The following is a series of interviews with directors whose films are screening at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.
My writing partner Jeremie Delon and I spent a year following incarcerated kids and staff members in juvenile centers all across the Midwest of America. We would spend entire weeks with the kids, got to class with them, go to A.A. meetings or anger management with them, eat with them, hang in the recreation room with them.
With much of the dialogue absent from this outline, I asked the actors to improvise the dialogue in the scenes. I also avoided any type of storyboard, and because I wanted to shoot using natural light, much of the camera placement and movement was a direct response to the environment and lighting that I found on location.
There is a specific Mediterranean atmosphere about the film that I hope the Tribeca audience will relate to. At the same time, its story is universal – everybody has a family, and everybody has to realize who they are in this context, positively, negatively, or ambiguously.
Apart from the great satisfaction that I draw from filmmaking as a syntax, as a vocabulary, as a language – given my acting background, for me everything is in directing actors.
I love writing; directing had always been an option but I had never really had a strong desire until this script came along. I made noises to the Irish film board about directing it and then the momentum took hold and we were shooting before I had chance to have second thoughts.
Production was a ride; a constant onslaught of danger and inspiration, and usually both at the same, much like the country of Colombia itself. Our past work had familiarized us with the delicate security situation when investigating crime and corruption, and we prioritized the long-term safety of our subjects as they revealed often incriminating information for the first time on camera.
It is important to realize that we all, as members of civilization today, are passing on to the future a deadly material that it never asked for. And the amount of nuclear waste worldwide is growing daily.
I think I make documentaries the same way as Mike Leigh does fiction films. The only difference is that we don’t rehearse and we have only one take.
After five years of working on two films about the war in Iraq (“The War Tapes,” “Bad Voodoos War”), my mind was beset by some unanswered questions. What remains after wars end? How can anyone forgive the murderers of a loved one? How do you break the cycle of violence? Is forgiveness enough to release a country from its past? What constitutes such forgiveness?
From the outset I wanted to use a formal technique in which actors lip-synched to the voices of the interviewees. I wanted to draw attention to the gap between reality and representation – to draw attention to the fact that documentary narratives are as constructed as fictional ones.
I’ve tried to use the camera almost as a surgical instrument to investigate the hidden chambers of the human heart. The audience are deeply implicated in this cinematic story. Sandra is watching you watching her and asking, “What do you think? What happens next?”
So I wanted to make a film that is the complete opposite from my first. Again, I didn’t achieve the greatest of results, but I feel like my prospects are somewhat wider now. Or it could be just a thought…
I always thought of “The Woodmans” as a sort of “anti-verite” film. Instead of placing the camera in the middle of the action we backed the camera up so you could take in and examine the context and beauty of Betty and George Woodman’s world.
While making this film I watched lots of films about the Russian Mafia, but found that they had just about everything except for the Russian Mafia. There were experts, academics, and police officials, all of whom spoke “about” the Mafia. On the other hand, I couldn’t find a single film that spoke from “within” the Mafia.
Shooting family is very difficult, especially when you are close to them. We shot the majority of the film during a time of chaos and transition, when Monica and David moved from their home of many years into smaller apartment almost an hour away. I dreaded having to call my aunt to ask for shoot days, and although she was very open in front of the camera, she hates having her photo taken.
The idea of a little local documentary entered our minds after hearing some amazing stories about falcons from a good friend of ours. So we began do do some research and soon found a common thread to all the falcon stories – geopolitics, power and too much money.