INTERVIEW WITH NOEL LAWRENCE

Noel Lawrence

Photo: Noel Lawrence

Other Cinema

Listen to the podcast of the full interview on Sci-Fi London

Having started as an underground film venue 25 years ago, the Other Cinema also became a DVD label in 2003, releasing the works of experimental filmmakers such as Craig Baldwin, JX Williams and Bill Morrison. Alex Fitch talks to co-founder Noel Lawrence and finds out more about their ‘mad, bad and rad’ aesthetic. This interview was originally podcast on Sci-Fi London.

Alex Fitch: Experimental cinema isn’t that widely available in the UK; your DVDs are sold in the ICA bookshop and are region 0, so they fill a gap in the market.

Noel Lawrence: Yeah, absolutely. England was a particularly hard nut to crack for us as you’ve got that dated rating system.

AF:What sort of films do you show when you tour your programme to countries like the UK?

NL: I do a combination of things – I showed Experimental Eros in a variety of places, in Switzerland and the Netherlands this year. We show full programmes from the Other Cinema catalogue, some titles that have been released, forthcoming ones to test the market / the audience, to see what they like, that sort of thing. I’ve been in England before, we showed at The Cube cinema in Bristol and at The Horse Hospital in London. I went up to Newcastle: they have a fairly vibrant underground film scene there.

AF: Are you the main curator for titles? Do you decide which releases go ahead?

NL: I’m not exactly the main curator… Let me give you a little history of how The Other Cinema went ahead. We started as an underground film venue in San Francisco about 25 years ago and that was founded by an avant-garde filmmaker called Craig Baldwin who has done several well-known pictures composed of found footage, most significantly Tribulation 99. He started with what’s known today as the micro-cinema movement, which was the idea that we don’t have to show films in movie theatres – anyone with a screen and a couple of folding chairs could set up a cinema and show what they want, something outside of mainstream, outside of what big studios are distributing to the public. Other Cinema is based in the Mission District in San Francisco. It’s a storefront theatre with folding chairs and not the best high-end projection equipment but, how should I put it, a lot of spirit and enthusiastic audiences. The idea of Other Cinema – the DVD label too – is to show ‘outlaw’, marginal cinema that can be broken down into three ingredients; this is how Craig has always explained it: The Other Cinema programming aesthetic is ‘The Mad’, ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Rad’!

AF: Okay!

NL: Let me explain that. ‘The Mad’ being alternative subjectivity, bizarre uncommon ways of looking at things that are ‘mad’ or ‘schizophrenic’. You can make a million associations with that. ‘The Bad’ being kitsch, low culture. We’re all about high culture or low culture – there’s no middle ground! And then ‘The Rad’ is radical politics, progressive politics – the idea that film can be used as a way of changing the world by changing people’s ways of looking at things. Does that make sense?

AF: Absolutely. Those are the sort of things that are part of underground culture in San Francisco and California in general…

NL: I’d say we’re tuned into that… you know, that underground sensibility that characterised California – certainly counter-culture California – for many, many years. Some people talk of West Coat and East Coast rap; there’s certainly a West Coast / East Coast flavour to experimental filmmaking. We’re on the West Coast side of that. Of course, it’s more complex than that – we represent a great number of New York filmmakers on our label, they’re certainly not ghettoised or anything like that. But I feel that we tend to be a little more fun in what we do than some of the things that come out of the New York Film Festival in their avant-garde programme – not to say anything bad about them ’cause they do a great job – but we’re a little more playful.

AF: In a way your label is like a film festival, spread over a number of discs.

NL: That’s an interesting way of looking at it! One of the reasons I became a film curator is that there was certainly a point where I thought, ‘Maybe I should found a film festival’, then I realised, ‘Why bother? There’s a million of them!’ There’s about 150 festivals in San Francisco alone! DVDs have an enduring material legacy that is not possible when you do a festival. Things go to a festival, there’s a big crowd and then they disappear and there’s nothing left. To a lot of undistributed films, that’s what happens: they do their festival run and they get shown in a lot of places but in a few years no one remembers what they are. Even the big stuff that’s going through Sundance or wherever. But because DVDs have this material component, they’re going to be floating out there forever. There are hundreds of video stores that have our catalogue and from today until whenever the DVDs break, people are going to be watching them and that works! So even though a DVD label can be really difficult – ’cause it’s really stressful to put out these discs – it has advantages over showing these things in a film festival… Or showing them in Other Cinema itself, which is a great venue where I’ve seen hundreds of films over the years, but the problem is that you’re limited to whatever audience happens to show up on a Saturday night to see it! Whereas the idea with the label is that we can export the magic that happens at the cinema and put it onto a disc and then everyone around the world can see it at any time.

AF: Another thing about your label is that the packaging is very well designed. You’ve made it collectable, which is important if you’re making something that you want people to keep for a while.

NL: Yeah, I think that’s very important actually. You’re right, we spent an enormous amount of time studying over the packing – there’s not the tiniest detail that is not going to be approved by Craig or myself. That materiality, that aesthetic component of the discs, is really important to what we do and I have a fear that it’s going to be lost because we’re moving into a digital age, where everything can be downloadable from the internet. Ever since I was a young lad I collected old records. When I was fifteen years old I would go to ‘the big bad city’ and go to the underground record shop and get punk rock albums and it was really a rush to go into a store and pick up something rare. I think that’s sort of getting lost today, with the internet now anything can be accessed by a few keystrokes. In a way that’s great, but at the same time, I kind of miss the idea that you have to search these things out.

AF: Definitely. I’d be the first person to argue that the loss of the corner video shop is a terrible thing, because if you’ve got shelves of esoteric titles, it’s much easier to browse them in the flesh and if you’ve got someone vaguely knowledgeable behind the counter, they’re going to point you in the right direction.

NL: Exactly! There’s a really great record shop in San Francisco called Aquarius Records and it’s not a particularly large shop at all, it’s probably the size of my apartment, which is not very big, it’s a studio! They sell a fraction of what you might get in a big HMV, but everything is so lovingly presented; they write these tiny reviews of every disc in this incredibly small hand-writing and it looks like someone has spent two hours writing this little index card review with a magnifying glass! You walk in there and you ask the person behind the counter, ‘I’m looking for this kind of music…’ and they can point you exactly to the CD you’re looking for. You can’t do that at an HMV and you definitely can’t do that on the internet.

AF: Is it important for you to balance the number of short films with the number of features that you’re releasing?

NL: We tend to put out more collections of short films than we do feature films, but it’s not like any kind of hard and fast rule. What we do, running a DVD label and competing in a market place where we’re against the likes of Harry Potter and we’re trying to peak the public interest in our work, is to curate thematically with our DVDs. So a lot of our compilations have been on a subject that everyone knows about, like a lot of people don’t know who Craig Baldwin and Mike Kuchar are but they know about horror films or they understand the concept of the seventies. I put out this disc dealing with themes of sexuality and called it Experimental Eros and everyone’s heard of sex! They might not know the particular short films on the disc, but people get interested because of the theme that gets addressed on the disc and they pick it up for that reason. I’m hoping that from there, people familiarise themselves with the artists that are behind some of this stuff and seek out more of their work.

AF: With the Eros collection, you seem to be tapping into the zeitgeist a bit. I don’t know if it’s the same in America but in Britain, there’s an exhibition of art about sex on at the Barbican at the moment, they had a collection of 70s Swedish erotica on at the ICA recently and before that there was a collection of Edwardian pornography called The Good Old Naughty Days shown in London. To get around the ratings system, you had to join a ‘sex club’ in order to see this film of sex acts that were recorded 80 years ago… So with the ‘mainstream’ becoming increasingly mainstream and people having less challenging films to watch, I guess sex is still a subject that’s somewhat taboo.

NL: It’s interesting you should mention that. Even today, as ubiquitous as porn has become because of the internet, there are still a lot of difficulties in distributing sexually explicit material on DVD and I don’t just mean porn – with Experimental Eros there were a lot of stores that would not pick it up and I couldn’t get it replicated at certain factories that wouldn’t handle that kind of material. There’re a lot of problems that are still present when you’re showing that kind of material and in America they still occasionally do arrest porn directors on obscenity charges and that sort of thing. I don’t know if that happens in England or not… It’s strange because the legal status of porn is still very ‘grey market’ in the United States, particularly under the Bush administration, which is a lot more puritanical than some of the more recent democratic administrations like Clinton’s.

AF: The demarcation between porn and erotica in this country seems to be very much delineated by the artistic intent of the filmmakers. You can show full penetrations and erections in films if you can show that they have some kind of artistic meaning.

NL: There was a famous court case in the United States where the Supreme Court talked about obscenity being offensive to community standards and having no socially redeeming value. So as a result, back in the 60s and 70s when this court case was first decided, you would always see these naughty books that were just wall-to-wall sex, but the first page would always have an introduction by some kind of professor with a PhD who would say something like, ‘This is talking about the social conditions these people are living under’, which is absolutely ridiculous because it was just a pornographic book. But, in any case, our work is erotica and supposedly it has a socially redeeming value! There’re a lot of arguments to what constitutes socially redeeming value, in the sense that all porn – even the most gutter porn – still has relevance in terms of its documenting of social behaviour. There still could be arguably an anthropological argument for that! I heard about a university, I don’t remember if it was Berkeley or not, they were keeping an archive of all of this 70s porn, basically to study the furniture that was used on the sets because most Hollywood films are not filmed in real places – they’re filmed on sound stages, they’re completely make-believe – but 70s porn films were shot in someone’s living room. So people can get an idea of what actual 70s furniture looked like by looking at porn!

AF: It’s funny you should say that because there was a documentary on the very subject on BBC Four a couple of months ago. It was very much looking at these 70s interiors in California in particular, and how the look of these 70s porn films have a certain cultural cachet that has outlasted the films themselves.

NL:Oh yeah. It’s very interesting to watch that stuff – the sex is boring – but they have these really bizarrely tacky soundtracks and I’m particularly enamoured with the bad acting between the sex scenes because it seems like something straight out of some Warhol movie! So, it’s downright bizarre at times which I really enjoy a lot! It’s kind of experimental film, unintentionally.

AF:All of your stuff – the Eros collection particularly – does demonstrate the fusion between high art and low art because it shows an aesthetic quality and at the same time it’s being appreciated for its trashiness.

NL:Exactly! You’re right – that’s the Other Cinema aesthetic right there: the work in Experimental Eros tends to be footage that’s been appropriated from porn, which is pretty much the lowest rung in the totem pole of genres, and it’s been taken by avant-garde filmmakers and made into something completely different. It’s strange; it’s made very beautiful in a lot of cases – I’m think about, for example, the film The Color of Love by Peggy Ahwesh. Do you remember that one?

AF:Yes, it looked really good.

NL:Exactly. Basically what happened was: she found a decayed reel of super-8 porn, took it into her workshop, dyed it, massaged it, changed the look of stuff and made it into something incredibly beautiful. In terms of the low-brow and high-brow ends of the spectrum, she’s definitely in the high-brow end. She’s a published academic, she teaches over at Bard College, she’s a serious artist from New York. That is definitely a good example of our programming style.

AF:I’m glad you mentioned that title because it leads on to Decasia, which is possibly one of the most famous films, at least over here.

NL:Well, that’s Bill Morrison, he’s a good friend of mine and a very nice guy. We released it – the DVD – in something of a limited edition. The idea of it was that he had a print of Decasia that he didn’t need, so we cut it up into pieces and with this edition they would not only get the DVD but also an actual piece of the film. We’re going into that materiality which is very important to the work we show on DVD. What else can I say? It’s a masterpiece, it’s a very important film – one of the most important experimental films that came out in the last decade or so – and I’m a big fan of it! It’s kind of hard for me to find the words to describe it, to be honest with you. I was also really pleased because we just released a new DVD called Experiments in Terror 2, which obviously follows Experiments in Terror 1, and Bill gave us a new film that he made called The Mesmerist for that. Bill took this silent film called The Bells with Lionel Barrymore and Boris Karloff and worked his magic on it; I don’t know exactly what it is that he does in his studio but he creates… When you see a Bill Morrison film there is a certain look to the film that is magical and that film definitely has it.

AF:There seems to be a new interest in silent movies. People have looked into this phenomenon and it seems to be that when a couple of generations have died off and there’re no longer family members left with memories of, say, the 1920s, that’s when young people get into it. It’s the opposite of what you might expect.

NL:Yeah, I don’t know! I guess! I really like old stuff – even my parents seem kind of archaic! It is fascinating the way film can be used that way, to give people the ability to go back in time. What fascinates me is that watching an old movie is an experience that can literally be unchanged from 50 years ago. You see a film like Casablanca in 1942 when it came out or whenever and when you see it 50 years later, it’s still essentially the same experience in a dark room watching this movie and in that sense it’s really the ability to go back in time. Does that make any sense?

AF:Definitely. Particularly when they restore old movies for the film print and not just the DVD; about ten years ago they did a new print of Vertigo where they went to the trouble of finding the cars that were in the movie and matching the colour of the celluloid cars to the paint colour of surviving models so that they looked exactly the same.

NL:Of course, and this being a San Francisco film, I know it well! In fact, speaking of Vertigo, there’s a film on Experiments in Terror 2 called Between 2 deaths and the filmmaker, Wago Kreider, went to the church known as Mission Dolores with a video camera and he retraced Jimmy Stewart’s steps through the church in that scene that was filmed 50 years ago. The film very carefully fades in and out from Hitchcock’s Vertigo to the filmmaker’s version of that scene. It’s really amazing, ’cause he synchs up all of the architecture perfectly, so you see it constantly going from the past to the present, from the present to the past…

AF:…and that exemplifies exactly what Vertigo is about in the first place, by trying to recreate the past using…

NL:I hadn’t even thought of that! That’s a brilliant point that you’re making there. I don’t know if that was the thought that Wago had when he was making it or if he was just being clever… I just took it on a literal level – I just enjoy watching it. I hadn’t thought about that part.

AF:Thinking of the ‘Rad’ aspect of your catalogue, another title that’s well-known over here is Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y

NL:We’ve enjoyed a lot of success selling that title. It’s especially popular in Europe and it continues to sell very well to this day.

AF:How did you pick it up for your label?

NL:Johan came to us with that actually. I think he had probably tried to sell it to somebody else and it hadn’t worked out. We take weird stuff that other mainstream distributors are not going to be interested in. At the same time, I think it’s a fairly accessible work. It’s an experimental documentary without any kind of cohesive narrative but it’s surprisingly watchable.

AF:It’s weird that the kind of documentary films that are popular in the cinema these days – the sort of Michael Moore titles – are very polemic and try to make you adhere to a storyline, in comparison to documentary footage that lets you draw your own conclusions.

NL:You’re right. I like Michael Moore’s work, but there’s a certain authoritarianism with that A to B, ‘this is the point’ kind of filmmaking; you’ve got to follow all these steps to what the conclusion is. It’s much more fun to have this ambiguous kind of work like Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y that lets you draw your own conclusions. We had another documentary too called The Net, which is basically the same thing but is more of a ‘talking heads’ documentary. But it wasn’t there to say, ‘this is the point we’re trying to make’, it just offered a sort of polyphonic view of a certain subject, which was the links between the internet, the Unibomber and LSD…

Interview by Alex Fitch

Read the review of Experiments in Terror 2.

SUPER SIZE CINEMA: THE ART OF GLUTTONY

Taxidermia

In an effort to be seasonal we take a look at ten different approaches to gluttony from the stuffing-centric Taxidermia to Oldboy‘s infamous live-octopus-devouring scene via the heroic overeating of Cool Hand Luke before finishing with Luis Buñuel’s inverted view of eating and defecating in The Phantom of Liberty.

1- La Grande bouffe (1973)
A fate worse than death by chocolate: for La Grande bouffe (1973) Marco Ferreri corralled Europe’s leading fatuous males – Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli and Ugo Tognazzi – alongside the ineffectual Philippe Noiret, as a group of successful but jaded gastronomes taking their food obsession to its ultimate conclusion. Each wraps up his daily business surrounded by admiring female subordinates before heading off, like podgy avatars of Huysmans’ Des Esseintes, to Noiret’s secluded mansion to await the arrival of van-loads of flesh, and a gaggle of apparently obligatory but ultimately supernumerary hookers. Into a whirl of lounging, vintage porn slide-shows and cake art, wanders Andréa Ferréol’s primly fleshy schoolteacher. As the hookers are eclipsed by their hosts’ cuisine-bonding, and possibly disgusted by Piccoli’s heroic struggle with flatulence, only Andréa remains. Ferreri’s always impressive misogyny never came closer to seeing its preposterous logic. Poor Marcello and Michel: they can only declare their love in the language of cake. Skinny pink turtlenecks over seventies waistlines abound. Sadly for our heroes it was probably the additives that did it for them before the calorific. STEPHEN THOMSON

2- Se7en (1995)
The image of gluttony in Se7en is a memorably grotesque one – a massive, sauce-spattered figure lies face down in a plate of spaghetti and vomit, flies buzzing around his swollen head. The first victim of Kevin Spacey’s biblical psycho, poor Gluttony has been force-fed to death, his wrists and ankles bound with barbed wire, made to eat until his intestines ruptured, a human foie gras. To be honest, it seems somehow unfair to lump this poor sap in with the more intentionally greedy monsters on this list, but we are assured by the coroner that he was already quite rotund and therefore, presumably, deserved it. Perhaps there are worse ways to die than shovelling spaghetti sauce until your guts burst, but offhand I can’t think of any. TOM HUDDLESTON

3- The Meaning of Life (1983)
The most obvious movie glutton is of course Mr Creosote – Terry Jones in perhaps the world’s largest fat suit projectile vomiting in a chic French restaurant. Carefully perusing the menu (once John Cleese’s head waiter has wiped off the vomit) before grumpily announcing, ‘I’ll have the lot’. However, watching it nowadays, I realise I may have misunderstood the punch line. I’d always assumed the ‘waffer-thin mint’ to be the straw that made the camel’s guts explode. But having recently discovered the cinematic delights of YouTube I now understand the science behind it all: it is the combination of mint confectionary and fizzy drinks (mixing six crates of brown ale and a Jeroboam of champagne with an After Eight). PAUL HUCKERBY

4- Cool Hand Luke (1967)
One of the more bizarre but ultimately winning displays of gluttony in cinema appears in this 1967 prison camp classic, as Paul Newman’s eponymous inmate (jailed, in a similar display of wilful recklessness, for cutting the heads off parking meters while drunk) forces himself to down fifty hardboiled eggs for a bet. The sight of our hero forcefully cramming yet another slippery white oval into his already overstuffed maw is at first amusing, then worrying, then horrifying, then depressing, and finally sort of heroic. This is gluttony as rebellion against the system, even if the system doesn’t really notice, or care. TOM HUDDLESTON

5- Taxidermia (2006)
While many American films look outward at ‘the other’ to disturb audiences, Taxidermia finds horror in looking inwards by telling the tale of three generations of Hungarians who like stuffing themselves. The first character likes stuffing his favourite appendage into whatever he can, his son likes stuffing his face and his grandson likes stuffing dead animals. The first two, more comedic, acts of the film contain horrific scenes (a pig being graphically slaughtered and an eating contest where the massively obese gorge themselves and then regurgitate) that will elicit gasps and laughter in equal proportion; but it’s the third act, concentrating on the life of the taxidermist that slips over into full-blown horror. I’d like to think I’ve got a strong stomach, but this is one of the few films that has made me feel somewhat faint and genuinely nauseous, so be warned! ALEX FITCH

6- The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
In British cinema rough working-class types have no place in fine dining restaurants. Mr Creosote and East-End gangster Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover are no exceptions to this rule. Usual social faux-pas, such as using the wrong cutlery, don’t even register. You wouldn’t wish customers like these on Gordon Ramsay. Both share a similar bullying way with restaurant staff (beating them or puking on them) and they can be disturbing to fellow diners (stabbing forks into their cheeks or drenching them in semi-digested food). They are both unimpressed by the restaurant’s pretentiousness – ‘Give it some more parlez-vous Franí§ais’, Spica advises a hapless waiter. And they feed on delicacies in a most indelicate manner – Creosote orders foie gras, caviar, truffles and quails’ eggs all mixed together in a bucket (with the eggs on top). But of course gluttony is a deadly sin and both Creosote and Spica get their come-uppance in memorable fashion. PAUL HUCKERBY

7- Stand by Me (1986)
Heroic gluttony is a rare thing, but Davey ‘Lardass’ Hogan, like Cool Hand Luke before him, is a pioneer in the field. Appearing in a campfire yarn told by budding writer Wil Wheaton to his childhood compadres, Lardass’ story is one of pies, intrigue, humiliation, revenge, and more pies. Swearing vengeance on the town that spurned him, Lardass drinks a pint of castor oil, swallows a raw egg and enters the Tri-County Pie Eat, shovelling down five whole blueberry pies with both hands tied behind his back. Needless to say the results are deeply disturbing. Never have the words ‘when the smell hit the crowd’ brought on quite such a Technicolor display of human explosion. TOM HUDDLESTON

8- Super Size Me (2004)
Along with Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock is one of the most successful documentarians of his generation and like Moore, he picks obvious, albeit clearly guilty bad guys. With McDonalds he has one of the easiest targets on the planet, associated with obesity and the never-ending Americanisation of our culture. Shock value and tabloid paranoia make this a fascinating but repulsive film to watch. When Spurlock vomits his Supersize meal on what is only the second day of his experiment, it almost seems too soon and too predictable but as is often the way with modern documentaries, the points have to be made disturbingly loud and clear. For your average Guardian reader this is preaching to the converted – of course eating every meal at McDonalds for a month will make you ill – but this is a credible exaggeration of a lifestyle that doesn’t send enough people to the vomitorium. ALEX FITCH

9- Oldboy (2003)
Having just escaped from a mysterious prison where he was kept locked up for fifteen years without ever being told why, Oh Dae-su sits down in a sushi restaurant for his first meal as a free man. The waitress places a live octopus in front of him but before she can chop it up for him Oh Dae-su grabs the mollusc, stuffs its viscous grey head into his mouth, viciously tears it off and proceeds to masticate with frightful determination while the beast’s tentacles squirm and writhe in his hand. Most filmmakers would have shown Oh Dae-su’s thirst for revenge by having him gun down a roomful of villains but Park Chan-wook puts all of his character’s pent-up rage into this brief but intense display of primal gluttony. Almost unbearable to watch, it brilliantly conveys Oh Dae-su’s equally unbearable inner turmoil. VIRGINIE Sí‰LAVY

10- The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

Today there is going to be gold.

This micro-feature is supposed to be about gluttony but being the contrarian that I am I prefer to look at gluttony’s occult, shit.

A social gathering in a bourgeois house. Guests sit at a large dining table and chat and gossip banally about their hair-do’s, sex lives, politics, business; they do so sat astride rather fine porcelain toilets, trousers at their ankles, skirts hitched up to their hips. In Luis Buñuel’s 1974 portmanteau film The Phantom of Liberty the conviviality of a typical middle-class dinner party is inverted. It is the norm to defecate socially and collectively but to eat is another matter; to do this the guests cough lightly and ask to be excused from the niceties of group defecation in order to go off and eat in the illicit confines of a special cubicle that is reminiscent of nothing other than a lavatory. A true Freudian surrealist, Buñuel makes the process of eating appear to be a socially embarrassing act to indulge in and a grotesque thing to listen to too. Buñuel really exploits the mystifying echo-chamber-like acoustics of lavatories and the bestial chomp and slather of eating.

In The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek talks about the toilet being a conduit between us and a primordial underworld and not just a conduit between us and the equally fascinating worlds of plumbing and sanitation. One only has to gaze briefly at the 1968 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to see a connection between effluvia, greed, plumbing and terrifying nether worlds. The greedy Bavarian boy Augustus Gloop drinks from a faecal-looking chocolate river and is eventually sucked up a large colon-like pipe. But as the end of this featurette encroaches upon us, let’s move from Dahl to Dali, and close with a quote from a man more than au fait with excrement. In his diary (Diary of a Genius) entry for September 1st, 1958, he states: ‘At daybreak I dreamt that I was the author of several white turds, very clean and extremely agreeable to produce. When I woke up I said to Gala, “Today there is going to be gold”’. PHILIP WINTER

REVIEW OF THE YEAR: 2007

La Antena

The Electric Sheep team look back at the heroes and villains of 2007.

VIRGINIE Sí‰LAVY:

THE GOOD

Exiled
Johnnie To’s most accomplished film to date combines punchy direction with a well-knit, pleasingly convoluted script while the unusual Macau setting, with its colonial buildings and desert landscapes, is utilised to magnificent effect. With Exiled, To is openly emulating Sergio Leone, and this is a great riff on the Italian master’s trademark mix of playfulness, melancholy and spectacular violence.

Ten Canoes
A wonderful folk tale set in an Aboriginal community, Ten Canoes is about the eternal story of mankind – a repetitive tale of love, lust, jealousy, conflict, food, farts, shit and death. Although it presents itself as a morality tale, the film is anything but, the ending being a joyfully inconclusive illustration of the messiness of human life. One of the most thoroughly enjoyable films of the year.

Inland Empire
There is an experimental, uncompromising feel to this three-hour dream tale as well as a structural and thematic ambition that make it one of David Lynch’s best films in a long time. Lynch uses the set-up of the film-within-the film not as an empty self-reflexive device but as a way of exploring the idea of different levels of reality. The film is very much concerned with time, a fluid, non-linear kind of time, with doors, windows and TV screens providing the gateways from one dimension to another. This is no virtuoso demonstration of temporal complexity, however, and the echoing fragments of time are all connected to an eternally repeating tragic love story.

Far North
With Michelle Yeoh magnificent in the central role, Asif Kapadia’s follow-up to his acclaimed debut feature The Warrior is another stunning epic fairy tale set amid breathtaking landscapes. Against the savage beauty of the Arctic Circle, in an environment where life is a constant, violent fight for survival, an increasingly tense triangle develops between two women and the escaped soldier they have rescued. At a time when there is so much angsty questioning about the state of British filmmaking, it is baffling that such a beautifully accomplished film should still be awaiting distribution.

Frozen
A graceful, elegant film, both visually and thematically, Frozen is a slow-paced evocation of a rebellious young girl’s life with her father and brother in the remote Himalayan mountains. When one day the Army disrupts the desolate peace of their surroundings and erects a camp opposite their house in order to fight some vague terrorist enemy, it is the first sign that the family will be forced to change their way of life. Elliptical and subtly suggestive, infused with thoughtful spirituality, filled with memorable images, it is a deeply affecting, soulful film.

La Antena
In this magical fairy tale from Argentina a megalomaniac TV boss has stolen the voices of the city’s inhabitants. In a delightfully playful homage to silent film, blonde heroines and intrepid, if slightly bumbling heroes on bizarre flying implements bravely stand up to the fascistic villains. The wonders of early twentieth-century mechanical inventions are mixed with surreal touches to create a cautionary tale about brutally repressive power-hungry media moguls. Enchanting, quaintly charming but also very timely.

THE BAD

The Fountain
Peddling mystical rubbish of the most literal kind, The Fountain has nothing but tiresome special effects to guide us on the path to enlightenment. Sadly, this atrocious new-age mumbo-jumbo comes from the director who gave us the brilliantly inventive Pi in 1998.

TOM HUDDLESTON:

THE GOOD

This Is England
Shane Meadows cements his position as Britain’s finest living filmmaker with this savage, sympathetic, angry, nostalgic, hilarious and heartbreaking study of his own conflicted childhood, in which a poignant study of England’s past becomes a stark warning for our collective future.

I’m Not There
There’s no doubt that it helps to be a Dylanophile when viewing Todd Haynes’ magical, fractured take on the great man’s life and work, riddled as it is with in-jokes, references, and entire plots and sequences inspired not by real life but by Dylan’s lyrics, lies and exaggerations. But as an exploration of the relationship between creator and creations, between truth, fantasy and self-expression, I’m Not There is truly worthy of its subject.

Zodiac
The best journo-procedural since All The President’s Men, this is by far David Fincher’s best film since Se7en (not that there’s been much in the way of competition). Expansive, involving and gorgeously photographed while still managing to be genuinely disturbing, Zodiac is prestige filmmaking in the classic sense.

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros
A giddy, gender-bending, bizarrely loveable take on City of God, replete with corrupt cops, shabby small-time crooks and wayward street punks, all in orbit around the titular cross-dressing twelve-year-old, a dayglo whirlwind in high heels and his dead mother’s dresses. Ghetto fabulous, in a very literal sense.

Knocked Up/ Superbad
In a year bereft of a decent studio blockbuster it was left to Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow to save our summer. And they succeeded admirably, with a pair of crass, juvenile, deliriously heart-warming indie-stoner comedies, reuniting the casts of Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared and marking a high point for American comedy unseen since Bill Murray was king.

THE UGLY

Death Proof
In a bumper year for badness (300, Exodus and Pirates 3 were all strong contenders) one film effortlessly clawed its way to the top of the dung heap: Death Proof is boring, crass, pretentious, totally wastes Kurt Russell and offers yet another unwanted insight into Quentin’s bizarre, conflicted, adolescent view of women as either whores or heroes, preferably both.

SARAH CRONIN

THE GOOD

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
An edge-of-the-seat psychological thriller, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a riveting film about oppression in Communist-era Romania, told through the eyes of two young women entangled in a backstreet abortion. Excellent performances and brilliant cinematography help make this Palme d’Or-winning film one of the best of 2007.

The Counterfeiters
Stylishly shot and superbly acted, The Counterfeiters is a film set during the Holocaust that manages to be suspenseful, entertaining and provocative, perfectly capturing the agonising decisions that tormented the men in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, who were recruited by the Nazis for the largest-ever counterfeiting operation in history.

THE BAD

I Don’t Want to Live Alone
Tsai Ming-liang’s reputation is based on creating artistic works diametrically opposed to the bland, lowest-common-denominator junk churned out by Hollywood. Unfortunately, his latest film I Don’t Want to Live Alone is a dreary, unspeakably dull film that sinks under the weight of its own pretensions.

LISA WILLIAMS:

THE GOOD

This Is England
Another stylish addition to the country’s canon of social realism. Meadows abandons his hardcore revenge fixation and replaces it with a tenderness delivered through a coming-of-age story. It soars from the highs of sexual awakening to the lows of a racist’s squalid flat and has an excellent ska-soaked soundtrack to boot.

Control
While nothing can get close to explaining the last moments of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis’ troubled life, through its measured characterisation and telegraphic storytelling Control comes close. Corbijn evokes the aesthetics of the period through moody monochrome, but his characters are anything but black and white.

Eagle vs Shark
The last few years has seen a glut of pastel-hued kooky movies such as Little Miss Sunshine and Eagle vs Shark never pretends to be anything different. But the unrelenting geeky arrogance of its male lead juxtaposed with the sheepish sweetness of its female lead makes for a successfully offbeat rom-com with the perfect ratio of emotional moments to funny ones.

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
This documentary about the life and times of the Clash’s infamous lead singer feels more like an extended television programme than a movie but how else could Julien Temple fit in so many testaments to the musician’s wit and wisdom? Archive footage spliced with interviews with Strummer’s friends and associates cleverly asserts his sound musical and cultural legacy.

Opera Jawa
It is centuries-old and its musicians can play overnight concerts without a break but no one thought of using gamelan on a film soundtrack until Javan film director Nugroho earlier this year. The eerie sounds and patterns unfamiliar to a Western ear accompany this love story to its tragic end while the art installations, lively dance sequences and a good use of colour make this film the most visually spectacular of the year.

THE UGLY

Hairspray
Although John Waters gave it its full blessing, this remake is a poor interpretation of the original. Its theme of racial integration and the idea of accepting oneself no matter one’s size are undeniably healthy for the younger audience, but the un-PC sleaze and flamboyant style and most importantly, the music of the original are shamefully missing.

ALEX FITCH:

THE GOOD

Persepolis
A perfect animated version of the popular graphic novel, which mixes terrific caricature and subtle chiaroscuro shading. A touching coming-of-age story about an Iranian girl who never feels at home in her own country or studying abroad is the best animated film in years and one that’s attractive to older children and adults alike.

Drawing Restraint 9
Matthew Barney’s latest cinematic masterpiece is a memorable epic that confirms his talent not only as an artist but also as a filmmaker. Mixing his usual esoteric but beautiful imagery of sexuality and daily routine Barney brings the ritual and paraphernalia of whaling into sharp relief.

30 Days of Night
Continuing this year’s trend (300, Persepolis) of turning cult graphic novels into films that capture the aesthetic of their original format, 30 Days is the best vampire movie since the original Blade and the best horror film set in the frozen North since John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

Zodiac
David Fincher continues to bring the finest thrillers in a generation to cinema screens. Here, he has made an almost flawless melodrama that mixes Robert Downey Jr.’s finest performance to date with a perfect policier of the French tradition that has as many evocative temporal stylings and red herrings as you could possibly hope for.

Brand upon the Brain!
Cynics might accuse Guy Maddin of being a one-trick pony – producing obscure silent movies full of deviant sexuality and exaggerated performances – but no one else does it so well! In his latest, a lurid tale of orphans, mad (naked) scientists and a haunted lighthouse combine to produce another memorable phantasmagoria that could make Lemony Snicket jealous!

THE BAD

Running Stumbled
John Maringouin’s self-indulgent and exploitative verité movie is a mixture of real life and staged performance that brings to the screen a depressing tale of drug addicts in pre-Katrina New Orleans. There’s enough material here for a diverting short film, but at feature length, the director’s stunt seems to be mainly concerned with trying the audience’s patience…

CLAUDIA ANDREI:

THE GOOD

The Lives of Others
The film deservedly scored a foreign language Oscar: It’s 1984 in Communist East Germany, and Big Brother is watching its citizens. More precisely, Stasi top dog Weisler oversees the surveillance of George Dreyman, under suspicion for being the only non-subversive playwright in the land. A bleak tale of how state and secret police control the masses, and of how little has changed.

Two Days in Paris
This DIY affair from Oscar-nominee Delpy (who wrote, produced, directed and starred) is the ultimate antidote to saccharine love stories. Razor-sharp dialogue, oddball characters, twisted humour and political undertones make for a spicy anarchic soufflé.

Joe Strummer – The Future Is Unwritten
Julien Temple is no amateur when it comes to making music documentaries. Combining archive footage with rare interviews and other snippets, the film celebrates the late Clash frontman as a legend whose punk ideology is here to stay. With contributions from the likes of Johnny Depp and Martin Scorsese, this is as cool as it gets!

The Bow
A poetic tale of love and betrayal on the high seas – and not a pirate in sight. An old fisherman and a young girl live on a boat – isolated from the mainland. He boosts his income by acting as a clairvoyant – using the girl and a magic bow as his tools. Magic is pushed off the plank, however, with the arrival of a young stranger…

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Forget the gun-wielding, bank-robbing James gang… for this is more American Gothic than Wild West. In fact, it’s a Shakespearean tragedy that de-mystifies the legend of Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and portrays his killer (Casey Affleck) as a psychological wreck. Superb!

THE UGLY

Rabbit Fever
Hailed as the most hilarious Brit comedy of the year, Rabbit Fever tells of sexually frustrated females who find nirvana via the aid of, ahem, the Rabbit vibrator! The humour is as low as an exhausted Duracell battery bunny, and cameos by an all-star cast do nothing to stimulate the G-Spot!

BEN DOOLEY:

THE GOOD

I For India
A truly impressive and emotionally complex film memoir about life for a family of Indian migrants settling in Britain in the 60s and trying both to maintain contact with their faraway relatives – with increasing desperation – and to understand a Britain in the age of Enoch and Maggie, of mass poverty, unemployment and racism. Director Sandhya Suri displays creative intelligence in her use of a Super-8 diary sent back and forth between her doctor father and his family in India in combination with archive TV footage, bringing to the fore a multiplicity of voices that speak of the contradictions inherent in the immigrant condition.

Inland Empire
David Lynch undoubtedly remains the modern master of suspense and horror. While many directors are content with setting us up in a believable world and terrifying us with the monsters that lurk beneath, Lynch is really only ever interested in ripping reality apart to tear into the psyche and the world of cinema itself. Terrific stuff!

Funny Ha Ha
First-time actress Kate Dollenmayer is captivating as Marnie, suffering through the doldrums of post-university loneliness; unemployed, single and floating through pointless parties and dull temporary jobs. Director Andrew Bujalski is clearly indebted to Cassavetes’ emphasis on improvised interactions between actors, but nevertheless offers up a smart and funny script that hones in on a time of life close to his heart with a documentarist’s eye for detail.

INTERVIEW WITH ALLAN MOYLE

Allan Moyle

Title: Weirdsville

Format: Cinema

Release date: 16 November 2007

Venues: Key Cities

Distributor Contender Films

Director: Allan Moyle

Cast: Matt Frewer, Joey Beck, Wes Bentley

US/Canada 2007

90 minutes

An enigmatic Canadian director who has been making movies for nearly three decades, Allan Moyle has earned himself a reputation for films that combine great soundtracks with young casts and topical subject matter. Following Pump Up the Volume and Empire Records in the 90s, Moyle’s output became associated with TV movies and obscure titles relegated to the bottom shelves of video shops. His new film Weirdsville is a confident return to form that deftly mixes such outrageous conceits as inept Satanists, a vertically challenged historical re-enactment society who travel around in a limousine, and a lifestyle guru with a 12-inch icicle sticking out of his head. Perhaps incredulous that such a film might prove popular with an audience, the director started the interview by asking Alex Fitch to defend his movie…

Allan Moyle: What kind of a freak are you that you would respond to a movie like that?

Alex Fitch: Well, the stoner comedy genre seems overcrowded but at the same time it feels like you’ve brought a fresh voice to it…

AM: I haven’t. The writer did.

AF: You and the writer then, because there were some very visually memorable scenes in it, which you can’t entirely attribute to the script.

AM: A lot of them are in the script. I’m arguing for the script to go onto the DVD, so if it does develop into some kind of cult movie – I think that’s its destiny, I can’t see it having a wide release – people will want to compare the script with the movie and that’ll be fascinating because it’s mostly the script…

AF: That’s atypical for movie-writing because most directors want the screenplay to be so barren of description that they can put their own stamp on it.

AM: Well, I love a script that’s half-way directed, because I am not that aggressive a director and I need all the help I can get! Anyway, if you know my movies, they’re not very visual – they have some charm, they have good casting usually and some heart, but visually they’re not that exciting, thus far. Here’s a movie – for example – where there’s a scene where Scott Speedman skates towards the car. He’s actually skating – ’cause we didn’t have snow – on asphalt, on roller skates, but it’s night and you can’t quite see he’s wearing skates. We couldn’t afford to do the process we did in the opening titles where we cut out his skates and put in bare feet. So it could have been a nightmare, but luckily the audience suspend their disbelief and I think it’s a deeply mythic scene, as scripted. Now, did the writer have that perfect song? No. I contributed to finding the song. I never studied film theory, so I don’t know the terminology, ‘the gaze’, all that stuff. I’m all about casting actors who are so perfect for the role that all I have to do is turn the camera on.

AF: But you’ve been making films for the best part of thirty years. So you must feel that you’ve picked up some visual techniques along the way.

AM: It’s not the first thing that comes to mind! I’m interested in psychic phenomena, I’m interested in things that are happening invisibly beneath the surface. I’m deeply into the person who’s alone and an outsider and reaching out to be more than himself or herself. I’m into all those things. I feel that we got the poetic side of the thing down, as a team – the writer, the director of photography and the producer gave us enough time to execute it. I’m not being disingenuous… The movie feels so right for Edinburgh and Raindance because the so-called ‘indie’ festivals are no longer indie. Sundance and Toronto have been hijacked by the studios, the sponsors and the cult of the star. So it’s kind of depressing and even a movie with semi-stars like ours isn’t strong enough to compete in Sundance anymore. I’m not bullshitting you – it’s a huge relief to have the movie understood somewhere. Pump Up the Volume was more understood in France than it was in America. It played for months in France – they sent me over three times. The French title of the movie was: Y a-t-il une vie aprí¨s le lycée?, which means ‘Is there life after high school?’, which is so much smarter than ‘Pump up the volume, pump up the volume!’. In fact, I didn’t want that title. The title I wanted was ‘Talk Hard’, which was at least slightly poetic, but (producer) Bob Shaye had heard the song ‘Pump Up the Volume’, which was a hit, but it was a hit six months earlier! I said: ‘Bob, we can’t have a song advertising our movie that’s from six months ago, ’cause we won’t be cool!’ – and he’s fifty! I don’t know… All I’m saying is that the French got it. The Americans didn’t get it.

AF: Music seems very important in creating the mood and the feel of your movies. In contrast to what you said about Bob Shaye wanting to include a song that was six months out of date, with Weirdsville were you trying to find songs that had not yet become popular and had the chance to become the next big thing – at least among the indie crowd?

AM: It costs $2,500 to purchase a song and I know from experience that I like to score with songs. We ended up with no money to buy songs. Luckily, Canada – especially Toronto and Montreal – is in some kind of music renaissance, so the soundtrack sounds like a real soundtrack, doesn’t it? But in fact we didn’t pay for any of those songs.

AF: Because the bands were happy to have publicity from the film?

AM: Exactly, they get publishing. They’re what I call dollar cues. In fact more like a thousand dollars, ’cause it costs that for the legal fees. We paid only a thousand bucks per cue. Maybe I should make that a secret! I’m certainly not proud of it, because I would like to be able to buy – for example – music from an obscure Montreal band we helped to discover called Arcade Fire, but we can’t afford to because they went from being ten grand to twenty five grand. Maybe we could have offered them five grand, but suddenly they took off, and it’s a shame because we had a temp score with Arcade Fire and a bunch of other songs. I’m not complaining – I’m just saying it’s serendipitous that this movie seemed to have some luck attached to it. It could have been a disaster – the whole dwarves and Satanists thing could have been horrible.

AF: It works really well…

AM: But can you see how horrible it could have been?

Weirdsville is released on 16 November.

INTERVIEW WITH SANDHYA SURI

I for India

Format: Cinema

Release date: 3 August 2007

Distributor: ICA Films

Director: Sandhya Suri

UK 2005

70 mins

In the 1950s, economical filmmakers such as Ed Wood and Terry Morse could fashion entire narratives out of found footage to fill drive-in double bills. As film stock and cameras became cheaper, the amateur filmmaker could shoot home-movies and commit transitory life experiences to celluloid and later, home video. As we find ourselves comfortably in the second century of cinema, there are now stacks of footage coming from both traditions for low-budget documentarians to forage within and find more homespun narratives to fill the silver screen.

Following 2003’s acclaimed Tarnation, in which American filmmaker Jonathan Caouette turned the home-movies of his formative years into an introspective psychological examination of his life, a British director has now collated and edited her family’s history into an engaging tale of a bifurcated family separated by land and culture. Alex Fitch caught up with I for India director Sandhya Suri at the ICA in London and asked her about her project to turn decades of transcontinental communication between her émigré father and his family in India into her first documentary feature.

Alex Fitch: When did you decide to take your family’s footage and turn it into a feature?

Sandhya Suri: When I got hold of the audiotapes. There had been Super 8 films I used to watch as well that I knew of, but it was the discovery of the tapes, which really showed there was this exchange of audio letters and films on both sides – forty years of recordings from my father in England and his relatives back in India. So when I realised I had such a long span of material, I absolutely had to make the film.

AF: Presumably the Super 8 films were silent before that and adding the sound made it more real in a way?

SS: Sometimes they’d send us Super 8 reels and the audio reels separately and sometimes as a family we would put our own soundtracks on them, which is why there is some very dodgy 70s music all over the place! We’d either add commentary or send sound separately.

AF: I did wonder: when there’s footage of travelling on a train or going to the beach, is that foley sound that you recorded separately for this movie or was it recorded at the time?

SS: Some of it was recorded at the time. One thing that my father did a lot was soundtracks, he really loved putting on the music that he thought was atmospheric, so for example when he shot snow he took the music from Doctor Zhivago and thought it would really add to the drama when he sent the tape to India!

AF: Was it growing up in that environment that encouraged you to become a filmmaker or was it something you came to on your own?

SS: Well, my sisters have both got very sensible jobs, so maybe I was influenced! I think that the thing that my father taught me most was the importance of documenting, as opposed to cinema, it was the fact that he constantly documented and chronicled everything. That’s why my entry into film was via documentary as opposed to fiction.

AF: What was your filmmaking education?

SS: I studied documentary at the National Film and Television School. I was lucky enough to get this first feature financed directly out of film school – that process was quite quick, making it took a bit longer!

AF: When you look at the kind of Indian films that are available to the general public in this country, it’s fairly earnest titles like Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy and Deepa Mehta’s Fire, Earth and Water. In contrast there’s the whole Bollywood tradition. Do you think that perhaps as your film is linking both British and Indian cultures, it’s creating a dialogue between those cultures on behalf of the film’s audience as well?

SS: I hope so. There’s space for Indian documentaries on British cinema screens – I really wish people would come and see more, as there are some really great documentaries out there and there are a lot of interesting things happening in Indian cinema. There’s been a tendency to take a look at Bollywood culture and focus on the kitsch and the funny, but there’s a lot more behind all of that of course.

AF: There are political elements to your film: you add footage of the National Front and some fairly antiquated footage from the BBC welcoming visitors to the country. How much did you feel you had to add that kind of narrative, which is absent from the home movies?

SS: It was a really difficult process doing the editing because at one stage my editor and myself felt we were really disrupting the flow of the Super 8 by bringing in this archive footage. But at the same time, it was really clear to me that the film had to have a bigger feel about it rather than just my family’s story. There were things in my family archive that were implied but were missing so they needed to be reinforced by the archive footage. I felt it was really important to give that overall picture. The film has a lot of different textures and a lot of different colours and media – Super 8, digi-beta and old archive – so I think it added to that as well.

AF: It’s interesting as well that the first footage your father shot of Britain is in black and white and then the first colour footage you see is of India, which is almost what people expect when they see films from that period!

SS: Exactly! He was going through an experimental phase with black and white when he arrived but he always sent them colour film to record on. I think he always wanted to see India in colour – he would have been terribly disappointed to get black and white India footage back when he was feeling homesick.

AF: And he’s still making films now – you open with him taking footage of Egypt to his local camcorder club. I’m surprised that at that point he’s asking for advice on how to have it edited, after a lifetime’s worth of making films!

SS: Well, like every good filmmaker, he’s always learning! Especially with the release of the film and now that I’ve been to film school and taken up filming more, he’s filming less and less. It’s getting more difficult – he’s getting a lot older, he’s in his mid-seventies now – but when he goes on holidays or to major events he still makes films.

AF: Your film shows how back in the 70s the locals were particularly aggressive to the Indians who’d moved to this country. There’s also an undercurrent of that when you show your mother recently attending a meeting where there’s some haughty guy talking about his experiences in India – it seems just as patronising as some of the stuff from the 50s. Did you want to introduce the theme that that’s still prevalent today in certain circles of society?

SS: No, not at all. That scene’s filmed quite neutrally; it’s more of a surreal situation that my mother is part of this club with a lot of elderly white ladies. She was genuinely interested in seeing this man talk about India, because there are not that many opportunities. There’s Indian television, but she still welcomes those opportunities with any link to India and actually, although his words could be construed as a little condescending, they were also very true in many respects. He did end on a very important note about how hospitable the Indians had been when he’d travelled there and how he wondered if Indians arriving in England – in his town, in his village – would get the same reception. He sent out very mixed messages and I just want people to watch and come to their own conclusions about that.

AF: There seems to be a renaissance in documentaries made from found footage – recently there was the American film Tarnation – because the last couple of generations have been obsessively recording themselves, now on video and then on Super 8. Do you think there are thousands of stories out there waiting to be told in the mountains of footage?

SS: I pity the poor young people of this generation who are going to have to go and deal with eight thousand hours of birthdays and weddings and all that stuff because what was easy for me was that each reel of Super 8 footage is three minutes of film. You have to decide and be very conscious of what you’re filming and why you’re filming it. I think with home videos now there’s a tendency to film for hours and tapes are cheap. It’s not the footage that makes the story, it’s the story that counts.

AF: I suppose also that the period of time that’s elapsed is important. There’s a film about London made in the 60s (The London Nobody Knows), narrated by James Mason, and St Etienne recently made a thematic follow-up (Finisterre) but that film doesn’t have the same resonance because you can just go out on the streets and see what London looks like now. So, maybe it’s like the fascination audiences have now with silent footage of Edwardians – 50 years from now people might want to see all this camcorder material to see how people lived back then.

SS: Exactly. Even now I’m very conscious of that. Even though I’m very bad at it because it’s my job as well, I’m very keen to record little fragments of my life that I can add to this whole mountain of footage that we have that I’ve been able to make into a film.

AF: Self-consciously, you seem to edit yourself out of the film. For example, when you’re talking on the webcam with your sister, your face is obscured by your camera. Did you just want to have the camera itself portray you as the narrator?

SS: For me, it was very important that there not be too many narrators in the film. The strength in the film is the immediacy of listening to the audio archive, particularly my father speaking and the ability of that archive to help you connect with him, because they are very intimate recordings. So, adding me as another layer in between, guiding you through the film in a more explicit manner, that wouldn’t be very helpful. I felt that would have diminished the emotional strength of the film, which is why I kept a back seat, but I am referred to and you know that the daughter is making the film. I hope there is an intimacy in the shooting and the storytelling. People generally seem to realise that there is a daughter that made this film and you can feel the love and tenderness in it without my being present.

AF: What project are you working on next?

SS: It’s a little bit early to say but I’ve got a couple of documentaries in development – these are long-term things that take a long time to get funded and to get going…

You can listen to the Resonance FM podcast of the interview here.

A Deviant View of Cinema – Features, Essays & Interviews