Interviews

Art et amour du cinéma – L’inoubliable ALAIN RESNAIS vu par SANDRINE KIBERLAIN

 

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Alain Resnais

Alain Resnais laisse derrière lui une oeuvre  impressionnante : Oscar du meilleur court métrage (Van Gogh), trois César du meilleur film (Providence, Smoking / No Smoking, On connaît la chanson), deux César du meilleur réalisateur (Providence, Smoking / No Smoking) et six autres nominations dans cette catégorie, deux fois Prix Jean Vigo (Les statues meurent aussi, Nuit et brouillard), Lion d’or à Venise (L’Année dernière à Marienbad), Lion d’argent de la meilleure mise en scène à Venise (Coeurs), trois fois Prix Louis-Delluc (La guerre est finie, Smoking / No Smoking, On connaît la chanson), Grand prix du jury à Cannes (Mon oncle d’Amérique) et Prix exceptionnel du jury pour Les Herbes folles et l’ensemble de son œuvre, deux fois Ours d’argent à Berlin pour la meilleure contribution artistique (Smoking / No Smoking et pour On connaît la chanson et l’ensemble de sa carrière).

Un vrai aventurier du 7e art, un curieux capable d’adapter les thèses d’un biologiste (Mon oncle d’Amérique), un fait divers réel (Stavisky)  ou une pièce d’Henry Bernstein (Mélo).

Son dernier film, Aimer, boire et chanter (ou Life of Riley) remporte le Prix Alfred Bauer à Berlinale 2014. Décerné à un film qui ouvre de nouvelles perspectives dans l’art cinématographique ou offre une vision esthétique novatrice et singulière, ce prix est symboliqye pour l’ouvre entière d’Alain Resnais dont l’esprit avant-gardiste l’a poussé en permanence à se risquer sur des territoires inexplorés.

Dans un interview pris à Berlinale 2014, l’actrice française Sandrine Kiberlain parle avec amour de cet unique réalisateur, en nous faisant un portrait très personnel de l’homme comme du cinéaste Alain Resnais.

Que pensez-vous du personnage que vous jouez dans Aimer, boire et chanter?

Sandrine: Je pense qu’elle est fragile quand le film commence, elle est prête à vivre une nouvelle vie avec un nouvel homme, plus posé que ce George qui a l’air d’être un tourbillon,  un courant d’air, un séducteur…Et la vie va la surprendre et va la déstabiliser. En fait, ce George sur lequel tout le monde fantasme puisqu’il n’est pas là, puisqu’on ne le voit pas, va être un révélateur pour chacun d’eux. Et Monica en particulier est très fragilisée parce que : est-ce que l’homme qu’elle a choisi est le bon? est-ce que revenir en arrière serait mieux? […]

Est-ce vous pouvez me parler de votre travail d’actrice avec Alain Resnais?

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Sandrine Kiberlain

Sandrine: Le travail, ça a été d’abord de le rencontrer. Alain ne peut pas s’engager à choisir une actrice sans être à 100% sur de son choix. Moi je pensais que c’était fini, je n’aurais plus la chance de travailler avec lui parce qu’il est très fidèle, c’est toujours une famille avec Alain. Donc là j’ai l’impression d’être entrée dans sa famille. Donc ça a été d’abord ça, le rencontrer et être choisie par lui. Une fois que vous êtes choisie par lui, ce choix représente déjà son univers, représente déjà la confiance qu’il vous porte et à partir de là le travail se déroule très naturellement parceque vous êtes choisie et vous vous dites qu’il vous aime, qu’il a envie que vous soyez dans sa famille, dans sa maison. Et donc après j’ai lu le scénario et après il nous a demandé à chacun d’écrire l’histoire de nos personnages. Et moi j’ai fait un dessin. Je sais qu’Alain est très sensible au dessin, on a parlé beaucoup de ça justement, c’est quelqu’un très curieux mais qui s’inspire beaucoup de ce que vous êtes, de qui vous êtes, voilà, il a envie de vous connaitre aussi. Il n’impose rien, Alain, il veut juste être sur de la rencontre. Après il s’en fout, quoi. Mais j’ai rien lu avant, j’ai reçu le scénario, j’ai travaillé  comme d’habitude, spontanément…Il m’a dit le dernier jour du tournage qu’on était liés  par le coeur… Moi je suis d’accord.

Sur le plateau Alain fait l’impression d’un magicien.  Comment est-il dans la vie, est-ce que vous pouvez nous faire un portrait d’Alain Resnais?

Sandrine: Dans la vie il est, je crois qu’Alain aime dire, il le dit dans son film, il dit que les gens n’ont pas d’âge. Je crois que j’ai presque vingt ans de moins que Sabine, ou qu’André…et on ne le sent pas. On sent que je suis peut-être un peu plus jeune mais on est tous jeunes et le plus jeune du group c’est Alain. C’est comme si l’on était tous les matins dans une maison avec, on n’est que des enfants et on joue à Monica, Colin, Catherine et les autres. Et Alain c’est quelqu’un qui est extrêmement passionné, créatif, très très fou du cinéma. Moi quand je l’ai rencontré il était chez lui, assez fatigué et le jour où il  a pris la caméra, le jour où il était sur le tournage il avait quarante ans de moins. Parce qu’il est dans son univers, parce que c’est là où il exprime son imagination, ses rêves, et ça le fait rajeunir, ça le fait… c’est sa vie quoi. Et il a un regard curieux sur plein de choses, il veut vraiment vous connaître, il veut vraiment être surpris tout le temps, il a beaucoup de choses à raconter, il n’est pas du tout quelqu’un qui est dans son coin, sage comme un vieil homme de 91 ans, qui est posé , non, il est quelqu’un qui a un regard qui va dans tous les sens, qui est très curieux, très rapide. Il nous parle souvent des animaux et des petits lézards par exemple. Et il a un truc comme ça, un  regard rapide, entre l’enfant et le lézard, je ne sais comment dire, il est très drôle, et je pense qu’il ait une vie très riche,il aime beaucoup les autres, je pense qu’il s’intéresse à plein de choses, je pense que l’amour le passionne, les femmes le passionnent, le cinéma le passionne.

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Alain Resnais

Pourquoi aime-t-on tellement les films d’Alain Resnais?

Sandrine: C’est mystérieux, quand on tombe amoureux de quelqu’un, on ne sait pas pourquoi on tombe amoureux…C’est un ensemble, c’est presque même pas possible de dire pourquoi. Parce que j’aime ses films, et j’aime ce qu’on dégage de ses films, sa façon d’interroger l’amour, les sentiments, de traiter les personnages. Je le trouve très jeune dans sa tête, il était très subtil et très courageux dans ses films. Aucun de ses films ne se ressemblent, mais tous ses films, si on cache le nom du réalisateur, je sais que c’est un film de lui. Et c’est sa passion pour les acteurs, les actrices, le travail que Sabine a fait avec lui au cour des années, c’est incroyable.

Le film est une adaptation de la pièce de théâtre d’Alan Ayckbourn. Ca se traduit bien en français, qu’en pensez-vous?

Sandrine: Oui. Et Alain, il voulait vraiment que tout soit anglais. Pour qu’on y croit, il voulait que les cigarettes soient anglaises, que mes chaussures soient anglaises. La costumière disait, “non, on ne peut pas changer, il faut que ça soit anglais”. J’ai des chaussettes anglaises. Et peut-être que ça a l’air idiot mais c’est très important parce que  surtout on sent qu’on est anglais, quoi?Les tasses qu’on avait étaient des tasses anglaises, le service…Il avait envie d’être fidèle à l’écriture qu’il défendait, et puis je crois que c’est des contraintes comme ça qui lui donnaient une vraie liberté, avec ces contraintes-là il se permettait plein de choses, rester fidèle à son imaginaire. A la fois c’est  fermé et très ouvert, je trouve. Il est intelligent, Alain, il nous amène dans les maisons de chacun, l’ouverture c’est un peu par le dessin qu’elle arrive, par des routes, des chemins et des voitures etc…mais il ne triche pas, il a envie de raconter l’intérieur, qu’est-ce qui se passe à l’intérieur de chacun d’eux, et ce qui se passe à l’intérieur de ce couple-là, et de ce couple-là.Il a choisi le parti pris du décor, du studio, un peu par obligation au début parce qu’il n’avait pas les moyens de faire de vrais décors de châteaux, de fermes et des trucs, ça lui aurait coûté une fortune. Et aussi, il disait qu’il en avait marre des portes dans le film, il ne voulait plus voir de portes. Il disait que dans tous les films il y avait quantité de portes qu’on ouvrent, qu’on ferment, des couloirs, des portes, il voulait pas ça. Donc il a inventé autre chose mais c’est vrai qu’il en ressort un film qui tourne entre trois endroits. Mais c’est subtil, je trouve. Et il y a un travail de lumière aussi sur les saisons, le temps qui passe. On était tous dans un grand studio mais quand on voit le film on est quand même dans des maisons différentes, avec des saisons différentes. Et ça c’est que la lumière, les effets de décor et ce qu’on raconte.

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Caroline Sihol, Sandrine Kiberlain et Sabine Azéma dans Aimer, Boire et Chanter

Comment pensez-vous que l’histoire se serait passé dans un environnement français?

Sandrine: Mais l’histoire est la même en France, en Angleterre ou ailleurs. Alors, peut-être ce serait moins coloré, parce que si l’on faisait l’équivalent en  France ce serait un petit village, peut-être ce serait moins enchanté, plus sérieux en France, moins “cup of tea”, plus “un café”, voilà. Là il y a tout un truc qui chante, qui est coloré , les tissus anglais à fleurs, la campagne anglaise. Ce serait plus tourmenté  en France, plus cérébrale, plus intellectuel, plus “Madame Bovary”. Là on est plus dans Jane Austin, quelque chose de plus romantique, presque de plus adolescent, en Anglettere mais sinon cette histoire est valable dans tous les pays du monde, depuis des siècles, pour encore des siècles.

Qu’est-ce que vous attire chez les rôles que vous jouez en général?

Sandrine: L’originalité, la singularité des films, il y a des films qui ont changé ma vie, comme spectatrice. Des films de Pialat, des films de Truffaut, de Scorsese, Sidney Pollack. Le rêve pour les acteurs, c’est d’avoir tout d’un coup une histoire et un cinéaste qui ressemble à personne, comme Alain. C’est ça qui m’attire, c’est d’entrer dans le monde de quelqu’un qui a vraiment un monde à lui.

For an English audio version of this interview, please visit FRED FILM RADIO.

 

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Has Your Mum Upset You Again? Interview with Romanian Actor BOGDAN DUMITRACHE About THE CHILD’S POSE

The Child's Pose

Last chance to catch this utterly engrossing family drama from Romanian director CALIN PETER NETZER, winner of the Golden Bear Award at last year’s Berlinale, THE CHILD’S POSE is showing at BFI Southbank tonight.

An ambiguous study of obsessive maternal love with a riveting performance by LUMINITA GHEORGHIU (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS, THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU, BEYOND THE HILLS) as a steely, well-off Bucharest architect determined to keep her 30-something deadbeat son, BOGDAN DUMITRACHE, out of jail after his reckless driving kills a child. How far will she go to convince the police, eyewitnesses and even the victim’s family of her son’s innocence? Offering a spendid blend of psychological realism and social commentary, Netzer’s third feature is a caustic look at the moral turpitude of the Romanian nouveaux riches.

Romanian Director CALIN PETER NETZER

Romanian Director CALIN PETER NETZER

Below is an extract from an interview with Romanian actor BOGDAN DUMITRACHE taken on December 1, 2013 at Curzon Soho as part of the ROMANIAN FILM FESTIVAL IN LONDON.

(This interview has been translated from Romanian and edited for clarity and relevance)

Dana: How did you prepare for the two amazing roles you played this year, the troubled Barbu in The Child’s Pose, a film that won the 2013 Golden Bear Award, and Paul, the anxious young director in Corneliu Porumboiu’s new film When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism. And which role did you enjoy playing more?

Bogdan: I enjoyed playing both roles. And I like both directors, although they are completely different. Whereas Netzer is a rather dogmatic and perfectionist filmmaker, who has a fixed script from the beginning that you can’t adapt or fiddle with, the text is not to be modified, nothing is to be changed, you need to come fully prepared on the day of the shooting[…], Corneliu didn’t work like that, his script was a pretext, a starting point from which we built the characters and the story together.

Bogdan Dumitrache

Romanian actor Bogdan Dumitrache

Dana: How did you find your role in  The Child’s Pose? I found it very shocking.

Bogdan: Yes it was shocking even for me and seen from the outside the role is most definitely shocking. I played a “paralysed”, blocked character in this film. This inner paralysis comes from a very simple sentence: when you can’t make any plans for your future because you don’t know what it will look like, maybe you’ll be in jail and you won’t have any kind of future, in that moment you succumb to an emotional and mental blockage in which you deny everything and you are practically a vegetable. Without too many thoughts. So from this point of view the role was not too difficult to play, the character was ultimately simple to understand: he was either blocked or in denial, and in both cases his frustration would be so overwhelming that he would start to behave aggressively.

Dana: The relationship with the mother is extremely dysfunctional.

Bogdan: Yes, it is a relationship that borders on the pathological.

Dana: And the mother is a very pathological being!Hence probably the son’s shocking behaviour. Were there discussions around the character, how was this character introduced to you?

Bogdan: I was lucky because Netzer did the casting for all the roles except my role. He approached me one evening at the GOPO Awards, he came to me directly and said: “This character is you, you’re playing Barbu.” Then we met up and discussed the script, the character…

Dana: Were you surprised by this character?What was your first reaction?

Bogdan: Naturally the first reaction was one of surprise: “She is his mother after all, how can he do and say all those things to her?Has he no sympathy, no remorse, nothing whatsoever?”. And Netzer said: “No, he hasn’t”. So I went: “Okay, let’s see where his feelings come from…”. And I had a very long time to prepare. Because I have a casting agency in Bucharest and I helped Netzer with the casting, I basically got to learn all the roles by heart.

Dana: Do you know anything about the writing of the script?

Bogdan: Netzer wrote the script together with Razvan Radulescu and the script is to a certain extent autobiographical, they both have pretty tense relationships with their parents, so that was the source of inspiration. We had many discussions in which they tried to explain the logic of this character, as much as they could, then I just used my imagination. My advantage was that I had eight months to prepare, so when we started rehearsals I knew the character inside out, and all the other characters. And Luminita is an excellent actor, you can play very well alongside her. And gradually I got to understand, to a certain extent, what happens there.

Dana: Would an incestuous reading of their relationship be correct?

Bogdan: Yes, of course, the film opens this problematic although it doesn’t develop it further. There is the scene with the glove where things are bordering on incestuous. Roughly speaking, it is a great mistake to wish for your children to become what you yourself failed to be. And when a parent does this, after living an unfulfilled life…

Dana: Is this the true reason why though?

Bogdan: It’s probably connected to the fact that the parents are estranged from one another, they are not sharing the same bed anymore, their relationship is completely dysfunctional and Barbu is what keeps the family together artificially. They both project on Barbu what they wished to be, or what they wished their relationship to be. And this ruins Barbu’s life.

Dana: There is also a disturbing element of dependancy on his mother…

Bogdan: Indeed, when things go beyond the limits of what is normal, Barbu doesn’t know how to stop himself, he can’t separate himself from his mother, despite everything he says and does. He swears at her, calls her names, make a huge scandal, but he is not capable to get himself out of it , to say “Stop”.

CPH:DOX – A Darling of a Documentary Film Festival

cph dox long bannerVELKOMMENN! This is CPH:DOX, the most exciting documentary film festival in the world!

As the most glamorous and talked-about event in Copenhagen  in the month of November, CPH:DOX attracts industry professionals and media worldwide and, most interestingly, regular Danish folk from all over the country who take time off work  to enjoy the 10-day festival. With so many intriguing screenings and original events, such as the impressive Opening Gala at the surreal Koncerthuset, a trip to a Swedish nuclear power plant, and gourmet film debates in the very popular category FOOD ON FILM, it is no wonder!

And because 2013 marked a new record attendance,  the festival team had to extend the festival by three days due to public demand, which is rather unique and  unheard of!Well done, CPH:DOX!

Every year the festival screens over 200 documentaries, all of which represent the most current and interesting trends in the documentary arena. But CPH:DOX stands for much more than just the film festival. Festival Programmer Mads Mikkelsen tells us what makes CPH:DOX so special.

Inside CPH:DOX with Festival Programmer MADS MIKKELSEN. 

This interview was taken on November 8, 2013 at the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen.

Dana: What is your role within the festival and what does it entail?

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CPH:DOX Festival Programmer MADS MIKKELSEN

Mads: I’m a programmer for CPH:DOX and this is my 6th festival, the festival started in 2003, this year is the 11th edition. We have two programmers for the festival and also our Festival Director, Tina, who is our artistic director as well. She is very involved in the selection process. We see loads and loads of films, this year we got 2,700 films, not all of them are feature length, some are shorts but it’s still 15 times more films than we could show here so selections are the core of what we do. We also discuss how to create a festival where the films are placed in a meaningful context. Of course the films are singular works but they are also in dialogue with the context they are placed in. We have a structure at the festival where we can place films in a way where they communicate with each other, where there is a chemistry in the selection, not just a line-up of singular films.

Dana: Could you tell me more about the various categories, you have TOP DOX for instance…

Mads: We have four international competitions, we have the International Main Competition, we have a new section for Journalistic Films, which we launched this year, we have a competition for Nordic Films from the Scandinavian countries. And something that is special for a documentary film festival, we have a competition for Artists’ Films, which is not the same as experimental films. Experimental film has a long and well-documented history. The kind of films that we show are commissions from art galleries, biennales, art institutions. We find these films in these places, it’s not work that is produced with the cinema as such as the space for these types of films, which makes it very interesting to import them into a film context. These films are made by contemporary visual artists, and a lot of them work with other media, which makes it very interesting when they move to film.

Dana: Are there films that you actively seek to attract into the festival or are you just looking at submissions?

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film

Mads: We do a lot of research, a lot of scouting. We have a rather large network of friends and contacts around the world and they recommend us things and vice-versa. We are interested not only in films that are already finished but also films that are coming. We try to map out what is new each year, the most exciting and innovative films.

Dana: Out of all the films you are screening this year, what percentage is constituted by films that you tried to attract into the festival as opposed to those that were submitted?

Mads: Maybe half and half, I’m not entirely sure because it also depends on which section you look at. If you look at competitions, it’s almost 100% stuff that we find, whereas for the sections that are more of a survey of this year’s best and more popular films, a lot of those are films that are simply out there and we look at them and we discuss how we could create a better, more diverse selection that represents the best films made this year. And we also have a thematic context, zeitgeist films, for instance this year we invited the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei and the American artist duo The Yes Men to curate a programme of 20 films, some of them are from the 1920s, 30s, all historical films…

Dana: Do you work very closely with the festival producer?

Mads: Yes, we are 10 to 12 regular full-time people working here, a lot of invaluable interns and 200 volunteers. So there’s a lot of people involved, we put a lot of effort into logistics and managing the festival and making sure that everything is planned in detail. For this purpose we work very closely with our festival producer and her team but they are very self-going, self-sustaining…

cph dox team

Dana: Do all films have a Q&A, do you invite all the filmmakers to attend?

Mads: We invite a lot of filmmakers to attend, we don’t have the means to invite everyone, we try to find funding for as many as we can but because our budget is limited we made it a priority to invite those filmmakers whose films are premiering at the festival. Yesterday was the first day of the festival but a lot of filmmakers are coming for the industry days, which is from Tuesday next week until Friday-Saturday. We want them to not only be present for the screenings but also to engage with the whole international community that is here during the festival.

Dana: You’re referring to CPH:Forum which has a programme that looks very interesting. Will you tell me more about it?

Mads: This is a finance and coproduction forum that was launched in 2007.  It’s a platform where we invite film professionals to come, filmmakers with new film projects. We select around 25 projects and they pitch their new ideas to producers and financiers. And also we create a lot of seminars and other activities around the Forum and around the festival as such, to create a platform whereby people can engage in dialogue and talk about films, exchange ideas and contacts. It is unusual for a documentary film festival to have a Forum where one third of the selection are art projects and one third are films that are a hybrid form between documentary and narrative, fiction and visual art and other art forms. So it’s something that we built up, all the different departments of the festival are not like satellites orbiting around the same planet but it’s more connected and the different departments support each other.

Dana: The filmmakers who are invited to participate in the Forum, are they filmmakers who screened their films at CPH:DOX in previous years or can anyone apply? 

Mads: Not all of them, yes anyone can apply, there’s an open call for entries. The final line-up is made up of young filmmakers, up and coming filmmakers but also established filmmakers.

Dana: What are the objectives for the festival in the future, do you plan to develop and diversify it further?

Mads: We are diversifying very much all the time, not only in content but in the way that we do the festival. What we want to do is play around with the concept of what a film festival is and what it could be. This year we launched the Transmedia Platform, we launched the two-day conference where we invite artists, politicians, tech people, scholars, normal people as well. The idea is based on exchange between people with different professional backgrounds, different perspectives.We also want people to be inspired to take some chances on the types of films that they see. Speaking as a programmer, one of the most exciting things about a film festival is to discover new films, new artists, new work, things that you just didn’t expect…

Tim's Vermeer

Tim’s Vermeer

Dana: How does CPH:DOX compare to other documentary film festivals, with IDFA for instance?

Mads: The festival that we created is based around the idea of the filmmaker as an artist, we like films with a personal signature and vision, and films that are not limited to a traditional concept of what a documentary film is. What I mean by traditional is a film that is observing events from a distance without intervening into them. The type of films that we have been supporting and promoting since day one are the films that expand on the notion of the documentary, they work in the hybrid field between documentary and fiction and visual art and other art forms. And this is what built up the profile of the festival, people expect this from CPH:DOX now, documentaries that challenge the ways that film can engage with the real as well as films that constitute a quality selection of the year’s bigger and more immediately appealing films. But I think it is important to take chances, to simply go and see something that you never heard about…

Dana: A film festival obviously reflects the taste of the festival programmers and the artistic director, you can’t help selecting the films that appeal to you. Do you agree?

Mads: Yes and I think it should. Sometimes it is debated if programmers are the gate-keepers, excluding work and so on. I’d personally much rather go to a film festival that reflects a sort of conscious selection process, clear curatorial criteria, a sort of well thought-out selection of films, rather than a bunch of films that are simply lined-up, one next to the other.[…] It’s also a matter of building up a festival where the actual selection of a film is supportive of the film, where we know that we have a meaningful context or frame that we can put the film in, instead of simply inviting a film and letting it stand alone.The selection process does not stop the minute that you select a film, there’s an after where you work with the film, you try to promote it and explain it to an audience and to build up a space where you can have a discourse.

suitcase of love and shame

Suitcase of Love and Shame

Dana: The films need to resonate with each other, yes, but maybe you could have a weird category where you include all kinds of weird films…

Mads: Oh we have a lot of those!(laughing)…If you look in the New Vision section and in the Artists Competition, a lot of people would think this is way out, it’s not documentary. But it is a place to go and see what contemporary cinema can be. We really try to be a contemporary festival, of course we have a strong historical line in the festival. The films that we show also reflect on past achievements in cinema. But we try to create a space where we screen as many contemporary pieces, where the artists are autonomous and independent voices.

nan goldin

Nan Goldin – I Remember Your Face

Dana: Before working for this festival, did you work for other film festivals, or in terms of education…

Mads: I was arranging film clubs, a lot of them in Copenhagen. I was studying film at university, here and in Stockholm and working…And on the side arranging various film clubs, one for underground films, one strictly for celluloid films, one where we had lectures, one where we screened documentaries.

Dana: So these were your personal projects…

Mads: Yes, personal stuff. Some I did alone and some with friends. And then when the festival was launched in 2003, I was following it […] I didn’t travel to festivals back then but it was still my favourite festival, and this was for a reason, because this is where I discovered the most exciting films, this is where I first saw the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul…

Dana: Congratulations on pronouncing his name, I never get it right…

Mads:(laughing)…And that sense of excitement and discovery was something I wasn’t really used to at that time, I think it made me realise how a festival works. A film club is an ideal way to screen films but a film festival has something of the magic and excitement of so many people that are coming and having these experiences together […]. Then I  started to work as an associate programmer in 2008 and writing a lot of the programme notes, and in 2009 I was hired as a programmer full-time. But I sometimes programme for other festivals and institutions and I curate a monthly night in the Cinemateket where we screen underground, cult films, everything from 16mm to 35mm. So I didn’t move in the direction of wanting to work for a film festival.You don’t end up working for a film festival unless you participate in the local film culture and try to add something to it.

Dana: What are your favourite documentaries in the festival this year?

Mads: Every time people ask me that I say Bloody Beans, an Algerian film in our main competition, which I’m so excited about! I’m really looking forward to meet the director. The films that excite me the most are the ones that suggest a new path or a fresh idea. The best films are the ones that when you leave the cinema you’re a little changed, the power to change you…

Bloody Beans still

Bloody Beans

Dana: Change us for the better I hope!

Mads: Probably most films change us for the worse!(laughing)But this one hopefully will change people for the better. At least for something different and new.

Dana: Any other recommendations?Your Top 5 Festival Films

Mads: It’s a tough question. Another film that felt like a discovery to me is a Chillian film called Naomi Campbel, it follows a transexual woman in Santiago, it’s a narrative film but it integrates real characters in their own surroundings, reenacting their own everyday lives. And reenactments are one of the most interesting tendencies in cinema right now.

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbel

Last year we had a focus on reenactments with the film The Act of Killing, and a number of other films, and we had a seminar about them. And this year we have a whole thematic side bar dedicated to the idea of films that work with reenactments and reconstructions as their basic premise. An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker is also an example because it’s with real life characters that are reenacting something that they lived through in their own surroundings. A Norwegian film called Love Me is also an example. I’m very excited about the thematic programme based on this idea, it is called Everything is Under Control, which is an ironic statement because authorial control is a tabu in documentary, but in this case it is films that work as a reference to something real but the films work around it in very creative ways. One example is a Canadian film called The Dirties, it is a fiction film, a narrative film but the way it intervenes in and interacts with real situations is totally like an interventionist documentary strategy and it’s about a young burgeoning filmmaker played by the director himself, again this troubling link between the real and the artificial…

Dana: This was a dilemma in documentary since the very beginning…

Mads: Yes and I think it became even more of a dilemma later. When Flaherty made Nanook of the North, nobody was complaining that this wasn’t a real family but later when observational cinema really took off in the 60s and 70s and sort of claimed a monopoly in cinematic truth, all these things became problematic. But adding layers of staging, these layers can add something to the truth value of the film, they are more than pure effects.

Dana: What would you say a documentary film offers an audience that a fiction film perhaps doesn’t?

Mads: Documentary is not as canonised as feature filmmaking, you don’t have an A level, B level, C level, documentaries are much more independent and things come out of the blue. Many of the films in our international competition this year, we just didn’t see them coming. And suddenly it was just “boom”, there were all these amazing films…

 Top 10 most popular films at CPH:DOX 2013

1. The Reunion (dir. Anna Odell)
2. Days of Hope (dir. Ditte Haarløv Johnsen)
3. Mistaken for Strangers (dir. Tom Berninger)
4. Generation Iron (dir. Vlad Yudin)
5. Pandora’s Promise (dir. Robert Stone)
6. Mademoiselle C (dir. Fabien Constant)
7. The Armstrong Lie (dir. Alex Gibney)
8. 12 O’ Clock Boys (dir. Nathan Lotfy)
9. Narco Cultura (dir. Shaul Schwarz)
10. Everyday Rebellion (dir. The Riahi Brothers)

And the award goes to…To find out who were the winners of CPH:DOX 2013, click here.

CREATIVE CORNER

If you’re a creative or producer within the media field, you might be interested in some of the initiatives supported by CPH:DOX:

SWIM LAB  – Scandianavian World of Innovative Media, a transmedia initiative launched by CPH:DOX to stimulate innovation and new ways of thinking within media  – Call for entries now open, find out more here.

CPH:FORUM –  CPH:DOX’s international financing and co-production event, dedicated to supporting creative, visual and auteur-driven films. This was the first pitching venue for many great projects such as “Searching For Sugarman”, “Armadillo” and “The Act of Killing”, the latter now competing for a Best Documentary Academy Award.

DOX:LAB – a commissioned MEDIA-supported program for invited filmmakers from EU and non-EU countries. This program was established in 2009 by CPH:DOX International Documentary Film Festival and  is focused on training / project development, pitching events at international co-production markets and subsequent production.

DOC ALLIANCE –  a creative partnership of seven key European documentary film festivals whose is to support the diverse nature of documentary film and to increase audience awareness of the fascinating possibilities of this genre.

LOVE, MARILYN – Interview with LIZ GARBUS

blonde-diva-love-marilyn-monroe-simle-Favim.com-302754 IF…If somebody asked you what Marilyn Monroe was really like, how would you answer them? And if you’re lost for words and can’t imagine what her inner world looked like, this film will help with shedding some light on that.

One of my favourite documentaries at London Film Festival 2012, LOVE, MARILYN is showing in UK cinemas until Wednesday 27 November, only one week left so don’t miss out…

Based on a bunch of recently-discovered personal documents that Marilyn left behind and drawing on a wealth of well-chosen film clips, archive footage and recent interviews with people who knew or worked with Marilyn, this is a truly mesmerising film in which the voices of a stellar cast – Glenn Close, Lindsay Lohan, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, Viola Davis – mix to recreate one of cinema’s most fascinating movie stars.

Below is an interview with  LIZ GARBUS, the Oscar-nominated documentarist who put the many pieces of the mysterious puzzle together.

Dana: Where did this project start for you and what did you think of those documents when you saw and read them for the fist time?

Liz: The project started for me with the documents that were found. I made a film called Bobby Fisher Against the World and the producer of that film was an advisor to the Monroe estate which was entrusted to the Strasberg family. And much of it had been catalogued and archived and filmed but there were two boxes that were discovered in a storage closet, letters, notes, poems, and finally they decided that they should bring them out to the world. And my producer was helping them figure out what to do with them. And so when I heard about them I said: “Oh, I’d be interested in making a film”. And I wasn’t someone who was so interested in Marilyn Monroe but I wanted, you know, you hear about these documents and they started telling me about them and the kinds of things she was saying, and I found them irresistible, I found them really interesting.

Dana: How do you explain the phenomenon that was Marilyn Monroe?

The filmmaker Liz Garbus

Liz: I explain it in terms of female sexuality and femininity at a time in the US of the great repression, it was the gray flannel suit of the1950s, when sexuality was bursting, it was trying to come out, and what happened is that it came out in the form of Marilyn Monroe. If you look at Marilyn next to Jane Russell, her co-star in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, at Grauman’s Chinese theatre when they are doing their entrance, Jane is wearing this big 1950 poodle skirt, with a big collar and Marilyn, every contour in her body is showing, which I think is a metaphor for the generational shift that was happening at the time, but I think it’s naive or overly simplistic to say Marilyn was an early feminist. But what she did do was discuss sexuality…you know there were these nude photos that emerge of her, we are all familiar with nude photos today, then it was less frequent, but instead of doing what the studios wanted her to do and deny them and say it was somebody else, she decided to go out there and give an entry and say “Yeah it was me, and I did it because I needed the money”. She dealt with sexuality in a very frank way, that I think had an indelible mark on the culture and I think dying young and beautiful and that mythology around that tragic life story, the little girl who achieves everything and then at the height of it all dies, I think that is our modern myth, that’s our Cinderella story that has endured in our culture. And because she created it at this very particular moment, it was incredibly powerful.

love_marilyn_filmposterDana: As you say, she’s got a very iconic image and we’ve all got a perception of her, how does this film go about changing that perception?     

Liz: The perception I had of Marilyn before making this film was not incredibly deep, she was an image, a subject of still photography, I didn’t even think of her as an actress in her movie roles, I think I thought of the types of roles she played, the dumb blonde who was maybe a little wise but I didn’t think of her necessarily as a human being or as an actress, I thought of her as more of a model and an image, and with this film, in using the documentary letters that she left behind, provides the flesh of that person, and the viewers will judge for themselves whether it’s something new and different. For me it was, for me looking at her as a working woman who was having trouble balancing the demands of family and work, that’s a struggle that is relatable to modern women. That was the way I related to her that I didn’t expect to. So I think that there are things that are in the documents that I found that were different than what I expected, maybe it will be for viewers as well.

Dana: There seems to be a great focus on Marilyn this year. How would you say your film compares to or complements My Week with Marilyn in terms of the portrayal that they put forward?

Liz: Well, it’s very different, that film is based on a week, one moment in her life whereas this film deals with a much longer span of time, not her whole life but really the period that the documents come from, which is her adult life, pretty much, and they talk a lot about acting and her fears, they talk a lot about love and her struggles to balance that, include men in the life she had that was so complex and busy and public, […] and of course they are overlapping because they are about the same person. But I think one thing that happens when an actress plays Marilyn, even as superbly as Michelle Williams has done, you are always comparing her to the real person, so you’re watching Michelle in which ways she is and isn’t Marilyn. And whilst she is superb, she is not Marilyn, nobody is 100% somebody else. So the approach I took in the film is, we had a cast of actresses but none of them were playing Marilyn, what they were doing was using their own experiences as actresses working today to bring to life Marilyn’s experiences. They had insights into them that even I would rather document twenty times, they would understand that this was a note about an acting technique that to me it seemed like maybe it could have been from a dream or nightmare but it was about technique, they could understand these notes in a way that was unique and profound, so I think in the reading of them you do feel something more of Marilyn’s experience. And because they are not playing her, you’re not looking at them and saying “Oh, how was Uma Thurman like Marilyn, how was she not like Marilyn”, you’re just listening to the words and maybe feeling them more because you’re not constantly comparing.

Dana: Why do you think contemporary actresses relate so much to her, for instance Lindsey Lohan among others, is it to do with putting on the sexual character aspects of it?

Liz:  Yes I think it has to do with who Marilyn was sexually in our culture and that she was vulnerable yet powerful at the same time, things that are an incredibly powerful cocktail, that combination, and I think people like Lindsey have embraced that. And Marilyn died young and beautiful and she is the subject of much gossip and social speculation that never goes away, and the fact that people think there’s no definitive answer there which I don’t think is as as mysterious as everybody does, but it keeps the myth going. And she really is about the myth of celebrity, she really is about that eternal feminine vision and people wanted to buy into that.

Dana: What do you think of the way the industry relegated her to the category of “sex pot”/“dumb blonde” during her acting career?

Liz: I think that’s very unfair, you don’t create a figure that is so enduring if you’re stupid, she was very carefully crafted, there’s a biographer who talked about how she read the Times magazine, like she knew that in Italy there was this kind of busty, sexual female figure that was being embraced. So she adapted things from other cultures and she very deliberately created a new type of American figure. And that was quite brilliant. Maybe that’s giving her more credit, maybe some of it was quite instinctive but you don’t create that by accident, something very new and very different…And in the film we include a lot of her press conferences, and you see the way she talks to the press, she’s so clever, she handles the press so well, they are all trying to ask her these little zingers  and she deflects them very gracefully like a great politician. Her public persona was incredibly well calibrated and she was a master at it.

Marilyn with bookDana: I read somewhere that she really liked to be photographed around books, is it true?

Liz: Well, I think that’s a bit of a cliché around actresses, they all like to be photographed with books but she was quite a reader, I mean everybody says she was, and I think that was part of the image she wanted to project.

Dana: What were some of the challenges involved in the making of this film?

Liz: Stylistically it’s very different than anything I’ve made before, and I haven’t seen a film like it, which is fine, we’re all filmmakers and are creating films, I was doing something that was risky, I had a whole bunch of different actors reading fragments, thoughts and ideas, and you had to edit them to become cohesive, yet still relish their fragmentary nature. I mean they are not meant to be a narrative, they are meant to illuminate moments in time and brief thoughts, some of them pleading, so the goal was to respect that as well as providing the viewer with a cohesive narrative, that’s a balancing act.

Dana: As far as editing is concerned, you’re pulling so many different cuts for this film, the letters, the performances, home videos, how difficult an editing process was it?

Liz: It was difficult, there’s always a time in editing, especially with a documentary because you don’t have a script, where you’re like deep in the woods and it’s very dark and you don’t know how you’ll find your way out, and because I’ve made some films, I’ve now come to embrace that period of like “okay, this is when it’s all happening, I know this feels like I’ll never find a way out but this is what has to happen” so I was there and I knew I would get through it and you have to constantly tell yourself that, sometimes all of a sudden there is a break and you find that things that won’t work, they work.

How To Shoot a £1m Car Commercial On a Zero Budget

Crewed entirely by award-winning women and with everyone volunteering their time,  this is not your usual car commercial!

The Feminist Car Commercial, three interconnecting short films made to look like genuine car commercials, aims to highlight female film-making talent in the UK and to show advertisers how their marketing communications could be devised for women.

The film will get its premiere at the BFI Southbank in September 2013 before being available online. Below is an interview with the producer, Paul Atherton, taken at BFI on the 8th of August 2013.

Feminist Car Commercial Still

Dana: What sparked the idea for a feminist car commercial?

Paul: There has been a proliferation of adverts that have treated women appallingly in the past 12 month, Audi’s Proms KissBMW’s Greek Billboard AdRenault’s Dancing Girls.  But it was the Broken Heel advert by Audi that really incensed me.  Audi hadn’t used a woman in their commercials for twenty years and when they finally did they leave her lying on the street in the rain with her clothes torn and handbag broken as the car being advertised drives away and leaves her there.  This is something that wouldn’t have been acceptable a few decades ago. Mumsnet’s reaction was universal: don’t buy Audis!

Dana: Was this a commissioned project or your own initiative?

Paul:  This was completely my own initiative.  Writer/Director Amanda Baker had originally come up with an idea to pitch a commercial for women to car companies, but when we did the research we saw a much bigger problem so I thought it would make far more sense to make a campaigning film. As a campaigning film it would have been difficult to find funds, especially quickly, we went from idea to finished film in under three months, far quicker than most funders take to make a decision. And who would commission a film that challenges the very industry that fuels it?

Dana: How does one pull off a “sting” of these proportions: shooting three sophisticated car commercials on a zero-budget, something that advertising companies spend ludicrous sums of money on?

Paul: Film is always about collaboration and this was no different.  Give people a great idea, surround them with talent and give them a message they can get behind and believe in, then you’ll find anything is possible. There are some amazingly generous people in our industry: Barry Basset at VMI, who supplied us over £1/2 Million worth of camera equipment, has been supportive of me since I entered the industry; Barnaby Laws at Panalux had worked with our amazing DP Gabi Norland before and wanted to support her, as well as the campaign; Paul Merchant at make-up supplier Charles Fox has been our award winning make-up artist and Sara Menitra‘s supplier for years; and Daniel Pagan at post house Lipsync has been a fantastic support to me since our first introduction. The key, as always, is relationships. It’s the people you’ve helped and supported that come back and help and support you.

Dana: How many people got involved in this project?

Paul: We managed to persuade just under 100 people to volunteer their time and expertise. As well as a number of industry sponsors who supplied all our kit and services.The thing that made this so special is that we created an A-list of award winners and established experience to approach and we got nearly everyone on it.But as always, we were keen to support new talent too.  So my entire production crew was made up from recent graduates and in addition we offered 11 runners their first job experience.

Fem car Com duplicateDana: I understand you also had some very prominent public figures supporting the project and that with a few exceptions it was an all female cast & crew.

Paul: The project first came to life for me when Carly Simon agreed to let us have her Oscar-Winning iconic eighties feminist anthem from the film Working Girl entitled Let The River Run free of charge. This was the equivalent of giving us between £50,000 to £100,000. Then BAFTA-nominated Natalie Holt agreed to do the original score. Sara Menitra, NY IMATS Makeup Winner 2012, Sara Chatterton, Celebrity Hairdresser,  Editor Prano Bailey-Bond & Director of Photography Gabi Norland who were both previous Underwire winners came next. The rest of our crew had worked on features from Harry Potter to the Iron Lady. Steve Moore, former Chief Executive of The Big Society Network, had just launched Britain’s Personal Best and we were one of the first projects to pledge.

The idea of an all female cast & crew came from the notion that if we were going to make something for women it should have that perspective in every department.  There had always been an absence of women in a variety of departments and the filmindustry as a whole.  Organisations such as Birds Eye View, Women in Film & Television have made great inroads to redressing that.  But I saw this as a way for us to highlight the British female film-making talent available, whilst making a point about one of the reasons it’s so hard to break in, namely how the media perceive women.

The men we had on the production crew, Frank Hellebrand – Grip, Greg Macfarlane King – Gaffer, Daniel Deighton – 2nd AC and Matthew Cresswell – DIT, very generously came on board at the last minute to fill in for roles that we couldn’t find replacement women for.  A classic example was our grip, Grace Donaldson, who had to drop out for a paid job. And as she is, if I’m not wrong, the only female grip in the world, we had no other way of replacing her.  But this clearly made our point that there are far too few women in the industry.

Dana: How long did the project take from start to finish?

Paul: The idea was sparked in May of this year (2013), I had scripts by the end of June and we’ll have it all finished by the end of August for the screening in the BFI Southbank on 3rd September 2013.

Dana: What were the challenges?

Paul: The biggest challenge was persuading our production crew to work for free for four days.  If this had been a student project, or people looking for experience it would have been simple.  But we were asking established talent, who had no need to add to their showreels (the main reason most people work for free). But once they understood the values of the project and the talent attached etc. they all generously bought in. Our props-maker Jo Shears who created the most jaw-dropping special effect of fingernails blowing away in the wind proved it doesn’t matter what the challenge is, as long as you’ve picked the right talent it can be overcome.And we had the right talent in every department.

Dana: Have you experienced any of those moments when you wished you hadn’t bothered?

Paul: Lots.  It’s undoubtedly been the hardest production I’ve ever worked on. And the catalogue of let-downs got to biblical proportions. For example, the idea was originally based around comparing ourselves to the recent Jaguar RSA “Desire” Film.  I was informed that we had access to two new F-Type Jaguars and a celebrity (which sadly never materialised), three months of negotiations with Jaguar fell at the last hurdle (three days before the shoot), on the basis they didn’t want to be seen leading a campaign for “Equal Pay” for women.  Our locations manager who was eight months pregnant when she came to us left to have her baby and we were suddenly left without locations two weeks before the shoot. We had three major crew dropouts on the day before the shoot and even the location that we thought had been secured turned out not to have been with just hours to spare. But with a great team, amazing vision and people pulling in every favour they had, we got it in the can. Our “thank you” list is likely to be the longest in cinematic history! And we agreed we’d only complete the third mock commercial in the trilogy if we get our named talent, which is what I’m on a quest to do now.

Dana: To care deeply about something – does that provide all the motivation and drive you need to succeed?

Paul: No. Caring deeply about something is the starting point.  And you’ll always remind yourself that this is what it’s all about.  It’s why you do what you do. All my previous productions are around things that are important to me. Domestic violence, racism, prison reform etc.  I would hate to make something that didn’t have an underlying cause. But the drive, that comes from other people for me. People you can turn to when things get hard, the people who can see the silver-lining in the cloud when all you can see is the cloud. The people who will rally to your defence and stand by you no matter what. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of friends in and outside the industry that fill those roles and without them none of this would be possible.

Dana: If you had a budget for this project, what would you spend it on?

Paul: If we had a budget for this, it would in essence have just been a commercial.  We wouldn’t be making an important point and we wouldn’t have got the commitment required to make it.

Dana: Where is feminism at these days? Do you think we are witnessing a backlash? The fact that people don’t seem to be as sensitive about the issue as in the past (only one woman complained about the Renault ad if I’m not wrong?) can be interpreted as a good thing, in the sense that women got what they wanted, there is no need for feminism anymore, OR as a very bad thing, that women simply gave up the fight or don’t care anymore. What are your insights on this subject?

Paul: I think the term feminism has many poor connotations.  Usually associated with women who seemingly hate men.  I see feminism as being pro-women and not anti-men. I don’t think there is a backlash against feminism. I just think audiences, marketeers and advertsiser have just got lazy and apathetic.  We live in a society that is all concerned about spending.  People always talk about doing jobs to pay the bills.  That thinking leads to fear and to inertia. So when BMW put a poster up in Greece, containing a sultry 14-year old looking girl attached to the tagline “You know you’re not the first” to advertise their second-hand car dealerships, you know that the hundreds of decision-makers involved in that process either didn’t care or didn’t have the courage to say “that’s nuts.. noooo!”

Dana: What are you hoping to achieve with these films?

Paul: The whole point of the project is two-fold.  First to highlight what amazing female film talent there is in the UK and that we need far more. And secondly to remind marketeers that women are customers, a large customer base in fact, and not objects.  This is our version of what car advertisements should look like: creative, funny, quirky and making important points. The films are of course just the catalyst for the debate and fortuitously we have Olivia Read at DDA PR to ensure our message gets out there far and wide. We all realise without the press there can be no change in public perception and we appreciate all the support we can get in that regard , so thank you.

Dana: You’re welcome!;)…Do you intend to develop the idea into a larger project?

Paul: We have a feature script written by Rhianna Pratchett entitled Vigilia, which looks at the rise of a female movement in the UK kickstarted by a rape. So the ideas behind this project tap directly into that.  That of course will require funding, approximately £2 million, and we have some financiers lined up who I’m sure will appreciate the production values contained in this short.

Dana: I understand you suffer from chronic fatigue,  how did you manage to keep working?

Paul: Chronic fatigue is a disabling condition that often leads sufferers to be bed- or wheelchair-ridden for years.  I was diagnosed in 1992 and I was wheelchair-bound for nearly a year in 2010.  But since then, I’ve managed to survive just through what are known as “crashes”. The worst has lasted a couple of months. You’re unable to move and sometimes even to talk. It used to be terrifying but I’m used to it now. It’s ironic because all the doctors tell you to avoid stress and lead a very dull life.  But I’d rather shine for a few months and then crash for months to produce something.  Not making something would mean I’m not alive and it would be impossible to keep struggling on without that aspect of my life.

Dana:  Is it true that you are homeless?

Paul: Yes. It’s a sad reflection of Britain’s current state, that our lives are no longer our own.  In 2009 an error on my credit file which had nothing to do with me resulted in me not being able to renew my tenancy. The resultant stress caused a CFS crash and I ended up in hospital for three months and discharged to a homeless hostel in Brixton.  I was claiming benefits but there were many screw-ups and I was evicted to the streets from there in my wheelchair.  As you can imagine, friends were incredibly supportive and offered accommodation and care but it’s not their job.  I’d paid my taxes and should have had the systems there to protect me.  I therefore decided to live in my car on the Southbank, which I did for two years until the police confiscated it by mistake at the beginning of this year 2013, another bureaucratic cock-up involving a wrongly apportioned conviction at the DVLA.  I now live in a hostel in Vauxhall but as of Monday they’re trying to kick me out – on the grounds, and you’ll love this, that I have nowhere to live!

DIRECTOR CRAIG ZOBEL ON THE CONTROVERSY CAUSED BY HIS SECOND FILM, COMPLIANCE

Compliance poster

If you’re in the mood for a truly challenging emotional and intelectual experience this weekend, go and see Compliance, a film that plays in several cinemas across London including Curzon Soho, Barbican Centre, Hackney Picturehouse and Ritzy Cinema. But be warned, this film is not for the easily-offended and overly-judgemental so if you have a past history of walking out of controversial screenings, you are strongly advised to think twice about booking your ticket (there is always a Hollywood blockbuster at a different venue to delight and entertain you!).

The controversy surrounding the film is due to its honest and unapologetic depiction of the depth of human naiveté (to use an euphemism) in people susceptible of unquestioningly obeying figures of authority under duress, very much similar to what happened during the Holocaust. The writer-director Craig Zobel did not however “invent” the scenario for the film, this is a thoroughly researched movie based on true events that took place 70 times in USA during a period of 10 years.

At its LFF screening in London on 19t October 2012, about fifty people walked out of the screening, encouraging other people to do the same. This reaction was definitely not  due to boredom. Compliance is a taut, gripping and disturbing film that is indeed difficult to watch but out of respect for the filmmaker, take a moment to reflect on what he, and the film, has to say before you condemn it.

Below is an INTERVIEW WITH THE FILMMAKER CRAIG ZOBEL taken at the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL on 18 October 2012.

Dana: “What attracted you to this project, the idea of making a movie based on Stanley Milgram’s “Shock” experiment?”

Craig: “I am very interested in social psychology and when I read about the Stanley Milgram experiment I was very fascinated by its findings. This is part of a set of behavioural psychology experiments. In this case the whole experiment is about this doctor at Yale University studying people’s natural inclination to obey authority, even if they disagree personally with what the authority is saying. It’s really interesting how he did these tests, people thought they were electrocuting someone in the other room and they would say “I don’t really want to do this, this guy is screaming”. The “victim” was obviously an actor, it wasn’t really happening but they thought he was really electrocuted. And they would say “I really don’t feel comfortable doing this thing anymore” and then an authority figure would say “But you have to continue, you have serious responsibility to do so” and 65% of people would go along with this to the point that they would think they were giving lethal amounts of electric shock. So two thirds of people would do this. This experiment took place in the 60s but they redid it in 2007 and the results were similar.”

Dana:”The film is also inspired from a set of true events that took place in the USA quite recently, will you tell us more about that and how that influenced the premise of the film?”

Craig: “The true events are about a series of prank phone calls, these are not a real phone calls and the guy behind them ended up being caught but he was not convicted in the end due to lack of circumstantial evidence. So these crazy prank phone calls would lead to horrible things, consistently, and this because the people who received the call thought he was a real police officer. So the premise of my film concerns a woman who works at a fast-food restaurant as a manager, 45 years old, and she gets a phone call from the police on a Friday night when it is really busy in the restaurant and the guy on the phone says: “One of your employees stole money from a customer and I need you to question them”. And she says “Who?” and they say “It’s a young girl, she works at the front…”, “Becky?”, “Yes, Becky”. So she starts questioning Becky and Becky says “I didn’t do it”. And the policeman says “Why don’t you search her pockets? We could come there but if you could help with our investigation, it would be a really great help.” And then he asks “Why don’t you strip-search her?”. And this turns into an unbelievably crazy story as this woman strip-searched the young girl and kept her in the back room for four hours. And  similar events happened seventy times in America over a ten-year period. The most famous occurrence was in 2006 and this is when I heard about the story. And there is a case that is very similar to the one in the film although I took inspiration from other cases also”.

Dana: “The film created quite a stir at Sundance where it premiered earlier this year. Did you expect such a strong reaction?”

Craig: “Well, the interesting thing is that most people who hear about these case studies that are basically about the same phenomenon as the Milgram’s experiement,  or some of the people who watched the film , they immediately say: “But I would never do that…Not me…”. They would immediately cast themselves in the person who would not do such a thing but the fact is that two thirds of us would do it”. So for me the question was “Can I write something like this?” and yes, I can see how that would happen and still make it a film and make it interesting to watch, and follow all the other rules”.

Dana: “What were the challenges you encountered when making this film?”

Craig Zobel photo

Craig Zobel

Craig: “This is a film that I made because of the challenges involved, instead of in spite of its challenges. The film is about a pretty unbelievable subject, and you may see the film and say “yeah, you didn’t succeed at that”. And indeed it requires a pretty good performance to make that credible, because this is a kind of story that you hear and you go “How could you believe this?” So that was a challenge, making this credible”.

Dana: “Was the casting difficult?”

Craig: “Yes, partly because of the material. These roles were not everybody’s cup of tea, not everybody wants to play that. So it was a challenge to find the right people. And then the main thing was how to get the actors to have the same curiosity I had about these stories, because I think that really affected the performance. And they were pretty challenging and difficult roles because the film is dark. But for me it is about having a crew and cast that invests in the project”.

Dana: “How many shorts did you make before venturing into features?If any?”

Craig: “Not very many, I made shorts in film school and then I worked on a bunch of other people’s films. And my first film came out in 2007 and then I made this film”.

Dana: “How did you find the transition from shorts to features?”

Craig: “Well to be honest it was a bit difficult. For making this film, I got sucked into a “Hollywood development deal”- sort of situation, where you sit around talking about making a movie for a really long time and you never actually shoot one and it was very frustrating for me and made me feel like “Why am I letting people tell me how to do this?”

Dana: “Which is very similar to the actual issue of the film…”

Craig (laughing):”Exactly . So that was another challenge that I had to overcome in order to make the film. And I thought that indeed the film might be too dark and creepy and weird, or just boring and flat and not work, and it could hurt my career in some way, so I had to overcome those fears as well”.

ABOUT THE FILMMAKER

Craig was awarded the Breakthrough Director Award at the 2008 Gotham Awards for Great World of Sound, his debut feature as a writer-director which premiered at Sundance in 2007. The film was selected  as one of the Top Ten Independent films of the year by The National Board of Review, and was nominated for Best First Film and Best Supporting Actor in the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards. His new film Compliance played at Sundance and SXSW in early 2012. Craig was also co-producer of David Gordon Green’s seminal indie hit of 2000, George Washington.