The central theme of “Detonator” is fairly universal: Leaving behind a wild and carefree past for the responsibilities of family and career. But for Philadelphians, the settings of the new film will feel even closer to home. That untamed youth is shot against the backdrop of punk house shows in West Philly, while adulthood is depicted in the green backyards of Flourtown.
“Detonator” takes place over the course of one night, as Sully (played by the co-directors’ Columbia classmate Lawrence Michael Levine) reunites with his former bandmate and is drawn back into the punk underground that he’d left behind for 9-to-5 domesticity in the suburbs. Wednesday’s screening at the Ambler Theater, at which one of the directors, Keir Politz, will be on hand, will serve as a preview for the film’s official east coast premiere in New York City later this month. It previously screened as a sneak preview at last year’s Philadelphia Film Festival before making its world premiere earlier this year at California’s Cinequest Film Festival.
The film was co-directed by Politz, a native of Philly’s Lawncrest section, and Damon Maulucci. The two met while both were grad students at Columbia University, though Politz has since moved back to Manayunk. He saw the local punk scene as the perfect landscape for the story the filmmakers were out to tell.
“I’d always been drawn to the excitement and rawness and youthfulness of punk music,” Politz says. “It fit as a great contrast to things that my partner and I are experiencing in our own creative lives: Trying to reconcile these past, more romantic notions of yourself with the reality of having to pay a mortgage and have a family.”
Politz, who now teaches screenwriting at Penn, didn’t want to film the familiar sights that usually indicate “Philadelphia” on screen. He cites Elaine May’s 1976 film “Mikey and Nicky” as an inspiration. “A lot of people wouldn’t know that was shot in Philadelphia because they never show any landmarks,” he says, “but to me it’s unmistakable. She succeeded in capturing something truthful and authentic about this city. I wanted to do something that doesn’t gloss the city, but that also doesn’t overly sentimentalize the grit of it.”