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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

The filmmakers are themselves too celebrity besotted to comment in a meaningful way on how Benson’s career balanced depictions of the rich and famous with…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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The RogerEbert.com Interviews of 2015

In 2015, we reviewed a huge batch of movies (and chose over 200 titles total in individual top ten lists), but any interview provides an opportunity to take full advantage of a primary reason for why people make art: art, and its ideas, are to be shared with others, discussed, debated—ad infinitum. Needless to say, as 2015 was an especially great year for film, intellectual taffy was never in short supply. 

This year, we were engaged by the likes of Brie Larson, Bryan Cranston, Jason Segel, Sarah Silverman, Ramin Bahrani, Spike Lee, Tom McCarthy, Omar Sy, Charlie Kaufman and many others. For films not released in the 2015 calendar year, we also spoke with filmmakers like director Lexi Alexander ("Punisher: War Zone"), Charles Burnett ("To Sleep with Anger") and Julie Delpy (for the upcoming "Lolo," which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival). 

Below is a collection of some of our favorite conversations from this year. Each interview features a quote from the conversation, as followed by a link at the end to the full interview. Enjoy this survey into a year of top-notch work from actors and directors, and we'll see you in 2016. 

THE ACTORS

Christopher Abbott on the Close Vision of "James White

Because of Josh and because of [cinematographer Mátyás Erdely], the camera was never invasive. The first sequence of the film is the first thing that we shot. Stylistically, as far as close-ups go, I think that sequence has the most aggressive instance of it in the film, so we kind of started on the high note in that sense. I would hang out and have chats with Josh and Mátyás for a while before shooting, so I knew that it was coming. I didn’t show up on set and was like, “What? What are we doing?” [Laughs] So I was very prepared for it. It almost broke the line of being too close. There’s a wide shot and there’s a close-up, and he was even closer, so in a weird way, it felt like a strange extension of my body or something like that. [Link] 

Helena Bonham Carter of "The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet" on Working with Specific Directors

It is a great relief because you know that you are going to be in good hands. You can listen to them and obey their every command because you know that they know what they are talking about. With Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it was the first time that a director had given me an entire storyboard for the film. Not that he would religiously adhere to it or carry it around on the set but you knew that he had it all in his head. It was fun because there is always a sense of relief when you know what kind of world they are trying to create. It is also a relief because I happen to share that same taste and when it comes to things like costumes and hair, we have an innate trust and I feel very comfortable. [Link]

Patricia Clarkson of "Learning to Drive" on the Importance of Critics

I do think criticism is necessary, and I do think it is valuable. We need arbiters of taste. I think it’s just societal. We need opinions, we need subjective opinions, or objective opinions about subjective work. We need objectivity because it is so subjective. And we need a look from on high, so to speak. I know a few critics, I am proud to know them. I think they’re ordinary people, they have opinions, and many of them their opinions are valuable. I’ve received the kiss and the slap, and it’s just if you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen, baby. That’s the job we’re in. It’s brutal to read a slash. But I don’t read a lot of reviews when I’m in the middle of it. When I’m doing theater, no. And even right now, I’m just not, because I’m on a roll, and this film has been such a part of me for so long. I don’t want to know. But I just want to know if they’re helping, and they are. Whatever happens to “Learning to Drive,” there’s been some very good things said, and I’m thankful, because they can sell tickets. They sell tickets. [Link] 

Bryan Cranston of "Trumbo" on Letting Go of Walter White 

It wasn’t hard because Vince Gilligan [creator and head writer of "Breaking Bad"] put such care and concern into the whole sculpting of a beautiful ending to it, so we had a complete experience of a beginning and a middle and an end. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process and I learned many, many years ago to be in the moment. To enjoy what I am doing at the time, and relish that. Because I know it’s ephemeral and it’s gone. I don’t want to ever look back and go, “Damn, I wish I had appreciated that time more.” I did. I was in it, wallowing in the good times and playing that great character. [Link]

John Cusack of "Love & Mercy" on Making Movies about Music

The way I experience music is autobiographically. I’ll hear one of Brian [Wilson's] songs that meant one thing to me as a kid and something else as I grow up. The same song has a new connection. I chart my life through music that inspires me. Music keeps changing but great music you can come back to and it re-inspires you. I don’t separate music from film from performance—it’s all the same stream. [Link]

Blythe Danner of "I'll See You in My Dreams" on Honesty with Age 

When you live a long life, you rely on both the positive and the negative. It is all there to call upon. You can’t block it. I’m lucky that way. Sam and I were talking about similarities between his character and Carol. Neither of them is full of BS. You get truthful at that age. It’s liberating. Someone said grief is what you pay for loving. There are always losses that come along in life. You take the rest of your life to respond to them. [Link]

Andre Gregory on the Spark Behind "My Dinner with Andre"

I had told [Wallace Shawn] many of the stories just in passing as a friend because I was kind of going through hell at that time. One day, he called me and said something like "You know, when I am your age, I don't want to go through what you are going through now. I thought maybe we could get together and talk about it so that I wouldn't have to go through that." He thought that out of those talks, maybe we could do a talking head TV show or movie. I thought that was a great idea because I could picture how funny our voices could be together. So we sat down for about a year, five days a week, with a tape machine and we began every day with my telling him a story—not necessarily one of the ones in the movie—and that would trigger a conversation. Out of that, we got a 2,200-page manuscript which Wally edited down to maybe 500 pages with 34 major themes and we chose our four favorite. Louis Malle came into the picture after we had been rehearsing for nine months and helped whittle it down into a two-hour movie. [Link]

Nina Hoss of "Phoenix" on Expressively Using Her Height

I thought very much about how I could express her journey in her body. When you see the pictures of the people who were at Auschwitz or the other concentration camps, they are so thin and in a way not really there. They look like they don’t want to be seen, so they don’t get into trouble. That’s what I was working on, the fear. I also wanted to show how [Nelly] grows slowly over time, like a flower. Her head goes up and she can remember what it is like to be in the body again. I wanted to embrace that and play with that and feel what it is. [Link]

Ben Kingsley of "Learning to Drive" on "Gandhi" vs. CGI

CGI has removed thousands of people from the screen. There was no CGI in my film. They were there. And for the actor to react to the presence of thousands of people coming to their feet, and shouting my character’s name, is an experience that defies translation sitting here now. The body chemistry, the extent to which the body chemistry changes and therefore governs your performance. Because at any given time, a performance is a translation or an expression of the body chemistry of that moment. Somebody with a ping-pong ball at the end of a stick, running in front of a green screen saying, “Crowd over here! Crowd over here!” Sorry, it doesn’t work. It invites terrible over-acting, and also your opposite player—for me it was India—won’t be there. CGI is not fool-proof, you can tell. So, it was a terrible loss. [Link]

Lola Kirke of "Mistress America" on the Influences of Family and Greta Gerwig

I always knew that I wanted to act. I think that I was probably a really obnoxious/outgoing kid, and they were like, “Oh, she’s an actress.” It’s like when you see a two-year-old playing the drums and some guy’s like, “See, he’s going to be a drummer.” As far as being inspired by my family, there was always lots of art being made in the house by my siblings. My brother is a photographer, my sister Domino is a singer and my sister Jemima is a painter and now an actress. These are really powerful women, and they intimidated me, even though they were my sisters. They were bolder than I was, and they definitely were large factors in my conception of Brooke and Tracy. But the dynamic that Greta and I have was also very influential. I really do admire Greta and I’ve never met anybody quite like her. What’s similar about the relationship between Brooke and Tracy and myself and Greta is that Greta is at once on my level—we can laugh about the dumbest things ever—but is also revelatory herself in how smart and talented she is. [Link]

Brie Larson of "Room" on Managing Tough Realism

I’m not there for 30 days. We’re yelling cut. I’m talking as myself. Part of the eight months of prep was working really hard at refining a skill to really be able to—Ma was almost a location in my brain I could access. It was a place I could go to and it was a place I could leave. I had the ability to turn it on and off. It was too long of a shoot. It was a 49-day shoot. There’s too much that I have to do. I don’t have the time to be fully emotionally consumed by it. There are times when you connect with something that is rather painful, and you realize that it’s a reality for some people. And that’s hard to shake. The research into sexual abuse—that’s something I feel very passionate about because of researching it and learning more about it. You can’t just be like, “Well, the movie’s over now.” There’s real truth and reality to it. It’s very easy to go down that pathway of our lives, but part of my job is exploring other avenues of how to live. When you see those sides you question a lot of your own life, but I think that’s really exciting and enriching. I don’t find it to be depressing. [Link]

Parker Posey on Woody Allen's Chekhovian Elements

What sticks out the most is the way that he writes women. Over the years, I’ve watched his movies and felt like a lot of them, in different ways, brought out qualities in their female characters that many writers don’t even attempt to portray anymore. It feels like a lost art more and more. I felt that way about “Hannah and Her Sisters,” which I recently watched again. I remember Sandy Dennis in “Another Woman”—her strength and her suffering and her bitterness. It’s very Russian and I love how Chekhovian it is. I read “Crime and Punishment” in high school and also worked on Chekhov in college. That yearning and that desire in the face of not being able to leave, to go to Moscow, was so touching, and I’m so happy to play a woman like that in this movie. She obviously has a life, you just see it in little bits. [Link]

Adam Scott of "The Overnight" on Roger Ebert's "Dead Poets Society" Review

He didn’t like it! Well, it was a very mixed review. And that movie really affected me in a HUGE way. Then I read his review. I remember exactly where I was standing in the book store reading his review. He used the word “puncture.” He said that Robin Williams punctured the character by doing his John Wayne routine. And I remember thinking, “You know what? He’s fucking right!” I would then repeat that to people. “I feel that Robin Williams punctured the character … ” So funny. It changed the way I thought about it. [Link]

Jason Segel of "The End of the Tour" on "How I Met Your Mother" and Judd Apatow Movies 

I felt a bit of a strain in that I was simultaneously part of two groups. I was part of my TV show and I was making movies with the Judd Apatow crew. The Judd Apatow energy is pushing the boundaries of comedy. And the nature of a TV show is that you can check in at any time and it’s familiar. They’re really antithetical in a lot of ways. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have a Venn Diagram of what is funny, but the nature of the experience is just really different.

It isn’t until I had some distance from the TV show that I was able to look at it and realize it had tremendous merit that I, at the time, didn’t give it full credit for. With the show ending and traveling around, and seeing that people love the show in some really important ways—that show got me through college; that show got me through Iraq—it was a big learning, “Grow Up Kid” kind of lesson. [Link]

Michael Shannon of "Freeheld" on Julianne Moore

I don’t even know where to begin. There’s definitely a craft to what we do, and you pay attention to the details and the mechanics of people, but I think what really makes Julianne special is her heart. She cares so deeply about her characters. And it’s not melodramatic. It’s not like she’s trying to prove that she’s a great actress. It’s deep within her. And it’s not something she has to agonize over. The funny thing about Julie is that when you’re working with her all the way up until “Action,” she’ll talk about something completely off-topic. She’ll be like, “Anyway, I was just, you know, we went to the restaurant ... and what do you think about this ... ” And they say “Action,” and she just [snaps fingers] fucking snaps right into it. Like, "bam." Usually when you hear about people like that they tend to be at the top echelon of actors. You’ll hear that as a description of them—at the drop of a hat they can just snap into it. [Link]

Sarah Silverman of "I Smile Back" on Her Refreshing Openness 

Well, it’s a blessing and a curse. The curse part is—and I understand it—I’ve had directors tell me, “Well, I would cast you as this, but you’re a personality, and people feel like they know you. And I need someone where the audience can get lost in a character, and not just felt that’s Sarah Silverman the comedian.” And I totally get that as a lover of movies and TV, that when I’ve seen someone too much in US Weekly and you know who they’re fucking and you know blah-blah-blah, you don’t get lost in it. And I think that’s why when you see someone’s first movie, they’re lauded because they haven’t been tainted by their actual personality of who they are and who they’re fucking, because nobody has heard of them yet. So people go, “Oh my god, this breakout performance!” And because I’m a comedian that’s just me, I’m the kind of famous ... it’s not like someone goes [whispers] “Oh my god, that’s Nicole Kidman,” they go, like, “SARAH!” They feel like they went to camp with me, like people feel like they know me. And I love that in so many ways, I do. But I understand why a director may not want to use me because they think people won’t be able to get lost in me. So, there’s that side of it. And then there’s the side that got me this opportunity, which was that I was talking, just being myself on "Howard Stern," talking about my own relationship with depression. [Link]

Omar Sy of "Samba" on Films about Friendship 

Friendship can only start between two people when they regard one another as equals. That’s why I found the friendship in “The Intouchables” so powerful. Philippe treats Driss as an equal, and that's why they can joke with one another. Some people may find the humor controversial, but it’s exactly right for the characters. 

I think it’s really interesting how an inexplicable connection between characters could lead them to inspire each other. I love a movie that shows how people can come together in acceptance. Samba is just trying to make a better life for himself and his story is so common in our own world today. At the beginning, Samba and Alice seem so different, but they are very similar in their loneliness and frustration. [Link]

THE DIRECTORS

"Punisher: War Zone" Director Lexi Alexander on Hollywood as a Game of Musical Chairs

I am actually the least qualified to speak about feminism. Until I worked in Hollywood, I’ve never felt discriminated against for being a woman. The only prejudice I had experience with was growing up half-Arab in Germany. None of my movies pass the Bechdel test, and I continue to write mostly about men. I am a newbie when it comes to feminist activism, and I had to educate myself about it, especially in terms of appropriate language.

All I know is that we got ourselves into a big mess by letting Caucasian men rule everything, from narratives to criticism of narratives to fiscal aspects of storytelling. Now we have to make people aware of it and worse, we have to play a rugby style game of musical chairs with people who have had their butt parked on a comfy chair for a very long time. And they do not make room. Ever. [Link]

Ralph Bakshi of "Last Days of Coney Island" on Embracing Kickstarter 

I love the freedom that Kickstarter gives me. I love any kind of freedom you can get. I'd have paid for it very dearly when I was young. So what I'm saying about these guys that don't understand ... because facing the truth of what you're trying to get to is what art's all about. Not what Hollywood's all about. But I'm coming from movies from the '50s and '60s, from jazz musicians, Jackson Pollock, and abstract expressionism. So, where I'm coming from, soul is everything that you're trying to get to. Maybe today's kids get antsy when they get freedom. Not me! I love it. [Link]

Ramin Bahrani of "99 Homes" on the Need for Conversation 

I don’t know what the solutions are and everyone has their own ideas. Everyone knows that something isn’t working. There are many solutions that have been proposed, and this film doesn’t provide any of them. But it does say that we have to reassess now. Michael makes some very convincing arguments on one side, and Andrew [Garfield's] character is getting confused on the other side. I don’t know the solution, but I think there has to be a conversation, and I think people want to move forward in a more unified way. I hope this film can help start that conversation. When Michael Douglas says “Greed is good” in “Wall Street,” some part of that statement was true. Greed for knowledge and greed for love are positive, but greed can also distort things. “99 Homes” can serve as the “Wall Street” for this generation because it speaks to what we’re going through right now. [Link]

Noah Baumbach of "While We're Young" on Using Older Technology

I grew up with records and cassettes and in my teens, I was told to get rid of it all and start again with CDs. Then as an adult, I had to start again. When I began visiting younger people’s apartments, I’d see them filled with all these records. I did keep many of my records, so I do still have a bit of a record collection. But when I saw that people were collecting records again, I was like, “Why did I get rid of all that stuff?” [laughs] At this moment, I really don’t know how to collect music anymore. I’m totally baffled. I just got the battery fixed on my iPod because I couldn’t buy a new one. It’s all streaming now. 

A lot of these new gadgets are great, but what you lose is an attachment to a thing, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I like having collections of books and records on my shelves. I still have CDs, though I don’t know what to do with them. They each stand as a reminder of the time in which I got them. Even reissues date themselves. [laughs] I remember that first reissue of the Bowie records and I still have the Rykodisc that came out before they were reissued again. Those records bring me back to a particular time in my life, which I like. [Link]

Charles Burnett on the Nostalgic, Family Feel of "To Sleep with Anger" 

Well, that's one of things I tried to do with “To Sleep with Anger,” because I grew up in a rural sort of environment, but in the city that was something I missed. But I thought that was important for younger generations, even more so now. And because I grew up in a quasi farm-like situation with chickens, rabbits and turkeys in the backyard, and even saw baby chicks being hitched, I felt it was simply that you feel that people need to see that. They need to experience some kind of down-home, on-the-farm kind of experience. When I look at kids my today, I feel kind of sorry for them [laughs]. Part of that is my fault: trying to provide for them. But for a healthy generation, you need to somehow be connected to the soil. [Link]

Julie Delpy on Her Childhood vs. Her Upcoming Film "Lolo"

When I was a child, my parents said very positive things to me, which helped build my confidence. At the same time, they had a tough life, so I can’t say that I had a perfect childhood, and thank God for that. The fact that it was tough made me a stronger person. The character of Lolo has basically been given everything he ever wanted. You see kids who grow up with everything, and you wonder how they become f—ed up. When I look around me and see 22-year-olds living at home with their mom, I think, “Are they better off this way?” I see many kids in Los Angeles and Paris who were raised without any problems, and I wonder how they’ll be able to deal with adulthood. It feels like it doesn’t matter what you do, you never know what’s going to come out of raising a child. It’s a very scary thing. [Link]

Kirby Dick of "The Hunting Ground" on Films That Risk Failure

You’re trying to make a filmmaking experience that’s rich and emotional and memorable. But when I’m watching films, I look for risk. And that can be in any kind of form, that can be in a minimal, sort of observational kind of art film, or it can be in a verité film where somebody is in a very emotional, personal situation, or it can be in an advocacy film. The films can be all of the above. But I’m interested in people who go into material that hasn’t been covered in a film before, or even in books, where they’re sort of the first one there, certainly [Dick's previous documentary] “The Invisible War” is like that, not to say that there weren’t a few books. My feeling is that if there’s not a risk of failure, you’re limiting the potential of your success. [Link]

Paul Feig of "Spy" on the Pre-Release Furor about His Upcoming "Ghostbusters" Film

It is weird. I don't want to work in a vacuum but I can't work with everybody's voices in my ears either. I hear all the stuff and I read the worst tweets that are sent to me—if you have sent me a mean tweet, I have read it. I want to read them because I want to know what the extreme fans are saying and find out their fears and conceptions of what they think I am going to do to get some kind of consensus. Then I go into the thing that I was going to do anyway, but with that knowledge in my head because it does affect you. Then I go into the vacuum to do what I was going to do, but with the knowledge that I now have because I do get it. What I don't want to go is just go into it blindly and act like I don't care because it is a beloved thing and while I am not recreating it, but I want to be true to the feeling that I had the first time that I saw it and it blew my mind. That is all you can do and all I can ask people—it isn't even asking them to trust me. I have been given command of this ship, I am going to do it and I hope that they will love it and go along for the ride. If they don't, no harm, no foul and they still have the original movies—I am not touching them. I just think it is a fun opportunity to take a new bend on it. [Link]

Alex Garland on Female Objectivity and "Ex Machina"

The thing about female objectification is that it’s sort of inarguable that it happens. There’s no real debate to have about it, it’s just so obvious. The film is definitely interested in aspects of that. The key thing about female objectification is that it creates a block that prevents you from thinking about what is actually going on inside the mind of the thing that you’re objectifying. That’s a straightforward part of this film narrative. I like the idea that there is this obstacle preventing viewers from thinking about what is going on inside the mind of this machine that looks like a girl in her early twenties. But actually, the thing that most interested me, on a personal level, wasn’t the objectification of women or that male/female dynamic. It was the question of where gender resides. [Link]

Todd Haynes on Potent Gazes and "Carol"

It’s sort of about what we’re doing as viewers watching a movie. Looking is … we’re supposed to be invisible watching movies in the dark, anonymous, [the] camera is hidden, all of the apparatus is hidden. And we’re pretending that this thing is just happening by itself. But in fact, all of the machinery of looking is informing what we’re looking at. And so when stories and characters are looking at each other, or at things, or as in “Carol”—when the things being looked at are seen through windows and window panes and glass that’s dirty—the act of looking, and even the act of a camera looking is suggestive in that. I like things like that. I like making you think about ... the thing that we’re not really supposed to think about, and yet all of our power comes from the act of looking, and what we project onto what we see. [Link]

Asif Kapadia on Letting Amy Winehouse Tell Her Own Story in "Amy"

It’s about taking us out of the picture. It’s really easy to shoot interviews, but as a director, they’re distracting to watch, particularly if there’s a bookshelf or a plant in the background. We wanted to take that all away. Our map for Amy’s life was found in her lyrics. We’ve all heard them before, but most of us haven’t paid attention [to their meaning]. We parsed each song for their references, trying to determine who she was singing about when she mentioned a guy, for example, and once we found out his identity, we contacted him. It was a bit of a detective process. She left a lot of clues, you just have to unravel each lyric and understand how they connect to her life. I used to buy records, and if I heard a song on them that I liked, I’d read the lyrics [in the disc jacket]. I could find out who recorded the song, what their cultural references were, and everything else that I’d want to know about the song. When records were replaced by CDs, I was struggling to read the lyrics because I have bad eyesight. With digital downloads, there is no information whatsoever. I like that old-fashioned idea of reading the lyrics since they enable you to understand the song in a different way. [Link]

Charlie Kaufman on Creating Rorschach Tests like "Anomalisa"

The way I do it when I’m writing is to look at something as an exploration of something that I’m exploring, and not come to a conclusion. Not say, “And it’s important to love.” Or whatever. “Family is everything.” I’m going to look at this idea about loneliness, or inability to connect. Or an experience in a relationship. And you just explore it. You don’t have a goal in the end when you’re writing it. Let whatever happens happens. And so it starts to be an experience to the person writing it, which helps it be open to other people. [Link]

Spike Lee on Satire & Seriousness in "Chi-Raq"

Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite filmmakers and there are several homages to “Dr. Strangelove” [in the film]. The character who’s in his stars-and-bars briefs is named General King Kong. What is more serious than the destruction of God’s planet? But that film is hilarious. I really can’t understand this mindset that you can’t have different tones, you can’t laugh and cry in a single form of art. Why does it have to be one thing? [Link]

"Spotlight" Director Tom McCarthy on the Influence of "All the President's Men" and Advice from Sidney Lumet

I think it’s cool about this movie that there is a procedural element to it. It’s sort of like an engine down there, humming. That was a fun thing to lean on when we needed to. There’s both dramatic and thrilling elements, but it’s tough to pigeonhole it as one thing or another. Maybe “All the President’s Men”—that’s a thriller. [Director Alan J. Pakula] built that thing like a lean, mean, paranoid thriller, and it operated so beautifully in that way. We didn’t feel like that was our movie. It was a movie we respect and appreciate. I’ve certainly said this before, but Sidney Lumet’s films had a major impact on me. All of his movies. He was so efficient with the camera. He really, really trusted space and performance. He was great at blocking. He took the moment to find what a scene was about. He told me that. I remember I was having a panic attack before “The Station Agent” and he said, “Look, if you know what a scene is about, it will block itself. You’ll KNOW where to put that camera.” He was right. I always find that when I don’t know what I’m doing with the camera, it’s because I don’t understand the scene. We haven’t been honest to the scene. [Link]

Adam McKay on the Shifting Genres within "The Big Short"

I never started by thinking I am going to make a satire. It’s kind of just the elements of the story are that. You’re talking about a system that is so preposterously corrupt, and you’re talking about a large body of people in the world financial system that were so shockingly blind to it. You’re starting with proportions that are so large, I was a little bit surprised when I started cutting it together, that it did have some satire in its DNA. And we always talked about how it never really pegs itself to one genre, and there’s elements that are satirical, there are elements that almost like a thriller/heist, and then clearly the end is just full-on tragedy. What I liked about the movie was that it didn’t peg to a genre, which gave me a lot of freedom in writing. [Link]

Reed Morano on Being Her Own Cinematographer for Directorial Debut "Meadowland"

That wasn't really the original intention. Right off the bat, I reached out to all of these great DPs I admire, and I'm friends with them, they know my work as a DP, but I thought, "Why would they come and work for me on a tiny budget, for no money, when they haven't seen if I can direct yet?" Also, the story is super dark so it's not a guaranteed commercial success. People were kind of like, "Thanks for asking!" It was coming to a point where I was going to have to work with a DP where maybe I would know what I want better than they did. I thought it would be more distracting to have someone else doing it and not doing it right, or doing it too slow, and I'd rather just have all the responsibility myself. I know DP-ing very well but I don't know directing, so it was a big risk. It was sad because I missed out on that "two heads are better than one" aspect, which worked so well with all the other department heads—editor, production designer, costume designer—they contributed so much to the movie. But if I had to go back and do it again, I would still shoot it myself. [Link]

Joshua Oppenheimer on Changing the Historical Narrative with "The Look of Silence"

At the moment, as a result of these two films, there’s a lot of impetus for changing the narrative. The Indonesian Association of History Teachers, which is the national body of history teachers, is, in response to the film and in response to the government’s reluctance to change the narrative thus far, introducing an altenrative history curriculum so teachers are able to say, “this is what we’re supposed to teach you, and now here is the truth.” That involves upper/secondary school students looking at the director’s cut of “The Act of Killing” and “The Look of Silence” in class.

At the same time, the Oscar nomination for Killing prompted the president’s office to acknowledge that what happened in 1965 was a crime against humanity, and we need to have truth and reconciliation, but we don’t need a film to force us to do this. So they tried to dismiss the film, yet it was wonderful, because it was the first time the government ever acknowledged it was wrong.

And now there are rumors of an official apology to the victims in the next State of the Union address. I don’t know if that will materialize. I believe the president has been accused of being a communist, simply for contemplating such a thing by the shadow state of the military intelligence services and paramilitary groups that the film exposes. [Link]

"Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" Director Stanley Nelson on the Next Generation of Activists

I think the thing to think about is that the Black Panthers did not come out of a vacuum. They rose out of the traditional civil rights movement. They rose of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The anti-war movement is central to this whole narrative. Back then you were in a space where any man in this country of draft age could be snatched up and taken into the jungle given a gun and told to fight. So that politicized everybody. It made everybody think how do I change this, whether you were for the war or against it. You couldn’t ignore it. It was literally a life or death situation.

But right now, I think it’s a tragic time with all these horrible deaths, but also it’s a positive time seeing so many young people organizing and pushing for change and in a larger way and a more vocal way than there were even just two years ago. And we’re even seeing race being discussed in a way that it wasn’t just a few years ago. We’re talking about things. We’re talking about this country and what does it stand for? [Link]

Céline Sciamma on How Women React to Male Dominance in "Girlhood

There is no safe space for girls. The neighborhood outside and even at home, the men make the rules and there is an authority the girls have to live by. But when they go to a public space like in the city, it’s kind of a stage where they get to perform and be better versions of themselves. For the intimate spaces, they have to rent a hotel room so they can be who they truly they are.

It’s not about men being the villains. They’re kind of objectified; they’re an archetype much like the femme fatale in film. But people may have a problem with that because men are rarely objectified. It’s about who is dominant. With Vic, the movie shows how women can sometimes reproduce the very societal pressure they’re trying to escape from. [Link] 


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