‘ANGELFISH’ director Peter Lee discusses filming a New York City-based love story

Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

Peter Lee, director of the upcoming romance film, “ANGELFISH” — starring Princess Nokia in her feature film debut and Jimi Stanton — told QNS that the story was actually inspired by his own parents’ love story from 1950’s Dublin, Ireland.

“When it comes to my feature debut, this was always going to be the story I wanted to tell,” Lee said. “My idea of love was shaped by listening to stories of how my parents met and what they had to overcome to make that love last.”

The movie, which takes place in the Bronx in 1993, follows the complicated yet passionate love story of Brendan (played by Stanton), who is Irish-American, and Eva (Princess Nokia), who is Puerto Rican.

“The film is about how they fall in love and the kind of trials and tribulations of that summer as their families and their lives start to kind of pull that love apart and put stress on whether it can survive,” Lee said.

In order to make the movie feel authentic, Lee felt it was imperative to shoot the entire project in Marble Hill and Kingsbridge.

Casting Princess Nokia, who most people know as a Harlem-based rapper (“Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T.),” “G.O.A.T.”), as the lead was a no-brainer.

“It was super instant,” Lee said. “We wanted to find an actor and a performer who, when people see the movie, they go, ‘Where has this actor been all my life?’”

Stanton, who has appeared on Netflix’s “The Punisher” and Hulu’s “Wu Tang: An American Saga,” was another easy choice for Lee, who said the young actor brought in an “honest empathy” and said his ability of “capturing that range of emotion” was needed in the role.

Lee moved to New York City about three years ago, after growing up in Dublin and studying film in the United Kingdom. He got to move around the city — initially living near Court Square in Queens, then Brooklyn and now Manhattan — and later decided to write a story based on the community he fell in love with and calls home. 

Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures

Lee also mentioned that the critical aspect of authenticity when making the film wasn’t lost on them, which is why they brought in people from the communities they represent into the movie making process.

“I worked with a close friend of mine when writing the script, who’s from the Dominican Republic and lives in the Lower East Side,” he said. “And that’s one of the reasons why we worked with Princess Nokia and why it was so fantastic to work with her, because she brought her own sense of authenticity and her experience of being of Puerto Rican descent in New York.”

“ANGELFISH” will have its red carpet premiere on Thursday, Nov. 14 in the United Palace Theater at 4140 Broadway.

The event will be open to the public, who can purchase tickets for the opening night by visiting www.angelfishmovie.com.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do it [there] was because it’s just right there, a couple of miles away from where we shot the film in Marble Hill,” Lee said. “The United Palace is the most incredible theater, it’s so beautiful. This is like one of the unknown gems of the city, from our perspective.”

He added that making it open to the public was also something they always wanted to do for the community.

“That was always really critical for us, because the film wouldn’t exist without the communities that helped us make it and the communities that it’s about,” Lee said.

The movie will also be available to rent or buy in all streaming platforms on Nov. 19.

And if you’re wondering why Lee chose to name it “ANGELFISH,” good — it was his intention to make you wonder in the first place.

“I love the mystery, I love that people will ask, ‘What’s angelfish?’ It has a beautiful resonance and it means something to the very core of this story,” he said.

The name came to Lee while watching a documentary about the colorful fish who, when they meet their partner, mate for life.

“That’s exactly what these characters are,” he said. “They’re a pair of angelfish swimming through life together.”

Watch the trailer for “ANGELFISH” below.

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