anton as the filmmakers become his caretakers and advocates for his art exhibit, which quickly becomes controversial.

Credit Press Photo / Almost There
Almost There

The Chicago filmmakers said they are drawn to “unsung artists” like Anton. Wickenden said they spent eight years capturing Anton’s story because of the way he fascinated them.

“Almost There” meditates on artistic expression and the process of getting older through Anton’s art and life story. KBIA’s Michaela Tucker talked with co-directors and producers Rybicky and Wickenden about creating the film.

Can you tell me about how you found Peter?

Rybicky: Aaron and I are friends and basically, we went to a Pierogi Festival to see the World’s Largest Pierogi, while we were there, we were walking around, we met Mr. Pierogi, we saw a lot of dancing pierogis, and then at the like very end of this long pathway was this rickety table and this man sitting there doing pastel portraits of kids and telling, you know, hilarious, corny jokes.

And then he pulled out these books, like you can see in the film. Immediately upon seeing these books we felt like we had obviously come across someone who is making art in a way that was obsessive and powerful and to be reckoned with.

Because you became so close to Peter throughout the film, how did you approach that as documentarians?

Rybicky: At first, we were doing the project as a documentary photography project.  And our initial hope was literally just to help Peter share his story with the world and to connect him to an arts space where he could have his work shown, and as you can tell from the film, an extremely complicated relationship, as I think it is by the way it with a lot of films, and filmmakers.

What do you hope the audience will take away from “Almost There”?

Wickenden: Peter’s story, after following him for eight years, we realized that his story was one of perseverance.

I think audiences will get a lot out of seeing his story, seeing his journey, and feeling that kind of contagious spirit that he has.

Rybicky: I hope they have a good time watching, and also think about the relationships in their life and they people they have helped and the people who help them and sort of meditate on caretaking. 

Copyright 2020 KBIA. To see more, visit KBIA.

Michaela Tucker
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