Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's A Small Globe After All...

Today I had the great privilege of hearing the seven Golden Globe nominees for best foreign film speak today at the Egyptian theater.

The directors for all of the nominated films were present and they all spoke about their films.

Here's a look at them all, and a small taste of what their directors had to say at the event:

The Baader Meinhof Complex
directed by Uli Edel

It seems in life that the means often pervert the ends, rather than justify them. So it was in 1970's Germany, when that nation was rocked by the RAF (The Red Army Faction), a radical organization devoted to bringing down what they perceived as the new tyranny- American imperialism and its cohort, the West German establishment. Director Uli Edel spoke of eloquently about the genesis of his film and its historical context "We were the children of the war generation, they had lived through the Third Reich." He went on to explain that the impulse of his generation, when in their 20's and 30's, was to be the opposite of their parents- to speak out in the face of danger, to not be complicit with evil. In the RAF, this impulse reached a fanatical fever pitch. Edel explained that he wanted to make this film for his children's generation of Germans, so they would understand what happened during this pivotal period of German history.

Everlasting Moments
directed by Jan Troell
(Sweden, Denmark)

If you read my last post, you know I really adored this film and found it to be a stunning and profound gem. I won't repeat myself, but if you're interested, please read the post below. As for director Jan Troell, so highly regarded is he that the master of ceremonies had no problem referring to him as the most distinguished of the directors in attendance. It came as no surprise when Troell revealed his sense of kinship with his protagonist- that is just as when Maria receives a camera and is forever changed, so too was the case when Troell received his first camera at the age of 15. The film is in many ways a love song to art, and the ways its fleeting, eternal glory, can change us, and be an instrument by which we change our world.

directed by Matteo Garrone

Based on the best-selling book by Roberto Saviano, Gomorra is an unsparing look inside inside the mafia families that virtually rule the Italian cities of Naples and Caserta. Noting Martin Scorsese's association with the film, the MC asked irector Matteo Garrone if he was influenced by American mob films. Garrone replied that he enjoyed those films, but that he didn't see his film as a mob movie- he saw it as a war film, which was an entirely different perspective, adding that it was closer to City of God. Hearing Garrone speak made me want to see Gamorra- but after watching the trailer, I'm a little reticent to experience the trauma...

I've Loved You So Long
directed by Phillippe Claudel

Director Phillippe Claudel got his start as a professor of literature and as an acclaimed novelist. His novel acclaimed novel, Grey Souls, was itself made into a film. Apparently Claudel got the filmmaking bug himself soon after.

Waltz With Bashir
directed by Ari Folman

An incredible film, a true tour-de-force.  Watching it, I could not conceive of how much work it would take.  Also fascinating was listening to Mr. Folman discuss the genesis of the film.  He said he would never tell people that he was making an animated documentary ever again- that he probably could have got financing much more quickly had he simply found another way to describe the film to financiers.  At the end of this brilliant film, there is heart rending actual footage of the actual human carnage on display in the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacres.  When I saw this in the film, I said to myself "This is a director with a message." This was confirmed by Folman himself when he was asked about this choice.  The MC asked Folman if that choice was ever discussed with the producers on the film.  To the audience's laughter, Folman said: "I am a producer, so I talked about it with myself."  He added that it was a choice that came from his ideals, not an artistic choice, so it was non-negotiable.  It was important to have this moment he added, because know American filmmakers when they make war movies, they fall in love depicting the thing they hate, and they miss the point entirely.  Yes, Bashir was a war film, but the real consequences of war are with the civilians- therefore it's important to show them.  I felt Folman showed a courageousness and moral integrity that is essential to a true artist....

All in all it was a very inspiring afternoon.  Wish you were there!

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