As a first-time writer and director, Vadim Perelman has in one stroke created a film that generated a good share of Oscar buzz. With "House of Sand and Fog" (2003), Perelman made a tragic film that revealed the underbelly of the American Dream through several people struggling with and against each other for their piece of the pie. Starring Ben Kingsley as an Iranian immigrant in search of a better life, and Jennifer Connelly as an alcoholic housemaid who loses her home to Kingsley after a bureaucratic error, "House of Sand and Fog" was an uphill challenge for Perelman to make. Ever crafty and determined, Perelman, who fought over a hundred other interested parties to gain the rights to the best selling novel by Andre Dubus III, managed to get the film into production with little money or studio help. But despite the difficult haul, Perelman told the story that he wanted to tell without interference-a rare thing for even the most seasoned director.
Born in Kiev, capital of then-Soviet occupied Ukraine, in 1963, Perelman was raised in a small room occupied by 10 other people-a communal flat with an extended family. Without television or money to go to movies, Perelman entertained himself with the vast array of books in the apartment, thus cultivating a voracious appetite for reading that stayed with him in his adult life. At age 7, both grandparents died, and at 9 his father was killed in a car accident. With no connections left, Perelman and his mother fled to Europe as refugees, first stopping in Vienna for two months, then Rome for a year, where he slept on the streets and begged for change. Finally, Perelman and his mother had enough money-and a couple visas-to go to Canada. Perelman spent his adolescence cruising Edmonton, Alberta with a gang of teenaged thugs who broke into and ransacked homes. At the end of a four year reign of terrorizing Edmonton's homeowners, Perelman became disgusted with himself and left his friends behind-two of whom were in jail.
Perelman earned his high school equivalency and attended the University of Alberta, where he majored in physics and math. However, Perelman attended an introductory film course that his life changed forever. He later moved to Toronto, where he studied film at Ryerson University. Perelman developed a knack for editing, which he put to good use immediately upon finishing film school. Later, Perelman formed his own production house in Toronto for directing commercials and music videos, some of which he did for free in order to hone his craft. Over the next three years, Perelman established himself as an innovative commercial director and became much-sought after for his talents. Perelman spent the next ten years directing spots, which he later felt to be a waste of time-but it was good money.
It was after a commercial shoot in Europe that Perelman came into contact with the novel, House of Sound and Fog, at the airport. Perelman felt a special connection to The Oprah Book Club selection, especially because of the similar experience of the Iranian émigré who travels to America for a better life. Original drafts of the screenplay were written by scribe Shawn Otto, but Perelman was not satisfied with the results. Though he never wrote a script before, Perelman did so anyway and produced a draft that garnished the interest of both Kingsley and Julianne Moore, who was originally attached to the Connelly role. At the last minute, Perelman gave the role to Connelly, thus raising the ire of Moore's CAA agents. But that didn't concern Perelman, though he later said he should have been more humble in getting the film made. Nonetheless, Perelman had elevated himself far above the street urchin and petty thief he used to be.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Directed first feature, the critically acclaimed "The House of Sand and Fog"
Helmed second feature, the independently financed, "The Life Before Her Eyes"