NEDERLANDSE EDITIE Z.O.Z
39TH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ROTTERDAM #9 FRIDAY 5 FEBRUARy 2010
photo: Ruud Jonkers
Song of myself French actress and Tiger jury member Jeanne Balibar shares her thoughts on performing with Edward Lawrenson
Whereas good directors can make do with bad actors, I think.”
“I don’t think there’s such a thing as a good actor,” Jeanne Balibar says before joining her fellow Tiger jury members for a discussion. It’s a comment that causes this Daily Tiger writer to raise a quizzical eyebrow. Since her 1996 breakthrough role in Comment, je me suis disputé... (ma vie sexuelle), the French performer has been deservedly praised for a string of roles in such high-profile films as Va Savoir and Clean. “I think anyone can be a good actor really,” she continues. Surely not? She elaborates: “I think there are good directors. What I mean is, if you pay attention to something, that’s because of the director: you wouldn’t notice a very good actor in a bad thing. Well, you can notice him but what’s the point?
The remarks arise from Balibar’s discussion of her participation in Ne change rien, Portuguese director Pedro Costa’s moody and visually striking portrait of Balibar singing in a recording session with guitarist Rudolphe Burger and rehearsing for an Offenbach operetta. Shot in gorgeous high-contrast velvety blacks and moonlit whites, the movie captures Balibar caught up the creative process. It is a portrait of the performer that is raw, intimate, and occasionally spiky: she is evidently exasperated, for instance, with one singing coach during the opera rehearsals.
So how did seeing herself in such an unguarded way feel? “Even when I’m expressing myself
through a role, what I’m looking for is a nakedness that there is in this film. This is what I’m aiming at all the time. It isn’t problematic for me, at all. And also: I don’t think this film is a documentary really. I think it uses the methods of a documentary, but in the end it is much more some kind of fiction. So I don’t know who this person on the screen in Ne change rien is; well, she’s me in a way, but she’s also this person that Pedro has constructed, and it’s not any more me than when I’m doing a character.” Unobtrusive
Discussing the filming of the project (which took place a few years ago), she refers to Costa’s unobtrusive presence: filmed on a small DV camera, the footage was subsequently transferred to blackand-white 35 mm. Costa’s ‘crew’ consisted of himself and a sound engineer. “We weren’t even sure whether it would be a movie in the end,” says Bali-
bar. “He just came along and he filmed a little, from time to time. There was no plan. Of course, I think he had a plan and he was building some kind of scenario as the work went on; for me it was really just someone who was sitting with us, he was like a member of the band.” Duty calls
Despite nursing a cold, Balibar is happy to be in Rotterdam, where she plans to perform a few songs at the closing-night ceremony. Then it’s off to Berlin where she is doing post-synch work on Im Alter von Ellen, the new movie by Pia Marais, whose Layla Fourais won the Arte France Cinema Award at CineMart 2010. But before all of this, it’s back to her jury duties and the serious business of agreeing a Tiger winner. Ne change rien – Pedro Costa
Fri 05 21:45 PA7, Sat 06 16:15 PA 6
A Dedicated Follower With Passion As if trying to get legendary band The Kinks to reform wasn’t hard enough, pop journalist and amateur guitarist Geoff Edgers also performed in front of stars such as Sting, Richard James Havis reports
Everyone’s got a favourite band that they’d like to see reunite. American journalist Geoff Edgers went one step further than most fans – he set out on a crusade to reunite legendary British group The Kinks. What’s more, he decided to film his quest. The result, directed by Robert Patton-Spruill, is the poignant documentary Do It Again, which had its world premiere at IFFR. “There is no great band as under-appreciated as The Kinks,” says Edgers. “Put those Sixties records up against any other group’s LPs and you’ll find that they hold up. I love listening to The Beatles and The Beach Boys, but there’s no other group that produced such a diverse, dynamic body of work as The Kinks.” The feuding nature of the band – brothers Dave and Ray Davies sometimes came to blows on stage – was an added element: “There was an inherent drama to a story about two brothers at war, creating brilliant music,” adds Edgers. Do It Again is pegged to Edgers’ attempts to persuade the band – who split up in 1996 after a thirty-year career – to get back together. He visits assorted rock stars and Kinks associates to see if they can help, and – bravely – tries to persuade luminaries like Sting and Robyn Hitchcock to jam on some Kinks tunes with him during the interviews. “I wanted to do something special and, perhaps, slightly insane,” says Edgers. “I love music and I love music documentaries, but I find that most music documentaries have a format. They are either insider tales in which we are given ‘access’ to a band but nothing is really revealed, or dry documentaries in which so-called experts drop platitudes. I wanted our film to be different and unexpected. I wanted it to be for people who love The Kinks, as well as people who simply love music.” Edgers, an amateur guitarist, bravely pulls his guitar out in front of Sting and Paul Weller, and asks if he can play a Kinks song with them. “I was probably most scared when I did this with Robyn Hitchcock, as he was the first one I tried,” says Edgers. “And I brought a banjo. That was not a good idea. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared during those moments. But I also didn’t want to wimp out and do a standard rock documentary. I think the musicians who played with me make this film something special. I have never seen Sting look so human. He looks like a kid who loves a band and wants to show you why.” Ray Davies, the Kink’s primary songwriter and de facto leader, didn’t want to be interviewed for the film, even though he’s publicly stated that he’s not against a Kinks reunion. “Part of it was his schedule,” says Edgers. “But I also realise that the Kinks are a very personal part of his life. I think that he might have found it jarring having an outsider trying to get involved. But I’ve always thought that if we made something special and different that Ray, as an artist, would appreciate it.”
Do it Again
New New Wave Filmmaker and Godard-enthusiast Emmanuel Laurent presents his feature documentary about the legendary filmmaker’s relationship with fellow New Wave icon François Truffaut at IFFR. Geoffrey Macnab reports
2010 is shaping up as another Jean-Luc Godard year. The French auteur is almost certain to be back in Cannes this May with what is being billed as his final film, Socialisme, featuring singer Patti Smith. Antoine de Baecque’s exhaustive, long-awaited biography of Godard will also be published shortly. The Godard effect is being felt in Rotterdam too: the story of Godard’s friendship and eventual estrangement from fellow filmmaker François Truffaut is told in feature-documentary Two in the Wave, which has been screening this week in Signals Regained. De Baecque scripted and narrated the documentary, which was directed by Emmanuel Laurent. “I think it would be healthy to have a new New Wave,” Laurent proclaims of his decision to make Two in the Wave now. The director argues that filmmaking today would benefit from a jolt similar to the one it received when Godard and Truffaut were first embarking on their careers, railing against ‘Le Cinéma de Papa’. In the face of what he feels is conventional and complacent filmmaking, Laurent quotes a remark by Truffaut: filmmaking should be so personal and individual that “it should look like a fingerprint.” Truffaut and Godard first met in 1949. They became firm friends and their careers progressed in tandem until their eventually falling out in the 1970s, when Godard’s politics became ever more radical. The documentary makers didn’t work with Godard directly, but were in touch with Godard’s relatives who provided them with rare photos of the director as a young boy. “For the first time, you see Godard young! Before, you used to think that Godard was born at 20!” Laurent reflects. We also see the first photo taken of Godard and Truffaut together, when both were ardent young cinephiles attending the Festival Du Film Maudit in Biarritz in the autumn of 1950. Two in the Wave is the story of a friendship that helped define the careers of its two subjects. As Laurent notes, they often made films in direct response to one another. “When Truffaut made Jules and Jim,
Godard replied with A Woman is a Woman, also a ménage a trois story. Or, when Truffaut made Soft Skin, Godard did A Married Woman. It was always the same topic, the same subject. They kept talking to one another through their films, relating to one another.” Godard and Truffaut even used the same actor, Jean-Pierre Leaud. In films from 400 Blows to Stolen Kisses, Leaud played Antoine Doinel, Truffaut’s alter ego. Godard frequently used Leaud too, albeit in a different way. “Godard wanted to have a substitute for Truffaut in his films. We may say that Truffaut gave birth to this actor as a boy but Godard turned him into an adult. He rose to political consciousness.” Islid Le Besco, a contemporary actress and filmmaker admired by Godard and who embodies some
photo: Ramon Mangold
of the same qualities as the New Wave directors, is featured in the documentary. We see her reading through the old copies of Cahiers du Cinema and photographs. Later this year, Laurent will be showing Two in the Wave at Visions Du Reel, the documentary festival in Nyon in Switzerland. This is only a few miles from where Godard lives, but he doubts very much that the French director will attend the screening. “I am pretty sure that he is not going to like it. As a person, he is very difficult and almost impossible to handle,” Laurent confides. As a filmmaker, of course, it is quite a different matter. Laurent’s reverence for Godard is still self-evident. Two in the Wave – Emmanuel Laurent
Fi 05 17:15 CI7
BRAIN WORKOUT Actor Viktor Sukhorukov, who plays an overprotective father in Larisa Sadilova’s Sonny, explains that less is more. Ola Salwa reports
“I started my career with very grotesque, extreme roles. I played historical figures like Lenin or Khrushchev and a lot of thugs, gangsters. I always wanted to play comedy, because I really wanted to expand my acting range,” says Sukhorukov, who instantly insists on being called Witia. He is straight-forward, warm and gestures intensively. Prominent and popular in his homeland, Russia, the 58-year old actor has starred in 56 films, among them Alexei Balabanov’s Brother, Pavel Lugin’s Island and Svetlana Proskurina’s The Best of Times. However, it was not these big, spectacular performances that made acclaimed arthouse director Larisa Sadilova offer him the part of the overprotective father in Sonny. Sukhorukov recalls that it was his tiny part in Renata Litvinova’s Goddess, in which he plays a father who loses his daughter, that caught Sadilova’s eye. “She told the producers that I’m the type of guy she wants in her film,” the actor says. Sonny is a psychological drama about the relationship between a father and his son. The latter is undergoing puberty, and would rather hang out with his friends than his old man. One day he just takes off and leaves the house. At the same time, a body is found in the river and the rebellious teenager becomes a prime suspect. The father, feeling rejected, nevertheless stands by his child and tries to help him. “The story is about the
Viktor Sukhorukov with IFFR programmer Ludmila Cvikova
end of the parenting period and the beginning of the period of adult love in a young’s man life,” explains Sukhorukov. Sukhorukov also tried as much as he could to support Oleg Frolenkov, the young non-actor who plays his son in Sonny. “I tried not to over-play, to be as natural as I could, but still there are some scenes in which I could have played less,” he says. Sukhorukov enjoyed working with the director: “if people love you and need you, everything is easy. The most important thing in my life is to be needed,” adding that he has been successful, in spite of starting his acting career later in life. An inspirational example for anyone wanting to change their life. “You shouldn’t get upset because you start late. You can still have enough time for everything you want to do. Don’t despair. Believe in your dream, look
photo: Ruud Jonkers
for your own way, don’t be modest,” he exclaims. Sadilova’s previous film, With Love, Lilya, won a Tiger Award in 2003. With Pavel Lugin, Ivan Wyrypajev and many others, she is the representative of the contemporary Russian arthouse cinema. “There are not many films like Sonny in Russia today and audiences for this kind of film are very small,” states the actor. “In my opinion, there should be all kinds of films,” he continues. “There is a danger that people think that if something doesn’t bring any profit, it is not needed. It’s not like that. We need artistic films, because they are, metaphorically speaking, an exercise for the brain,” concludes Sukhorukov. Sonny – Larisa Sadilova
Fri 05 19:30 CI1
Figurine it out Nigerian director Kunle Afolayan selffunded and screened his new film Araromire, screening in Where is Africa, he tells Geoffrey Macnab
“A lot of people always put their blame for all their predicaments on God. For me, it’s a bit awkward, because sometimes we cause our own predicaments,” Nigerian director Kunle Afolayan explains the key theme of his feature Araromire (The Figurine), screening in Signals: Where Is Africa. The film explores what happens when a figurine is discovered in an abandoned shrine. Local lore has it that the figurine will bring good luck… Araromire was self-funded. Its writer-director recently held a private screening in London at the Odeon Imax in Greenwich. Over 1,000 spectators turned up to see the film – clear evidence that audiences want to see it. Back home in Nigeria, though, Afolayan laments the absence of a proper distribution system.
Double take Director of Rwanda: Take Two, Pia Sawhney, screening in IFFR’s Signals: Where is Africa section, finds that the USA is casting a different shadow from last time she was in Rotterdam
Seven years ago, when I was in my early twenties, IFFR premiered my first film, Out of Status. It was an incendiary moment in US politics and the media was not interested in promoting films that challenged American policies in foreign affairs. I came instead to Rotterdam. Unlike television stations, film festivals and public broadcasters in the US – all of which later refused to allow any version of that project to air (and continue to do so) – in Rotterdam, it was part of a programme on America’s militarized homefront – reflecting themes the American media establishment had itself become too paralyzed to confront. Today, America has transformed from a country on the brink of despair politically to one that is inspiring young people in other countries. One such is Yves Montand Niyongabo, a Rwandan filmmaker who is the subject of my film in IFFR’s Forget Africa series, but he is also a director with his own project. “When your country elected Barack Obama, it gave many of us in Africa hope. We never believed a country like America would elect a black president,” said Niyongabo after I talked him into breaking with his religious convictions by raising a glass of wine with me in Gothenburg, where we had both been invited to screen our films consecutively. As an immigrant to America myself, I could not help being moved by his admission. Niyongabo is just 22 and I have worked with him for most of the past year, having travelled to Rwanda to make a film commissioned by brilliant IFFR programmer Gertjan Zuilhof. Niyongabo and his colleague Edouard Bamporiki are young and inspired. While Niyongabo’s film deals with street children born from rapes during the Rwandan genocide, Bamporiki challenges young Hutus to separate themselves from the views of their parents. “I am tired of hiding who I am,” says Bamporiki often these days – and his courage has only emboldened his resolve to alter the political climate of his country. At the age of 26, he is Rwanda’s most actively watched film director, and most of his audiences – rather surprisingly – are Hutu prisoners doing time for crimes of genocide. Like Niyongabo, he is here promoting Rwanda: Take Two, but is also preparing for a new phase in his own career, involving the prestigious film program at FAMU in the Czech Republic, to which he has been admitted for a one-year course, starting next Monday.
The result is that investors shy away from backing Nigerian movies “There’s no point spending a whole lot of money shooting a movie when you’re not able to recoup your money,” he observes. Afolayan shot Araromire on HD. He produced the movie himself through his company, Golden Effects Services, and is heavily involved in its marketing and distribution. Araromire showed in Nigerian multiplexes for around six week and held its own against its Hollywood rivals. The director also organised a series of special screenings. “As a filmmaker in Nigeria, you have to think about the content, but at the same time, you have to think about how to market your film yourself.” Fresh from Rotterdam, the Nigerian director will be heading off to Berlin next week to discuss African cinema at the Berlinale’s annual Talent Campus. Back home in Nigeria, he is planning to produce and direct Phone Swap, which has been commissioned by a telecoms company. Afolayan comes from a filmmaking dynasty. His father was an actor and filmmaker. “But I never thought I would follow him into the same business,” the director recalls. “I studied business administration as a first degree and worked in a bank for some time.” Even during his bank days, he had a hankering to act. The opportunity came in 1998, when he appeared in Saworo-Ide (Brass Bells) and then quickly began to establish himself in Nollywood movies. In 2005, he quit the bank altogether and headed off to the New York Film Academy to study digital filmmaking. When
he came home to Nigeria, he set up his production company. His 2006 film Irapada (Redemption), codirected with Biodun Aleja, screened at the London Film Festival and went on to pick up several awards on the festival circuit. Even so, that didn’t make it any easier to put together his next project. “In Nigeria, you just have to do everything yourself,” he observes ruefully. Whatever the struggles he faces in financing his movies, the Nigerian director is determined to continue working in Africa. “I’d rather stay back home and tell African stories. That is the only way I
Growing up in public Polish film All That I Love was shown as a work in progress at IFFR last year. This year, it’s back, polished and finished, in IFFR’s Spectrum section. Writer-director Jacek Borcuch reflects on the experience. By Ola Salwa
“I’d shown the rough cut of the film for the first time here, in Rotterdam. I was asked a lot of questions regarding the political context of the story. Much to my surprise, people wanted to understand more of what was happening in Poland back then,” Jacek Borcuch recalls. His film is set in 19811982, when Solidarity organized more and more strikes, which finally led to the imposition of martial law. All That I Love is however primarily a coming-of-age story, which could take place anytime, anywhere, Borcuch insists. The protagonist, Janek, is 18 and his life is all about his punk rock band and his schoolfriend Basia. Over the course of the film, he experiences pretty much everything for
the first time, and tries to break free. Rotterdam also expressed an interest in more scenes with Basia. “In the rough cut, I had 40% less material with Basia than I do now,” says Borcuch. “After my visit to Rotterdam, I was editing my film for seven months. I was trying to find a balance between what I wanted to show and what people told me they expected from my film. Finally, I decided to follow my instincts,” explains Borcuch, who also says that the opportunity to confront other people with his ideas at IFFR 2009 proved very valuable for him. Eventually, his choice to stick to his guns turned out to be the right one – All That I Love was the first Polish feature selected for the Sundance film festival and got a very good international reception, also in Rotterdam. Borcuch is currently working on his next feature, which – unlike All That I Love – will not be set in the past. “It will start as a love story, but then the course of events will change the lives of the characters forever and, in a way, liberate them,” Borcuch concludes.
Rwanda: Take Two – Pia Sawhney
Fri 05 20:15 CI2
photo: Ruud Jonkers
can relate to the world I know best,” he reflects. “I am open to collaboration but I always want to remain in Nigeria. We have loads of stories to tell. It’s just about telling them the right way.” Araromire – Kunle Afolayan Sat 06 22:00 GSC
See the programme for details of all films screening today in the Where Is Africa and Forget Africa programmes.
New Trix The Brits lapped up Stephen Frears’ The Queen, starring Helen Mirren as the British monarch. Now, the Dutch will have the chance to enjoy a big screen story about their own royal family, Geoffrey Macnab reports
Speaking this week, Fu Works boss San Fu Maltha (co-producer of IFFR closing film The Aviatrix of Kazbek) revealed that he is at work on Majesty, a drama about Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Peter De Baan is directing the film, which will explore Beatrix’s role as Queen and her relationship with her late husband Prince Claus. Maltha says that Majesty is a co-production with IDTV. Shooting will begin at the end of March, for delivery in September. Majesty is one of a number of national and international projects that Fu Works is hatching. These include new films from Martin Koolhoven (director of Winter in Wartime) and Ben Sombogaart. The project with Koolhoven, which Fu Works is developing with Isabella Films, is Westerling, about controversial Dutch military commander Raymond Pierre Paul Westerling, who was labelled as a war criminal for his activities in Indonesia in the 1940s. The Ben Sombogaart project, which Fu Works is developing with IDTV, is called Nadra. It’s a true story about a vicious custody battle over a 13-year-old Dutch girl in Singapore. It will be shot in Dutch and English. The script is ready for the €6 million project, which will be looking for Dutch Film Fund backing in the spring. Fu Works is also working on a new project showcasing revered Dutch actor Rutger Hauer. Portable Life, as the film is called, is a road movie being made by artist turned filmmaker Fleur Boonman. Maltha is producing alongside Bart van Langendonck of Savage Film. “The reason he did it was that he really liked the script and he really liked the director,” Maltha said of Hauer’s involvement. BFD (Benelux Film Distribution) will release the film in Holland and Belgium in September.
All That I Love
Out of the navy Belgian producer/director Marion Hänsel talks to Nick Cunningham about the challenging genesis of her new film Ocean Black
Acclaimed Belgian producer/director Marion Hänsel took a 24-hour break from editing her new film Ocean Black and hot-footed it to Rotterdam to negotiate the film’s French distribution rights, as well as minority interest on a handful of Cine-Mart projects. Tight-lipped about her specific CineMart intentions, she was very happy however to talk about Ocean Black’s complex production history. “It was a very tough film to produce,” she says of the €3 million Belgium/ France/Germany co-production that examines the psychological effects of the Muraroa nuclear tests on sailors in the French navy. With 90% of the film set on board a military boat, the French navy originally agreed to collaborate, and promised Hänsel a large vessel in New Caledonia. “So I was able to raise a lot of money for the film in New Zealand,” says Hänsel, picking up the tale. “But after a year and a half, the French military and Ministry of Defence said they didn’t want to be involved in the film anymore. So I had to re-think the whole thing. I had to find a private boat, have the whole thing painted grey and still stay within the budget.” This was the least of her problems. The wider consequence of the French withdrawal was that the New Zealand part of the deal was rendered unworkable. The indefatigable Hänsel had therefore to shift the production away from the Pacific. “I changed the whole thing so I could use regional funds from the likes of Corsica, Sardinia and Guadelopupe, as well as the RhöneAlpes fund, and the part of the film that was going to be shot in the New Zealand studio was shot
photo: Corinne de Korver
instead in a studio in Lyon.” In the end, the film became what Hänsel terms a “classical grand accord” co-production with additional broadcast rights brokered with Arte France, Arte Germany and the Belgian RTBF. Hänsel is hopeful that the film will be finished for Cannes. “It’s not easy to raise more than €3 million on an
auteur film,” Hansel stresses, while underlining her desire to retain both producer and director credits on future films. “That is really the maximum you can do. Over that and it’s impossible, even with a co-production of three, four or five countries. I’ve done this job for thirty years. I’m sure I could never have made ten feature films if I
Bucking the trend Rather than a deterrent, the credit crisis was the incentive behind Danielle Guirguis’ new production outfit Cielo Film, she tells Nick Cunningham
The current financial climate may put off most f ledgling producers from a future in independent film production, but not so Danielle Guirguis, who is in Rotterdam banging the drum for her new Amsterdam-based outfit Cielo Film. “Maybe the credit crunch is actually my incentive to start the company right now,” she says. “But basically it has to do with me personally. I have been working with other producers for six years, and I really feel that now is the time to do my own thing.” Guirguis is developing three commercial arthouse,
Danielle Guirguis photo: Ramon Mangold
or “smarthouse”, projects at the moment that span rom-com and social drama genres. “I love smart and intelligent romantic comedies and, after the local success of Alles is liefde [Love Is All, 2007] you can see that there is a Dutch audience for them,” she points out. Guirguis is also looking to package a drama set in Amsterdam’s disadvantaged Bijlmer neighbourhood. In town ostensibly to identify potential international co-production partners, Guirguis is also keen to work with fellow Dutch producers to earn the credits that will qualify her for Netherlands Film Fund production support. In her first year, she will supplement her income by offering her services as a freelance marketing consultant. “It is hard to start as a producer in this country if you want to pay your rent,” she stresses. “But I see a gap in the Dutch production market where there are few new producers coming through. The major producers in Holland are the same ones that were producing ten years ago.” It was with two of these established producers that Guirguis cut her industry teeth. “San Fu Maltha [Fu Works] picked me up from the University of Amsterdam, where I was studying communication sciences,” she comments. “Back then he was still involved in distribution with A-Film and, even though I worked for his company as a marketing and PR assistant, I was given the opportunity to learn about the broad spectrum of film. That was my film school. Later, I was asked by Hans de Weers [Eyeworks] to be his assistant, where I was able to pick up my own projects and eventually become head of international co-productions and marketing.” Guirguis intends to apply this marketing savvy in identifying audiences for her future productions. “There are many potential opportunities to address your audience in non-traditional ways,” she explains. “Of course, you want to do a theatrical release, but there are many other new distribution platforms, such as social networking and the internet, and very wide audiences out there that can be captured in more creative ways.”
was not my own producer, because I think I know better than most where to get the money. I do one thing at a time and work 24 hours a day on that project. If I went with another producer, he would probably have five or six projects on the go. I would begin to get nervous, knowing things were not happening fast enough. I couldn’t bear it.”
HEAVEN CAN WAIT
Marleen Gorris photo: Felix Kalkman
Marleen Gorris, the Oscar-winning director of Antonia’s Line, has an intriguing new project and this time, it’s not a movie, she tells Nick Cunningham
Gorris has just signed up for a two year stint as “artistic, commercial and animation” consultant at the Dutch Film Fund, overseeing a hefty budget of €3 million for development and production. She is succeeding Ate de Jong. The position carries real power. Working closely with Film Fund boss Doreen Boonekamp, Gorris will be able to back the projects she believes in without having to refer to committees. Alongside Gorris, Frank
Peijnenburg (formerly of A-Film) has been appointed to do a similar job for arthouse film. Speaking to the Daily Tiger, Gorris explains why she took on a job that will inevitably cut into the time she can devote to her own projects. “Like every other filmmaker, I have lots and lots of plans,” Gorris notes of her own feature film projects. “Half of the time, they fall through.” She said that the Film Fund was fully aware that she is a working filmmaker. “As a film fund or any other subsidising body, it’s a matter of whether you take people from the field or people who are strangers to the subject. You always have to sort out what’s best for quality.” Gorris adds that she is looking forward to the challenge “of something new.” She said that she relished “working with writers and developing projects from a very early stage.” Asked whether it would feel uncomfortable dealing with applications from filmmakers she knows personally, Gorris said this shouldn’t be an issue. “Because during the past years, I’ve worked abroad most of the time, I am practically the only filmmaker in Holland who doesn’t know a lot of people! That’s really not the first thing that comes to mind. Of course, you always have to take care to judge the projects on their merits and not so much on the fact that you happen to know people.” Gorris’ next directorial assignment will be on a four-part TV drama Rembrandt and I, about Rembrandt’s life and works. She will be directing the EO-backed series and has scripted one of the episodes. This will shoot at the end of the year. As for her feature films, having seen her project Heaven & Earth postponed at the last moment, she will put these on hold. “I will be working on Film Fund business,” she says.
Afterglow Creating a new print of cult classic Dogs in Space was no walk in the park, Richard Max Lowenstein tells Ben Walters
the original tracks so we could remix it in 5.1. I always wanted the soundtrack to have a kind of Altmanesque overlapping quality but whenever I saw it screened it would be so unclear it would make me cringe.” Already released in Australia as a two-disc package with documentary We’re Livin’ on Dog Food, the restoration will roll out internationally later in the year, accompanied by limited theatrical rereleases.
“We decided to restore it for the pirates,” Richard Max Lowenstein says of Dogs in Space, his 1986 cult classic of the Melbourne post-punk scene, playing in IFFR 2010’s Signals Regained strand of restored films. “As far as I’m aware, it hasn’t been screened for twenty years and hasn’t been available, except for a few battered prints floating around Australia, the odd VHS copy with bong marks on the cover, and pirated versions.” These, to the director’s frustration, are invariably taken from second-rate prints. “If you’re gonna pirate, pirate a good copy...”
Sam’s charisma, as well as his drug use and singing about suicide, are all the more poignant given Hutchence’s own suicide in 1997. “It was strange seeing Michael so alive in the feature footage and the documentary footage,” Lowenstein says. “With a performer like that, unless someone’s doing a fly-on-the-wall about you, you’ve generally just got promos, videos and interviews. Watching the footage, part of you thinks he’s right there but your mind says no, he’s dead.” The restoration is dedicated to Hutchence and the other members of the production who have died – “about eight of them,” Lowenstein says. “There was a lot of intravenous drug use in that era. Twenty years on, even if you escaped overdosing, you’re gonna have liver problems or Aids or whatever. It was a huge problem – the hygiene was appalling. We found documentary footage that talks about kids shooting up with water from toilet bowls.”
Set a few years earlier than its production, the film is a picaresque portrait of a scene suffused in sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, set around a chaotic houseshare. The focal point is Sam, lead singer of a band with the same name as the film, played by Michael Hutchence. Lowenstein knew Hutchence from directing videos for his band, INXS, and decided to approach him to play the lead. “I had an instinct from dinner conversations that he could do this thing quite well – he was quite the raconteur. The character was so posey and mannered, like the New Romantics of that era – all lemonsucking cheeks, aware of their charisma. A lot of critics thought that was Michael. They said ‘Oh, he’s so stuck-up and self-involved.’ Yeah, that was the character! Michael was the most professional actor on the set – which wasn’t hard. He knew his lines, he got to the set on time, he was a total gentleman. It was the people I cast off the street who were the prima donnas.” drugs
The restoration was made possible by the rediscovery of a good Dogs in Space print. “We found the original materials in a tea chest in a garage
Richard Max Lowenstein
in a Melbourne suburb,” Lowenstein says, along with footage shot for a documentary about the making of the film and the Melbourne post-punk scene in general. There were still hurdles to clear around copyright and financial paperwork issues, as well as the need to find funding. Official national film body backing was not forthcoming – “because of the content, Screen Australia don’t
photo: Jan de Groen
rock ‘n’ roll
Lowenstein is now seeking final funding for a new project about a real-life 1970s educational experiment, “a hippy school that appeared for two years and collapsed in chaos – young student teachers, parents who were arguing about the Communist Party and ignoring the kids, sex scandals, all quite Lord of the Flies. It’s a comedy, of course...”
“I’ve never seen it look this clean or sound this good,” Lowenstein reports. “It was one of the first films in Australia to use Dolby and we had
Dogs in Space – Richard Max Lowenstein Fri 05 12:15 LA2
like to consider it up there with Picnic at Hanging Rock and Breaker Morant” – but a DVD company made the investment.
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