How Saleka Turned Old’s Star-Studded Premiere Into a Family Affair

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As the daughter of celebrated director M. Night Shyamalan, rising R&B star Saleka grew up around filmmaking. Still, this year the performer celebrates an onscreen milestone thanks to a song she penned for her father’s film, Old. The thriller, which stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, and Eliza Scanlen, centers on a mysterious beach where visitors rapidly and inexplicably age. The film, which opens this weekend, was a family affair with Saleka providing a tune sung by a character in the film and her sister Ishana serving as second unit director. “We are always very invested and involved in each of our dad’s films from the beginning,” says Saleka. “Often we’ll read the script, spend a lot of time on set, watch the different edits of the film as they finish everything, and this time the connection to the project was even deeper because of the collaboration.” 

This week at Lincoln Center, the entire family toasted the achievement alongside the cast and crew. In-person premieres have been rare since the COVID-19 crisis began, but Old’s team sought to mark the tenacity and hard work it took for the project to be made amid the pandemic. Filmed in the Dominican Republic during hurricane season while Hollywood was in lockdown, the project was a labor of love. “There were many obstacles in the way of creating this movie, but it all came together so beautifully,” says Saleka. “Especially coming out of all of that, it was a true blessing to be able to have a real premiere screening and celebrate in person with my dad and the cast and crew [honoring] their huge accomplishment.” 

Shyamalan’s thrillers are known for their engaging storylines and unforeseen twists but don’t expect Saleka to spill any spoilers. “There’s not much I can say without giving things away! But I think the blend of thriller and drama in the movie is so perfect; it’s such a fun and terrifying experience yet at the same time, emotional and profound,” she says. “It stays with you after. I thought the journies that the youngest characters go through were especially provocative and heartbreaking.” Taking it all in, alongside the people closest to her in a theater filled with fans, was a special thrill; “Nothing can surpass the energy of the theater during the screening! Everyone is dressed up, and the whole room is buzzing with excitement,” says Saleka. “Hearing the audience jump and laugh and gasp, it’s like we were all on an emotional rollercoaster ride together.”

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