The Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award-winning film TO DUST, co-starring Géza Röhrig and Matthew Broderick, will be released into theaters by Good Deed Entertainment in early 2019. As director Shawn Snyder said to Science & Film in 2015, when the film was still in script stage and he had just won a $100,000 production grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation:
“TO DUST is about Shmuel, a Hasidic man in upstate New York, who loses his wife, and struggles and fails to find comfort in traditional Jewish mourning rituals, while growing increasingly haunted by thoughts of her decomposing body. He is driven to understand the actual physical process of her decay in hopes that it might offer some solace. Any secular pursuit, any scientific inquiry, and any obsession with death is incredibly sacrilegious within his community, so in order to do so he has to tiptoe around and sneak outside the community. He tracks down Albert, a bumbling community college biology professor, and ropes him, unwittingly, into a world of homespun forensic research as the two try to figure out how Shmuel’s wife is decaying underground. It’s a comedy–it’s a dark comedy–but the hope is that it’s emotional and intellectual and grotesque and humorous and rollicking and poignant and spiritual and scientific all at once.”
The film made its world premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival where, in addition to winning the Audience Award, Snyder was named Best New Narrative Director. Snyder co-wrote the script with Jason Begue, and it was produced by Emily Mortimer, Alessandro Nivola, Ron Perlman, Josh Crook, and Scott Lochmus.
Röhrig, who starred in the Oscar-winning 2015 drama SON OF SAUL, told Science & Film that he was “blown away by the script immediately—by the very odd and unlikely and quirky togetherness of its very different components; how a Hasidic cantor intersects with a nihilistic community college science teacher, and all that is framed by this very personal and emotional loss. I think the science component in and of itself, even as a documentary, would be quite interesting because people naturally shy away from being in the presence of a corpse. On the other hand, this is a sort of dialectic urge because we are attracted to death too; we do want to know and we do want to gaze at it.”
Scott Donley, founder and CEO of Good Deed, reportedly said, "we were immediately drawn to this film by its artful balance of dark humor and honest human commentary, not to mention Röhrig’s and Broderick’s top-notch performances," according to the Hollywood Reporter.