Teen with cancer co-directs ‘Farewell to Hollywood,’ with her as a subject

Reggie Nicholson and Henry Corra, co-directors and subjects of “Farewell to Hollywood.”

Reggie Nicholson and Henry Corra, co-directors and subjects of “Farewell to Hollywood.”

By Seth Shire

A part of me wants to say that I enjoyed “Farewell to Hollywood,” a new documentary co-directed by New York based documentarian Henry Corra and Regina Diane Nicholson (Reggie).

However, I do not think that “enjoyed” is the correct term for my reaction to this very moving, honest, frank, poignant and life affirming, personal documentary about a teenaged filmmaker’s final, two-year struggle with cancer.

“It’s kind of an ordeal, isn’t it?” Corra said to me, empathizing with my reaction to this heartfelt documentary which opened at Cinema Village on February 25 (Reggie’s birthday). Reggie, the film’s subject as well as its co-director, was a filmmaker whose goal was to make a feature film. As Reggie’s mother says, in the documentary, Reggie “won’t make her mark on the world until she’s done that.”

Corra recalled meeting Reggie at the 2010 Silver Docs Film Festival. He said that Reggie approached him about the idea of making a documentary about her. Corra said he told Reggie that, “If she was interested in collaborating on an unscripted, non-fiction project, where we were equal partners, then we’d be in business. And she was like ‘Yeah, I like that idea.’”

Corra added that at first, “I have to admit I was quite terrified at taking on the tragedy of a young person that we all knew was going to die, including Reggie. It was daunting for me.” After receiving encouragement from Reggie and her mother, Corra decided to proceed with the film.

Corra and Reggie formed a close attachment to the point where Corra actually wound up being her caretaker, all while he and Reggie continued making the film. Corra explained, “It’s coming of age while dying as an artist and as a young woman and it’s in hyper drive because of the circumstances.”

Corra, a student of the late documentary filmmaker David Maysles, explained that his approach to documentary filmmaking, influenced by Maysles, is about “collapsing the boundaries between art and life, subject and author.” Corra added that, “In a sense ‘Farewell to Hollywood’ is the ultimate master class in achieving this.”

When I asked Corra about his hope for “Farewell to Hollywood” he said, “Our hope for the film has already come true. When you make these unscripted, personal films the rules of the film are made up and established as you go along. Over a two-year period we developed this really amazingly interesting creative working relationship of a young person at the beginning of their career and a seasoned director working together. We actually were great collaborators. We made the film for ourselves. The film became synonymous with life for Reggie as well as for me. It became synonymous with her being alive and happy, doing the thing she wanted to do the most. Our goal was to make the most amazing film that the two of us, as well as our friends, loved. Whatever happens beyond that is to be determined.”

Corra explained that fame and fortune were not goals for Reggie, adding that, “She was very mature as an artist, to understand that.”

Cinema Village is located at 22 East 12th Street.