By Indiewire | Indiewire April 2, 2010 at 3:16AM
The following is a series of interviews with directors whose films are screening at the New Directors/New Film Festival.
The most important issue for this film was how to define the ‘style’ of the narrative, as it was allegorical and realistic, artistic and political. We re-wrote the script over one hundred and fifty times to find the right balance.
The film is very much about keeping up appearances, even to your beloved ones. Up to a point everybody does this. Therefore, to a certain extent, the relationship of Tako and Sandra is recognisable for everybody.
We wanted to make a portrait of a small community living at the margins of society, away from stereotypes and prejudices. The screenplay was a 30-page plot. We developed the plot every day with the actors on the set. All dialogues are improvised.
We wanted to make the film as accurate as possible. So I started a youth program in which metro Detroit high school students partner with University students. They learn about filmmaking and other professional skills. We work-shopped the script I had written and the students all offered input.
I hope the experience of this film offers viewers a peek into a world underrepresented on screen—a vision of the American Black Panther Party that I knew and isn’t often shown.
It was my feeling that a simple event like the one depicted in the film could actually tell a lot about our society and about the human nature. Everything was done according to this idea, to show less in order to show more.
Editor/co-producer Jonathan Oppenheim and I wanted to create a psychological portrait with twists and turns that take the viewer on a journey that makes you question what you know and feel - in much the same way I experienced Abu Jandal in person.
Another important contrast in the film is rural life versus factory life, the pastoral imagery versus city landscape - contrasting elements that help create a microcosm of Chinese society. By juxtaposing these elements, I wish to explore the metaphysics of the shift in society and lifestyle amid the fast economic development.
“Down Terrace” was born out of what I had. I had access to a location, to actors and friends who would help. The script was developed with these resources. The story comes from watching and enjoying a lot of gangster films but wanting to make something that felt fresh and not a comment on other films.
I decided that somehow I would make a film about my generation of Russians - the generation that I joined, in a sense, when I went to live there for the first time at age 18.
In the 1996 film, “I Shot Andy Warhol” – I am one the the three writers, I asked director Mary Harron to put Candy’s character into the film, which she did. Now is the time for Candy, and people everywhere relate to her life and times and very being.
When I was a child I looked exactly like Alfred E. Neumann, Mad Magazine’s mascot. My approach to filmmaking comes from having worked as a journalist, and I have never been formally trained as a film director.
I wanted essentially to speak about things very deeply buried within me, that constitute who I am. I have heard too many times that in order to live better it is preferable to forget. But we have to face the fact that reality is entirely different!
My fascination with Bill has always gone beyond the work he actually does. His two weekly columns in the New York Times, “On the Street” where he’s been spotting and documenting emerging fashion trends on the street for 40 years and “Evening Hours” his page devoted to New York’s nightly whirl of social and charitable events – is more than mere picture taking—it’s cultural anthropology.
As the theme is the discovery of the body, of desire, of sensuality, it was important for us to try to communicate the sensations of the main character to the audience, to try to make the audience understand the story as if the viewer was in the character’s skin.
In making this film our effort was to become subjects to the nature of extreme North, to let go of rigid pre-planned concepts and be open and attentive to what it could offer us. So, we traveled to a real polar station at the northmost point of Russia’s easternmost region, Chukotka, and stayed there for 3 months.
I wanted to reproduce the aura and (hopefully) the intelligence of the great cinema of the ‘50s and ‘60s. That amazing cinematic language was and is pure cinema.
One of the components of this film was working with children. I gave them a big role, because I wanted to continue some work I had started in my first film. I am very interested in people’s relationship with children.