One of my recent posts for VODzilla was an interview with Miguel Gomes, director of the Arabian Nights trilogy.
What was the inspiration behind adapting a Middle Eastern set of stories to comment on modern day Portugal?
Well, it was the idea that I should show things about what was happening in my country, the social and economic crises. But I also like to tell stories, not only show things but also tell stories. For me, Arabian Nights is like the Bible of storytelling. So, it’s a very particular kind of storytelling. Arabian Nights is pretty wild and what was happening in Portuguese society was also very extreme. The real stories that people were living, the situations they were facing, were also very extreme. And so both things came together and I thought I would need the help of Queen Scheherazade to help me to tell the stories about my country.
I interviewed Dietrich Bruggemann for his film Stations of the Cross, for Grolsch Film Works.
Stations of the Cross is a remarkable film. Filmed in just 14 shots, one for each of the eponymous stations, director Dietrich Brüggemann moves his camera only three times throughout the film. But it’s much more than just a gimmick or a dry experiment in formalism; it’s as essential to the themes as the script is.
The director – an exceptionally eloquent thinker with a tendency to make you feel slightly embarrassed by the simplicity of your question – is keen to champion the methods he used to make it.
GFW: Is Stations of the Cross an anti-religious film?
Dietrich Brügemann: No, not really. I don’t think you should make films in favour of or against anything, really – political or argumentative. Of course, you have a certain view of the world and you have a certain set of values that you can’t hide, but I think as a filmmaker you are obliged to discuss the stuff, and be dialectic and encourage the other position. We actually deliberately – we maybe even overdid it – put lots of characters that gave us another angle on religion, with a normal, everyday approach to Christianity.
I don’t have anything against religion. Apart from all the philosophical and theological stuff, what I really see when I look at religion is people going to church on Sundays, gathering and flocking together, supporting each other and singing hymns and playing the organ. What’s wrong with that?
Some further questions from my interview with Terry Gilliam
I interviewed legendary director and comedy hero Terry Gilliam for The Skinny
The Zero Theorem, the new film from Terry Gilliam, the legendary director of Brazil, Time Bandits and 12 Monkeys, is driven by ideas, and ideas that demand to be talked about. It centres on Qohen Leth (played by Christoph Waltz), a computer programming drone whose job is to prove that everything equals nothing, that life is ultimately meaningless. When I meet Gilliam at a Glasgow hotel ahead of the Scottish premiere of the film at the Glasgow Film Festival, I suggest my line of question should have a metaphysical bent. “Go for it,” chuckles Gilliam, “see if I can take it!” He can, and it’s with great relief that the genial director is eager to open up on some of the brain-scratching philosophies behind his film.
Nathanael Smith: The Zero Theorem is, at times, quite bleak. Bob [Lucas Hedges] tries to persuade Qohen Leth [Christoph Waltz] that everything is meaningless, that there is no such thing as a calling. Do you see yourself as a Bob figure, trying to disabuse the audience of a notion of meaning?
Terry Gilliam: No, not really. It’s sort of testing the main character is what it’s really doing. Matt Damon [playing a figure known only as Management] describes [Leth] towards the end as a man of faith. Qohen believes there is a meaning to life and that our lives make sense, and he certainly wants to believe that. Everybody else is kind of conspiring to say it’s not true, except that in the course of this Bob, the teenager, Bainsley [Mélanie Thierry] the girl, these are people that come into his life that he actually begins to care about and love. It’s about re-humanising the character, in a strange way…
I interviewed Pixar animator Scott Clark before the release of Monsters University
The first thing you notice about Scott Clark, Pixar veteran and the supervising animator on the animation house’s latest, Monsters University, is his hat. Sitting comfortably on the genial American’s head is a faded blue, dog-eared cap with MU emblazoned across the front. This isn’t any old merchandise to be flogged to kids wanting to boast membership of Mike Wazowski and James P. ‘Sulley’ Sullivan’s alma mater, though. A closer inspection reveals the cloth on the peak is torn in exactly the same spot as Mike’s is when he first goes to the titular educational establishment. It’s a live action replica of an animated prop. This is the kind of love for their craft and attention to detail that has characterised Pixar’s work ever since Toy Story, and the sight of it still there on the animator’s head after a full day of interviews with journalists at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where Monsters University is having its UK premiere, is a wonderful symbol of pride he feel for the project.
I interviewed documentary director Eric Steel about his film Kiss the Water for kamera.co.uk
Eric Steel is, first and foremost, a film fan, as evidenced by the fact that instead of getting straight into an interview with him, we end up discussing director Lucien Castaing-Taylor – who made Leviathan– and his earlier film Sweetgrass. ‘It’s about sheep-herders in Montana, it’s one of the most of beautiful films… I think it’s better than Leviathan,’ he comments. We eventually drift onto salmon flies and Kiss The Water, where he reveals he has never fished, but saw something universal in Megan Boyd’s story. This leads me onto my pre-prepared questions, but we don’t stay there long, and there’s no need; Steel is so eloquent when discussing his film that it becomes infectious, different ideas flowing in and out of the conversation instead of a stilted question and answer structure. Needless to say, he had a lot to talk about when it did come to his film.
He first got the idea to make a film about Boyd when he read her obituary in the New York Times in 2001, and he says that the appeal was that ‘the original obituary read like a fairy tale, that was like one version of her life that had been spun. Kind of spun in the way that you spin a fly.’ Clearly attracted to the idea of Boyd’s story being paralleled with the art of making a salmon fly, he explains that, ‘the construction of flies, there’s the silk and the wings, it’s layered… I think they have a life, and I was attracted to the idea of building her life in a series of layers that are connected.’ Kiss the Water is as much about story-telling as it is about fishing tackle.
I interviewed debut director Regis Roinsard about his film Populaire for The Skinny
French director Régis Roinsard is as bright and charming asPopulaire, his debut feature, which opened this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. When we meet in a plush city centre hotel the day after he presented the film to two sold-out audiences, he’s keen to talk about his influences (Wilder, Godard and Tarantino among them), his filmmaking process and the real life competitive typing tournaments from which he drew inspiration. His responses to my questions are measured and thoughtful, and give the overwhelming impression of a humble man who is delighted with what he has achieved. “I’m proud,” he says, simply, when I ask if his first film turned out as he had hoped, “and it’s very close to my original vision.”
I interviewed Alma Har’el about her spectacular documentary Bombay Beach
Bombay Beach is the beautiful documentary about the town of the same name from Israeli-born Music Video director Alma Har’el. It tells the story of three of the towns inhabitants – bright and unique yet directionless child Benny, college hopeful CeeJay and the wise old man Red. Featuring music from Beirut and Bob Dylan, as well as stunning cinematography and inventive dance sequences, it’s an unforgettable piece of documentary film making, and here Har’el explores further some of the themes within the film, as well as how she came to find the town in the first place.
Hope Lies – Bombay Beach is an incredible place, how did you discover it and what first drew you there?
Alma Har’el – I worked as a music video director with a band called Beirut and we were doing this low-fi music video by ourselves with a small camera, and we were shooting it in LA and then we sorta wanted to a back story for it, I wanted to do that, and Zach (Condon, lead singer of Beirut) told me he was going to Coachella, to perform there, it’s a music festival in the desert about an hour and a half from Palm Springs, so I ended up going there with him thinking I would film him. But it was very chaotic, and I was staying with the band and then at a certain point a friend said “well, I know you’re not shooting yet but I know you wanted to do some location scouting so why I don’t I show you this place that I think you are gonna love.”
I interviewed Robert Guillaume about his role in The Lion King for Front Row Reviews.
In anticipation of the re release of Disney’s classic animation The Lion King I was immensely privileged to have the opportunity to interview Robert Guillaume, who voiced the iconic character of Rafiki, for Front Row Reviews. In this two-part interview, (the second of which will go up before the DVD release), Guillaume happily discusses the enduring appeal of The Lion King, gives his thoughts behind the 3D conversion and even, much to this writers delight, breaks into song. The Lion King is out this Friday (October 7th) in 3D in cinemas around the country, before a Blu-Ray release in November.
Front Row Reviews: So you’ve seen the 3D re-release, what do you think of the 3D process?
Robert Guillaume: I loved it! I had such a great time watching it. I think I had a better time seeing it this way than seeing it as it normally would have been seen, earlier. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve said before that I think the best way to see this film is with a young person, with … just a kid. If you see it with them, they are not so guarded in their reactions with things that please them, or frighten them and you’ll get a deep reaction to the story, it resonates with them in a way I’ve never seen before. I went with a young person and I think we had told this kid that I had played the voice of Rafiki. But when Rafiki came on, and he began to witness the story, he had a ball. He just cracked up, and not in any guarded fashion – just totally immersed in the story.