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BEV chats to 'My Brother The Devil' writer-director Sally El Hosaini
It is safe to say that Sally El Hosaini is already the woman to watch out for in 2012. Her feature length debut My Brother the Devil – a beautiful and subtle study of what it means to be a young Arab man today in the East London borough of Hackney – has been wowing the judges at the winter film festivals.
Fresh from her successes at Sundance Festival and Berlinale 2012 – where My Brother The Devil won Europa Cinema’s award for “Best European Film” – Birds Eye Viewer Emily Vermont caught up with El Hosaini to talk about the freedom of fiction and those damn statistics.
Birds Eye View: Can you remember the first time you decided you’d make a film? Was it something you’d always dreamed of or did you suddenly ‘catch the bug’?
SALLY EL HOSAINI: As a kid I used to write a lot, mainly poetry and short stories. I was also really into taking black and white photographs, but I hadn’t connected the two activities in my head. The actual decision to make a film came when I was at university studying something entirely different. I thought I’d messed up my life by not studying film. In hindsight not going to film school was the best move I made! It made me more determined to pursue filmmaking as a career.
SALLY EL HOSAINI: I wasn’t making docs on my own terms, but instead for companies who were in turn selling them to TV channels. The docs were formulaic and no matter how much I tried to avoid it, often sensationalist. I also had some ethical dilemmas about the way they were being made and about “investigative journalism” in general. I think the bottom line is that I’m not a journalist. I found that in fiction you can explore questions in a way that you can’t when you are limited by so called “facts”. You can go deeper. You can explore the emotional and the psychological dimensions of a story. I’m suspicious of certainty anyway. If you look at history, facts seem to change over time and reflect only the present consensus (if that).
BEV: How different were your research methods for My Brother… than those you would use for a documentary film?
SALLY EL HOSAINI: The research methods were similar. Making contacts, building honest relationships of trust and entering new worlds. Observing and listening. I like to be a fly on the wall in the world I’m writing about. It’s the only way I know how to make something truly authentic.
BEV: What was it that made you want to tell your latest story through the eyes of a male?
SALLY EL HOSAINI: I was spending a lot of time with groups of boys in a very macho world. These boys put so much pressure upon themselves to be a “man”. Their masculinity interested me and their homophobia appalled me. A male character who is exploring his sexuality in this alpha-male world interested me. As did the fact that to many Arabs they would rather have a son, a brother, who is a terrorist than gay. I wanted to explore what it means to be a man to these boys.
BEV: You took part in Birds Eye View’s She Writes Lab (in partnership with Script Factory). Can you tell us a bit about it? What was the most important thing you learned from that experience?
She Writes was a screenwriting scheme for women to help readdress the awful statistic that only 12% of screenwriters in the UK are women. Some people say there aren’t more women coming up in the industry because other women get jealous of them and won’t give them breaks. I don’t think that’s the case AT ALL. The scheme was an extremely encouraging and supportive environment. I consider the other screenwriters on the scheme as friends and I’m genuinely happy about their successes. The statistic that horrifies me even more is that only 6% of film directors in the UK are women. I think it says a lot about British society as a whole. There isn’t economic parity between the sexes and many of our industries are sexist. I’m often asked about the fact that I’m a woman directing a movie about men. This irritates me because I’m a filmmaker before I’m a female filmmaker. Many male directors, like Almodovar for example, can make movies about women without anybody reacting.
BEV: You not only directed but also wrote MBTD. How did this feel – did you find yourself re-writing as you went along?
SALLY EL HOSAINI: I never stopped rewriting the script for the five years it took to make the movie. I was even rewriting while we were shooting. And then reconstructing the film in the edit. They say that a film is never finished, only ever abandoned. That’s definitely my experience. There comes a moment when the time and money runs out and you’re forced to stop. I’m too much of a perfectionist to ever be “done” at any stage of the process. I’m always striving to make it better.
BEV: With your incredible success at Sundance and Berlin this year, 2012 is already a massive year for you. Do you feel your life changing? What has been the highlight of these past two months?
SALLY EL HOSAINI: The highlight has been finally making the movie and sharing it with audiences. The critical success and reviews are wonderful in terms of my “career”, but the real buzz is when you know that your film has connected with ordinary people. That’s the thing that makes all of the pain of making the movie suddenly seem worthwhile. It’s what makes me want to do it all over again.
BEV: This must be the question on those movie moguls lips: do you have any other projects on the cards already?
SALLY EL HOSAINI: Of course. You have to have a few projects on the go because it’s so hard to make a movie these days. You can’t be certain which one will be “next”. The one I’m currently most excited about is another London movie, but a completely different world to My Brother The Devil.
We are delighted that Sally El Hosaini will be a guest speaker at the Birds Eye View International Women’s Day Gala at the NFT1 BFI Southbank on March 8th.
Mainstream in Denmark, arthouse in the rest of the world
Susanne Bier • Director
by Birgit Heidsiek, Cineuropa
30/10/2012 - The Academy Award-winning Danish director Susanne Bier has gained a reputation for dramas such as Brothers, After the Wedding [trailer, film focus] and In A Better World [trailer]. In her new movie Love Is All You Need [trailer], she sends a cancer-suffering hairdresser on a turbulent, tragicomic trip to Italy. Love Is All You Need was presented as a world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and is being released in more than 20 countries.
Cineuropa: How do you create your authentic women characters?
Susanne Bier: The main female character was slightly built as a character on my mother. When Anders Thomas Jensen (scriptwriter) and me started talking if we should do a movie about cancer, we decided quite quickly we should do a romantic comedy because we didn‘t want to do a heavy-handed drama. We wanted to infuse the whole notion with some kind of hope. It was very obvious for me to look at my mother. She had breast cancer twice. She has always been this very positive, very optimistic person. Evenwhen she was feeling really bad she was talking about how nice the nurses are.
Your film is being sold as a romantic comedy. Do you agree with that?
The film has a lot of fun elements in it, but I wouldn‘t exactly call it a comedy. I have been wondering about it but I am not quite sure how I would sell it myself. According to the rules,a love story has to end badly and a romantic comedy ends well. So in that respect it is a romantic comedy. It is really hard to figure out what you do when you sell your film; if you do it right or wrong.
Do you accept any compromises as a film director?
I wouldn‘t do a cinematic compromise. But I would make other kind of compromises, for example with the titles. I much prefer the Danish title The Bald Hairdresser. I think that is a much more fun title. It comes directly to the whole issue of cancer and does it in a humorous way. But the reaction we got from all the distributors was that it would alienate the audience in their country. And there I feel I have to listen to what they say.
How do you deal with the dark humor of Anders Thomas Jensen?
Anders Thomas Jensen has a very black sense of humor, you can‘t make it more black. I really enjoy in it but I am probably also very romantic and tend to make his material more warm and emotional.
Is there a difference between the way how your films are perceived in Denmark and in the rest of the world?
Yes, in Denmark I am mainstream and in the rest of the world I seem to be arthouse. It is kind of funny. With In A Better World, I won a Golden Globe and I won European Best director and the Oscar but I wasn‘t even nominated for the Danish equivalent. There is a certain snobbishness, which is a little bit European. Things have to be a bit incomprehensible and really weird, then they are masterpieces. But I have a huge audience in Denmark. I actually believe that being able to tell a good substantial story which means something and having a big audience is what movies are for.
Why did you choose Pierce Brosnan for the male lead?
When the movie starts, the female character has lost everything. She has been ill, she has finsished treatment, she is terrified. The disease hasn‘t gone away. She has got no hair and only one breast. Her husband is having an affair with a beautiful blond at her daughter‘s age. You see this woman at this disastrous moment of her life. With whom do you think does she wants to end up? The man of her dreams would be like James Bond as a human being who has the charming surface but is actually a passionate, intense man.
Cristian Mungiu • Director of Beyond the Hills
by Domenico La Porta, 19/05/2012
The Cannes Film Festival is well known for having launched and supported the career of many directors, and Cristian Mungiu is one of them. His Palme d'Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days has given rise to a new age in Romanian cinema and his latest work,
Beyond the Hills [trailer, film focus], confirms his serious talent (read the review). He continues to refine it in the context of a national filmsector still in crisis, but it is one in which the Cannes Film Festival continues to believe, as shown by his selection for its 65th official competition.
What are the differences between this film and your last?
Cristian Mungiu : I don't think it's good to compare this film with my last. To understand this film, you have to forget what I have done before, because I did not encounter the same problems in production or shooting, and I very simply wanted to tell a different kind of story. It's not a film about friendship like in my previous film, but rather one about love and what the abandonment of love provokes in us, in the choices we make.
Who are the real culprits in this film?
The film shows us a victim, but the real culprits are not featured in this story. It's all the result of a weak educational system that was set up a long time ago and that is failing these people. What interests me is not denouncing the culprit. Choices are important. Are we always right to help others, even those we love? Do we really help them by imposing our values on them against their will? The man of faith thinks he is helping the girl, because no one else is helping her. He takes her to hospital, but the doctors can't help her and he interprets this failure as licence to decide her fate and the way she is treated. His acts correspond to his choices, but we don't really know if he was ever able to choose his beliefs or how he reached this way of life in the first place. No judgement.
Do you consider religion to be dangerous?
I try not to criticise anybody. This film discusses particular cases. There is no generalisation, and I am not describing Romanian society through this little community. A film is not able to be so all-encompassing. Beyond the Hills is more about superstition than it is about religion. It is not an analysis of religion's perverse effects, and I am not saying that people's beliefs are the same as those of the Romanian orthodox church as an institution.
Could you tell us about Oleg Mutu's cinematography?
I started to work with him when we were students. We didn't need to talk to each other a lot. We fixed a few things in the beginning, but not too much. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was very formal, but without a single angle and everything was very flat, pictorial onscreen. Here, when Oleg follows a character with his camera for eight minutes, there are moments in which what is filmed is not important, and the consciousness of what is happening takes over. Once again, the director removes himself, but this takes away none of Oleg Mutu's incredible talent without which I could not have attained this difficult result.
How has the Romanian film sector's financial crisis affected this film?
Our industry's problem is not funding, it's cultural. Films that are not entertainment are not popular in Romania. This is why we receive less money from the state for arthouse films, and why I had to look for international funding. My film will be seen much more abroad than it will be at home. That's just how it is. We have to hold on and continue to produce good quality films also aimed at the Romanian people.
2012 Cannes Film Festival award winners
By 05/28/2012 00:02:00
2012 Cannes Film Festival announced the award winners tonight.
Responding to questions from journalists at the press conference that followed the closing ceremony, Nanni Moretti and his jurors readily commented on their selected winners.
In the preamble, the President of the Jury Nanni Moretti said that the jurors had got on particularly well together, that they had held eight meetings, and talked a lot about the films. He said that no film had been unanimously selected. Raoul Peck added that despite this, "everyone in their own way added to the opinions held by others" and that "somehow a middle ground was found". "We all stand by our selection", he said.
Nanni Moretti thanked his jurors one by one: "Ewan McGregor for his sincerity, Hiam Abbas for her passion, Jean-Paul Gaultier for his good humour that makes him the ideal audience member, Diane Kruger for her determination, Emmanuelle Devos for her kindness, Raoul Peck for his competence and his culture, Andrea Arnold for her enormous energy, and Alexander Payne for his knowledge of cinematic history."
Nanni Moretti has also shared a personal reflection: "In this Competition, the filmmakers seemed more in love with their style than with their characters".
When questioned on the choice of Post Tenebras Lux for the Award for Best Director, but also on the absence of Holy Motors among the award winners, Nanni Moretti said that three films had particularly divided the Jury: Post Tenebras Lux, Holy Motors, Paradise: Love. "We didn't think it was right to look for unanimity and we had a lot of discussions. In the end, the first was awarded a prize, but not the other two." Andrea Arnold was among the defenders of Post Tenebras Lux. She spoke of "a brave, tender, loving film, that faces life and its fragility." Raoul Peck added, "this film really touched me emotionally and intellectually. I've rarely seen images with such force, such freedom, such sincerity. It connects us with the problems of today: being in a couple, love, children, the lack of communication, and also class struggle, with rare strength, and all this with incredible poetry."
Regarding the Award for Best Actor, Ewan McGregor spoke of "a subtle performance", while Nanni Moretti said that "the tension felt throughout the film owes as much to the direction as the lead actor." On this subject he added that several jurors would have liked to have awarded prizes to the actors in Love, but it was not permitted by regulations: the three main prizes - the Palme d’Or, the Award for Best Director and the Grand Prix- must not be associated with an acting award.
Finally, a reporter noted that no prize was awarded to any of the seven American In Competition films, and asked if that was a reflection on the state of American cinema. "It's a film festival, it's not about giving awards to a particular country, but of choosing from among the selected films. It would be incorrect to generalise on the choice that has been made", said Alexander Payne.
Winners of Cannes 2012:
Palme d'Or (Best Film): Love (Austria) by Michael Haneke
Grand Prix (Runner-up): Reality (Italy) by Matteo Garrone
Jury Prize (Third Prize): The Angels' Share (Britain) by Ken Loach
Camera d'Or (Debut Film): Beasts of the Southern Wild (U.S.) by Benh Zeitlin
Best Director: Carlos Reygadas, Post Tenebras Lux (Mexico)
Best Screenplay: Beyond the Hills (Romania), Cristian Mungiu
Best Actress: Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, Beyond the Hills
Best Actor: Mads Mikkelsen, The Hunt
Press Conference with the Award Winners
After the presentation of the awards at the the closing ceremony, the award winners met for a press conference. One by one, they answered questions from journalists. Excerpts.
Michael Haneke, winner of the Palme d'or for Love (Amour): The story I tell is based on the promise my wife and I made to each other: not to separate in a situation like the one in the film. We see that all the time and it is a widespread problem. I experienced it in my own family and that is what pushed me to make the film Love.
Matteo Garrone, winner of the Grand Prix for Reality: I have not read much of what has been written. It was a surprise for me because I know there were many beautiful films. The Competition was tough but I am very happy because the Grand Prix will help the film to reach a wider audience.
Ken Loach, winner of the Jury Prize for The Angels' Share: We realized that if we spent time with people like the ones in the film, they have such optimism that it makes us happy. To speak truthfully about things, you have to present them in the form of comedy.
Cristian Mungiu, Best Screenwriter for Beyond the Hills: I am very happy to have this award, a little surprised because it is the longest film in the Competition. I kept on changing the dialogues, the actresses helped me a lot, we tried to give it a continuity.
Carlos Reygadas, Best Director for Post Tenebras Lux: My work comes from the desire to create, to share, to find fraternity in the world with you. I was asked if I was not sad because many people did not like my film. For many filmmakers, the goal is to please. That is not my goal. Mine is to be able to express myself with absolute freedom and to be able to leave someone with something.
Mads Mikkelsen, Best Actor: It was a big moment for me and for the film. One cannot be a good actor in a mediocre film. During my stay, I didn't have a chance to see other films, but there is a lot of work to do in Cannes! Put me in the Jury and I will come to see films!
Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, Best Actress: The rhythm is different in film; after two months of shooting, here we are with this award, it’s incredible.
Benh Zeitlin, winner of the Caméra d’or for Beasts Of the Southern Wild: For almost everyone who contributed to the film, it was their first film. We had worked very hard on small projects, short films in the past. We wanted to make this with friends, as a family. You never know, when you make a film, that success could come like this.
L. Rezan Yesbilas, winner of the Palme d'or - Short Film for Silent: It was amazing to be there, even before the ceremony. This is the second time that Turkey has won a Palm.
ALI SAMADI AHADI
The German-Iranian filmmaker reflects on the impact his taut political documentary, The Green Wave, has made on the Middle East.
In June 2009 hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to dispute the result of the country’s presidential election, which many believed had been rigged by the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
What followed was a violent crackdown, evidence of which leaked out through social networking sites.
German-Iranian Ali Samadi Ahadi’s film, The Green Wave, which had its UK premiere at last month’s Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, brings together fractured pieces of footage filmed on mobile phones and testimony from bloggers in the country to document the brutality.
A mixture of news reports, animation and interviews, the film uses the emergence of social networks – which were pivotal in the propagation of the unrest – to mitigate the difficulties inherent in making a documentary in a context where journalists were expelled or imprisoned and information was under the control of the government. LWLies spoke with Ahadi recently about the film’s impact both at home and abroad.
LWLies: The Green Wave takes a very close-up view of events in Iran, which you were at the time quite distant from. How did you come to make the film?
Ahadi: When the elections took place in Iran, like other Iranians outside of Iran I was watching what was going on in the country. I was shocked and paralysed because of this brutality and the violence which we were facing.
After three months of being too shocked to be able to do anything, I wanted to do something. Not only to react but also to take action.
And because I am a filmmaker, I decided to make a film. We asked Associated Press to help us with their footage. This is a big part of our material.
And then we collected images which were shared on the internet, and we used images that we collected inside Iran and smuggled out of the country.
But all of these images were not able to tell the whole story, because they had mostly not a beginning, not an end, like broken puzzles.
We had to find a way to bring them together, because they had no protagonists, so we had to find a way to weave them to each other and that was the reason why I decided to use blogs and Twitter messages to bring all these things together.
I never think in genres and I never think in the way of tools. I find that if I get the subject, I try to understand how this subject can be told through me.
I try to collect all my tools and play around with them until I find a way of how I can tell the story.
A natural criticism of this style of documentary making is surely that you are bringing together a lot of very subjective evidence and trying to make it into an honest narrative.
It is a very subjective way of talking about the issue. We don’t have to lie to our audience and say we know the truth, and we have the whole truth and we are objective. I don’t believe that.
I believe in complete subjectivity. We don’t need to hide ourselves because it is subjective. It is very important to make it clear that it is our point of view, we have this opinion.
I think even journalistic pieces – mine is not journalistic – are subjective, and we know that. We know that it is not true when journalists say ‘we are objective’.
It is the same with the blogs and images we use. I read more than 1,500 pages of blogs and chose only 15 of them.
You can’t believe how often people talked about the same situation from different sides of the same place and the same momentum from different perspectives.
The same is with images. There is a moment in the film, where a Basij [militiaman] is on the roof of a building, shooting into a crowd of people, and we have it from more than 10 cell phone cameras from 10 different perspectives.
[President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad would say “these are not in Iran and these are from somewhere else”, but to be honest, we know that these things took place.
Maybe there are images which are not true, but this is not important. I’m not saying that we are showing the whole truth, I am saying that what is important is that we are able to say these things are true or not true, and no one will harm you.
In Iran if you would say that Ahmadinejad is a liar, they would arrest you or kill you. This is important, and not the evidence of this image or this blog. What is important is that you have the freedom to talk about it. And this is something that is much more important.
This is the bigger point. We tried our best to keep the evidence high, to double check the images, to double check the blogs. But even if there is a failure there, I think the much more important point is being able to talk with freedom.
I think even if you are a journalist, the only controlling system which really works every time is your own inner voice. My teacher when I was a student said to me you can do anything, but never forget the conversation with your inner voice.
Which is very true – you can make out of this footage 100 different films. Against and pro-Ahmadinejad. Where is the controlling mechanism? It is only you.
This was one striking feature of the revolutions that have taken place in the Middle East in the past few months – that they are not really political in the sense that they aren’t calling for one regime to be replaced by another, they are really just asking for representation.
In the film this comes out – people were not really going out to vote because they wanted [opposition leader] Mir-Hossein Mousavi to win – they were going out because they want to be heard.
I think we are going through a moment in the Near and Middle East the ideological regimes are coming to an end. People are sick and tired of either the religious ideology or socialism and communism.
They don’t care about that. Young people in Egypt, or in Iran, or in Yemen, or in Bahrain, are able to go to the internet and Google you and look how you live, and they ask themselves, ‘Why is this person able to live in that way and I am not?’
We are both human beings, but why can he talk freely and I can’t? They are not looking for ideologies, they are looking for human rights, which makes the big difference between these movements and the movements 20, 30, 40 years ago?
Has the moment for change passed in Iran? Is the regime there not better able to control this message the second time around.
It has not passed. I think Iranian society made a big development in the last 18 months, or 20 months after the election. They started asking, ‘Where is my vote?’, for a recount of the ballots, for re-election. Now they clearly talk about system change.
This is a big development. And this is not a minority that is talking about change, this is the majority. It needs really a blitz to explode the whole thing. It is like a desert.
When the first rain falls down, the earth is really hard and the rain can’t penetrate the soil, but with time, when the rain continues, the soil becomes soft and the water can penetrate.
The existence of so many recorded perspectives on every event has changed – as you have said – the monopoly that governments can have on information. Has it changed the way that documentary filmmakers record these events?
I think so. When we started to make this film, I had no idea what it would look like, because I don’t know of any films that have been made in that way. I thought it is bungee jumping without a bungee, pure risk.
I think really that these instruments make our business, filmmaking, much more democratic, much more open. We are not dependent on broadcasters. We are not dependent on the permission of countries like Iran to be able to make images.
And we are not dependent that much on money. If you see what we made with really horrible, small, bad quality images. We screen it on 70 square metres in theatres, and it works. I think it really changed, fundamentally, filmmaking.
Especially in countries which are under pressure. I think that there is now more democracy in filmmaking, because you can get a direct connection to your audience. It will change our language, I think. The language of filmmaking.
William Shimell talks about Certified Copy, a film by Abbas Kiarostami
By 03/23/2011 10:24:00
Cerified Copy, the latest Abbas Kiarostami film will be on US screens soon and to learn more about this film, we interviewed William Shimell, the actor of the film.
William Shimell made his screen acting debut alongside Juliette Binoche in Abbas Kiarostami’s Copie Conforme (Certified Copy), in competition at Cannes Festival 2010. Born in 1952, he is one of Britain's most accomplished operatic baritones and has earned himself an international reputation in the world's leading opera houses.
William is well known for his interpretations of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which he first sang in Britain for Welsh National Opera and ENO, and has since sung in opera houses throughout the world. He has recorded the role for EMI with Riccardo Muti.
His reputation has been further enhanced by his worldwide performances of Marcello in La Bohème, as Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress, as Sharpless in Madame Butterfly, as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, as Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte and as Dourlinski in Cherubini's Lodoïska at La Scala, which was recorded live for Sony.
In 2005 William took the title role in Handel’s Hercules in a Luc Bondy production which was filmed for broadcast and DVD release. He is also much in demand on the concert platform, appearing at a range of venues including the Orange Festival in France, and recording performances with the likes of Sir Georg Solti and Riccardo Chailly.
Certified Copy is the story of a meeting between one man and one woman, in a small Italian village in Southern Tuscany. The man is a British author who has just finished giving a lecture at a conference. The woman, from France, owns an art gallery. This is a common story that could happen to anyone, anywhere.
Bijan Tehrani: How were you first introduced to Certified Copy?
William Shimell: I was working with Abbas Kiarostami in the south of France at the opera Festival, where he was directing 2 years ago. Abbas asked me if I had ever been in a film and I said no and then he asked me if I would be interested in being in a film, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I though that maybe he is asking me to do a line or two or maybe just be on the background and sing but that was not what he had in mind at all.
BT: Did you read the script before getting involved with Certified Copy?
WS: I read the script before going to the shoot yes, but not before I accepted and signed the contract, basically I wanted to work with Abas and it would not have mattered what he proposed. I enjoyed the experience of working with him in France so much that I was very interested in working with him again whether it is with a film or any other project. The first version of the script I saw had been translated from Farsi into French and then from French into English; so after going through two translations in two languages it was almost incomprehensible, I think that the person who translated it from French to English did not do a very good job. Abbas and his assistant Massoumeh Lahidji did actually work very hard on the script to get it to what we eventually worked with.
BT: How did you communicate with Abbas and was there any difficulty with the language barrier?
WS: No, his assistant Massoumeh Lahidji is an astonishing translator and Abas English is not that bad. He can certainly make himself understood and one of the reasons why I enjoyed working with him is that I had a very good grip on what he was saying. When you work in Opera there is no real barrier in the language at all.
BT: When was the first time that you were exposed to Abbas work and when did you begin watching his films?
WS: To be honest I had never heard of him and I usually don’t go to the cinema, I have two young children and the only time that I go to the cinema is when I take my children to see films that young children like to see. Otherwise I am not a film buff. When I was told that Abbas would be directing the opera I did a little homework just to see what I was going to be going up against. As a result I saw some of his films; I find them quite difficult I must say.
BT: How difficult was it to work in Certified Copy?
WS: It was horrifically difficult for me because I really did not know what I was doing; sometimes opera companies make video operas for their own purposes or for DVD, but I am an opera singer and not really an actor so I did not know what I was doing really, it was hard. As far as the character that I was playing and story in the film I concentrated on each scene as I came to it and it wasn’t until the film was put together that I really had an idea of what the result would be.
BT: How much freedom did Abbas give you in terms of his direction?
WS: He is used to working with none actors and he has a very light hand when he directs and he tries not intimidate. Especially with someone like me who is put I this situation and being in front of the camera, so I was never really aware that I was being directed; but Abbas still had a way of getting what he wanted.
BT: Describe working with Juliette Binoche?
WS: Well it was an enormous privilege to work with such a talented person and she was extraordinarily helpful and encouraging throughout the whole process really and I don’t know how I could have done it without her or everyone else’s help. One of the thing that surprised me was how open and eager everyone was to help out and work with someone who was inexperienced.
BT: Did you do any study or research of the character that you were playing prior to the shoot?
WS: Well I read and learnt the script, but I’m an opera singer and I am used to searching out the character from the words and the orchestra score from the music that is usually where the character is hidden in opera. I didn’t have that in this film so I had to focus more on what the character said and use what few tools I had in my experiences in opera; the dialogue has to be from within you and form your own experience and from your own personality.
BT: Did you have a chance to change the dialogue to your liking?
WS: We worked to try to make the dialogue sound as natural to an Englishman as I could, because I was the only English person working on the project.
BT: How much do you think that the location meant to Certified Copy?
WS: When people see the film they we see that the star is Juliette and the co-star is the Italian countryside. The atmosphere of Italian countryside and the colors of the buildings, of the sky and the Tuscan countryside paint such a vivid picture. They really help shape the emotional structure in the film. What this film did do is give me a great deal of respect for film actors and I enjoyed making the film and it was a huge pleasure and privilege.
BT: Do you plan to be in another film in the future?
WS: I would love another try and I had such a fascinating try and when you get to my age it is not often that you get the opportunity to try something different and I would love to learn some more.
Berlin film review: "Nader and Simin, a Separation"
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2011 12:54:05 PM
BERLIN -- Just when it seemed impossible for Iranian filmmakers to express themselves meaningfully outside the bounds of censorship, Asghar Farhadi’s Nader and Simin, A Separation comes along to prove the contrary.
Apparently simple on a narrative level yet morally, psychologically and socially complex, it succeeds in bringing Iranian society into focus for in a way few other films have done.
Like About Elly (2009), which won Asghar Farhadi the best director award at Berlin two years ago and which went on to find release in many territories, it has the potential to engage Western audiences with the right handling.
Politics are ostensibly out of the picture, though the whole premise is based on a middle-class couple’s divorce because the wife Simin (Iranian star Leila Hatami) wants to move abroad to find a better future for their 11-year-old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). But that may not be the real reason for the separation.
Nader (Peyman Moaadi, seen in About Elly) is a decent man but a stubborn one, and he neglects his wife. Too proud to ask her to stay with him, he lets her move back to her mother’s place while he and Termeh are left to look after his aged father with Alzheimer’s disease. He hastily hires a poor woman named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) as a daytime caretaker, who signs on without telling him she’s pregnant (or does she?).
A few days later he fires her and shoves her out the door; she falls on the stairs (perhaps) and has a miscarriage. The rest of the film is a crescendo of tension as Razieh’s hot-headed, debt-ridden husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) takes Nader to court for manslaughter.
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We are honored to invite you to participate in the:
Iranian documentary Film Festival - Malmö | Sweden | Saturday 19 February 2011
If you are interested in contributing to the festival with your film please send your film to us. The deadline for receiving films is 15th February 2011. We have special sections for productions from amateurs, pupils and students.
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Persian Social Democratic Association
Who’s afraid of Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof?
By Vera Mijojlic
"Cinema Without Borders is establishing an Open Page for Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof as an on-going, action-oriented commentary about the jailing of the filmmakers in Iran. The Page will remain open until Mr. Panahi and Rasoulof are freed, and free to make movies of their choice.
Film critic Vera Mijojlic is our first contributor. Cinema Without Borders invites readers, filmmakers, critics, supporters, and friends of international cinema to submit their comments and keep this Page active until Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof are freed".
First the physical jail for the body, then post-incarceration ban on the mind, heart and soul; wow. Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof are dangerous men alright. We got that. Compared to their predicament, Solzhenitsyn’s gulag years do not even compare. After all Mr. Solzhenytsin was able to continue with his subversive creative activities. The two Iranian filmmakers are apparently bigger threat to their homeland of more than 70 million people. Over there they seem to be trembling with fear at the sight of them. No small feat for a country of considerable military and spiritual might. So maybe we should investigate this affair a little bit deeper and find out who else might be so afraid that no other path was open to Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof but the one-way to jail, both here on Earth and within the more eternal realms of the future as well.
Both were found guilty of treason, disloyalty to their country, bent on telling stories for which they must have known would land them in trouble. To add insult to injury neither filmmaker wanted to flee to a nice country like say France and seek artistic asylum for their tortured souls. Instead they opted to stay put in Iran where they called to task its very solemn government. They made their government look bad, and expected clemency! What insolence on the part of Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof. They should have known that one doesn’t fool around with people who don’t have any sense of humor. Iranian leaders are somber, serious men, busy with policing a massive populace of restive compatriots. They have already made a mistake in letting a whiff of democracy blow through their heretofore closely controlled elections which led to a thing called hope in the person of an opposition candidate whom the two filmmakers may, for all we know, have supported or, insolent as they are, encouraged with their movies. Ah, the magic of moviemaking!
Democracy, as we have all learned during the past decade, can be a real nuisance. It is understandable that Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof saw no big advantage in fleeing to the West ruled by the leaders of the free world whose claim to fame rests in the ruins of their own populace through ingenious economic instead of crude police measures. Sensitive as artists tend to be, Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof probably saw no advantage in washing ashore west of their homeland as poor refugees hoping to make a beer commercial to sustain themselves.
No, they chose to stay in their country and defy its rulers.
And rulers like rulers eventually had enough. The united voice of these two filmmakers was one opposition voice too many. The more I think about it, the more I understand why Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof had to go to jail for all our sakes. Times are tough, and we have enough on our hands to deal with in their part of the world. Who has the time to continue messing with this case where no Western politician stands to gain anything?
Indeed, who? Who is left to keep Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof in our collective consciousness?
One is immediately thinking of the media. Yes, of course, the media! Surely, the media will do that. There are infinitely more news outlets today than ever before. But there is also a vast amount of news to digest. And as a consequence, whether we like it or not, we have grown numb, deaf, and indifferent because we have seen it all already, every single detail of human existence many times over. We have been given front row seats in the theater where punishing light was shed on every pitiful world leader, rebel, criminal, sociopath or genius alike. Everyone finally got their 15 minutes of fame, and quickly found out that without upping the ante forever, every single day, with another piece of news, whether real or engineered….if we stop broadcasting .....well, we then fall into the abyss of obscurity and non-existence. Our 15-minute lifetime span is up. Next!
And where do Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof feature in all this? This may sound harsh to you (after all, the men are in jail), but their time in our news cycle has been up for about a week now. Meanwhile fresh stories from around the world keep pouring in, the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar has just started, and one can always count on North Korea to provide the most entertaining and media-friendly content. Plus, too many calls for justice and petitions from human and animal rights groups and concerned citizens over the past media-heavy decade have had the same age-old effect on us as the shepherd who cried wolf too many times had on the villagers …. when it finally mattered, no one came.
What is one to do when the wish for information abundance comes true, as it has in our lifetime? Who knew that once we ‘got the knowledge’ about everything under the sun we’d grow weak, complacent, drained of attention and filled mostly with curiosity about the shiny objects of media desires, like indigenous people once were of glass beads, and rendered just as powerless and as easily manipulated?
For all I know Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof might have been jailed to serve another purpose, as chips in a future political bargain that we are not yet privy to between the “West” and the “East”. I have never met either one and who knows, both might be an unpleasant sort. Artists tend to be difficult people. But I asked myself, what if someone I knew, someone talented and in the prime of his or her creative life, someone whose future films I want to see, someone who can give me something to look forward to beyond the trashy headlines, what if someone like that got jailed? I’d be mad as hell!!!!
Perhaps, let’s face it, you’d be too – if it was your friend?
Do we wait for someone else to raise hell? And who, may I ask, is that someone else, precisely?
The quickly congealing media silence is cementing Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof further and further away. If they are being robbed of their future films, then I am robbed of experiencing them. If they do not get another chance at freedom, then I am poorer for one too. They did not murder anyone, or commit a crime for which they should be kept away from us. They made movies, problematic for the rulers of their country perhaps, but that’s the rulers’ problem, not theirs. We are free to critique their craft of film making, but we overstep our boundaries when we silence people for their thoughts, and in this case even future thoughts. Thoughts and stories and movies that are yet to come.
It is all too easy to blame everything on politicians and autocratic governments. Where are we in all this? To whom exactly do we transfer our responsibility when we grow tired of a news story? Ultimately, what is the meaning of ‘speaking up’ in the global entertainment circus?
The question we are faced with is not just the jailing of two filmmakers, but also the media death of the story. The encroaching silence that comes with diminishing media coverage, leading to indifference and ultimately forgetting.
In John Schlesinger’s “Marathon Man” Laurence Olivier famously kept asking Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe?”
I guess it never really is, as Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof have already found out. There is no such thing as safety, so get over it. I am not afraid of whatever it is that I am supposed to be afraid of in a world so thoroughly infused with fear. Are you?
JAFAR PANAHI, b. 1960, is one of the leading directors of the Iranian New Wave. He won praise and international acclaim with his films “The White Balloon”, “Crimson Gold” and “Offside” among others. He was in and out of jail in 2010 until December, when he was convicted of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran” and of undermining its national security. He was sent to jail for 6 years, and banned from making films, writing screenplays, giving interviews or leaving the country for the next 20 years after that. If his sentence stands, he will be 76 years old when he gets another chance at making movies.
MOHAMMAD RASOULOF, b. 1972, gained international recognition with his first feature-length docudrama "Gogooman" (2002). His other films include multiple award-winner "Iron Island", as well as “The White Meadows”, and "Head Wind", a documentary about the restrictions currently imposed in Iran on using satellites and internet. He was also in and out of jail throughout 2010 and in December sentenced and sent to jail under the same terms as Jafar Panahi.
To comment, add your name to the Cinema Without Borders “Open Page for Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof”, Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and for post your comments in the same article in CWB BLOGS.
IFF Iranian Film Festival honors Fakhri Khorvash
Veteran Iranian actress Fakhri Khorvash will be honored for her lifetime achievements during the Iranian Film Festival, which will be held in San Francisco on September 18 and 19.The ceremony has been arranged to honor her 50-year career in Iranian stage and screen.
Fakhri Khorvash, a star of Iranian intellectual theater for a few decades, has also been acting in movies since 1958. She has worked with several well-known Iranian filmmakers such as Bahman Farmanara and Dariush Mehrjui.
Fakhri Khorvash appeared for the first time in 1958 Sadegh Bahrami’s “Bohloul” and her last part in a movie was in Bahman Farmanara’s A Little Kiss (yek booseh khuchulu) in 2005.
Iranian Film Festival will screen Shazde Ehtejab (1974) as part of honoring ceremony for Fakhri Khorvash. Shazde Ehtejab that is based on book with the same title by Hooshang Golshiri, is directed by Bahman Farmanara.
Cinema Without Borders will soon publish its exclusive interview with Fakhri Khorvash.
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