Rittenhouse Square itself has long been a legendary location in Philadelphia. Kamin’s own Philadelphia upbringing served as a key source of inspiration for the film. “Rittenhouse Square itself is an iconic landmark, not only in Philadelphia, but the entire nation,” he says. “It’s a continuous melting pot of personalities and memories that unfold before your eyes on any given day. Having lived close by for a good 10 years, I’ve always used its ongoing rotation of street music as a source of therapy. Fusing all those ideas together spawned what is Rittenhouse Square.”
The film Rittenhouse Square tells the story of a young man named KJ who befriends an older homeless veteran, Barry. As KJ struggles with the aftermath of his father’s death and thoughts of suicide, he and Barry forge a friendship that saves them both. In addition to knowing the Philadelphia area and Rittenhouse Square well, KJ’s story is one that Kamin can relate to. He says the story told in the film “is deeply rooted in my upbringing and relationships throughout my life. I grew up in a blue-collar area as one of only a few Jewish families, which often resulted in getting bullied and feeling marginalized. In addition to being raised by a strong single parent and being from Philadelphia, the combination has always gravitated me towards projects that amplify underdog stories.”
KJ is played by newcomer Dharon Jones. Despite this being his first acting project, Kamin says that Jones was “perfect for the role” and that being a part of Jones’s first film was incredibly exciting. Meanwhile, Barry is played by industry mainstay Nick Nolte, a Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee. “I wrote this movie for him and couldn’t believe upon receiving word that he was interested,” Kamin states. Nolte was incredibly devoted to his role, despite it being in an independent film that is smaller than what he often works on. Nolte met with Kamin multiple times a week to prepare for the role, proving his devotion to his craft.
Rittenhouse Square is a film about universal themes any viewer can relate to. Each character faces their own unique set of challenges they must overcome. The main theme is the power of friendship and the role it plays in helping individuals conquer those obstacles that life throws at them. Kamin hopes this message will resonate with audiences. “We hit a lot of topics like divinity, LGBTQ+, single parenting, homelessness, mental health and more,” he says. “Should the film encourage just one person to lend or seek a helping hand, then I’d say that’s a bigger achievement than any box office performance.”
Filming on location in Philadelphia was a highlight for the cast and crew, who regularly interacted with the locals. “They couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive,” Kamin says. After making a movie about Philadelphia in Philadelphia, there is no better place to premiere it than the Philadelphia Film Festival. Kamin previously premiered his directorial debut, The Nomads, at the Philadelphia Film Festival and says returning was a “no brainer.”
Perhaps the biggest lesson this homegrown film can provide coincides with Kamin’s own story. “10 years ago I was scrubbing toilets on my hands and knees in East Falls while making mom/pop commercials to get by. Now I’m answering PR questions about what it’s like to direct Nick Nolte in a movie,” he says. “So take a swing at what you love doing. You may get punched in the face by the world from time to time, but be nice, stay the course, work hard, and you may mess around and wind up achieving your greatest dreams.”
The Philadelphia Film Festival takes place from October 19th through 30th.