Actress Travina Springer Talks Sundance Premiere of To Live and Die and Live

Jan 30, 2023

Those who have been to Sundance Film Festival can attest to how excitingly chaotic the event can be, especially for those who are there to work. Between the weather-related challenges of it being held atop the mountainous Park City, Utah and the fact that Sundance is effectively the first major film event of the year — not to mention the buzz around movies making their world premiere — there’s always something to do, someone to meet, somewhere to go.

Travina Springer knows this well; in fact, her film, To Live and Die and Live, had just had its premiere at the festival hours before she and I connected over the phone for our interview. “It was so much fun,” Springer said of being able to see the film with a general audience. “Having [them] react and deal with things in real time, collectively, was especially good.”
Selected as part of Sundance’s NEXT program, To Live and Die and Live marks writer/director Qasim Basir’s return to the renowned festival (his previous feature, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream., premiered here in 2018). With his latest film, however, Basir turns his lens towards Detroit, telling the story of Muhammed (Amin Joseph), a successful Hollywood director who returns home to bury his recently deceased stepfather according to Muslim funeral traditions. To Muhammed’s family, he’s a sort of savior, shouldering the financial burden of the funeral and stepping up to provide for everyone. What they don’t know, however, is that Muhammed struggles with addiction, and one night in Detroit, after the bars have closed, he meets a young woman (Skye P. Marshall), who, for her own reasons, matches his play-hard energy. They form an instant attraction, even if a precarious connection, one that forces them to look within perhaps for the first time in a long time.

Playing a Version of Basir’s Real-Life Sister

Sundance Institute

Prior to filming To Live and Die and Live, Springer had formative discussions with Basir about the story and the characters, specifically his vision for the film, which only confirmed that she made the right choice in signing on. The actress plays Raina, Muhammed’s sister, who is probably the sole person in their family who isn’t as impressed as everyone else by her brother’s fame and success. Springer revealed that she, Basir, and the rest of the cast who played Muhammed’s family all had dinner together prior to shooting. More than just using the time to get to know each other and build a rapport for the camera, of course, Springer recalled them having a “really great in-depth conversation about the story and who everybody was and what it meant. It was just really inspiring, and I think that [conversation] informed my performance.”

Related: Exclusive: Andrew Bowser and Olivia Taylor Dudley Talk Sundance Premiere of Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls

Interestingly, Raina was based on Basir’s real-life sister — “She was there, watching us as we filmed, so it was a lot of pressure. But it was also great. I had a wonderful time.” — and it was through her discussions with the director that Springer built a character whose emotional complexity, while not necessarily the focus of To Live and Die and Live, is ever-apparent whenever the camera cuts to her. “A really cool thing was that there were some really great things in the script, but when we got to set, we were able to play, and there were things that I was able to expand upon,” Springer said. “Qasim just trusted me to make those choices and go in that direction.”

A Love Letter to Detroit

Sundance Institute

In his “Meet the Artist” video on Sundance Institute’s YouTube channel, Basir discussed how To Live and Die and Live came from a desire to shoot the beauty of his hometown of Detroit, something that hasn’t unfortunately been done enough throughout the history of the medium. “He shared [with me] how this was a personal story for him and a love letter to Detroit,” said Springer. At a later point in our conversation, the actress added, “There’s so much talent in the city of Detroit. This film very much highlights the local talent that was behind the scenes. I would like people to appreciate the city of Detroit.”

Related: L’Immensità Review: Penélope Cruz Is Sublime in Emanuele Crialese’s Transportive Family Drama

To Live and Die and Live’s notion of changing the public’s long-held — and incorrect — perception of a city also extends to its residents, particularly Black men. If there’s one thing Springer would urge an audience to take away from her film, it’s the “beautiful visuals of Black men being [vulnerable] with each other.”

Springer notably starred in last year’s Ms. Marvel as Tyesha, Aamir’s wife (and therefore sister-in-law to Kamala Khan), which broke ground in terms of Muslim representation in the superhero genre. As a Muslim woman herself, Springer is acutely aware of the power of stories on-screen. And she sees the power To Live and Die and Live holds. “The themes of addiction and grief, they’re things so many people struggle with, but it’s not something you see portrayed with a Muslim protagonist — and I think that’s really powerful.”

To Live and Die and Live is currently screening at Sundance. Visit the festival’s website for its full schedule.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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