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The Golden Globe-Nominated Foreign Film Directors Talk Craft in Hollywood

The Golden Globe-Nominated Foreign Film Directors Talk Craft in Hollywood

Angelina Jolie (“In The Land of Blood and Honey”) has the recognition with the American public, but among the crowd of foreign-film enthusiasts Pedro Almodovar (“The Skin I Live In”) was the real rock star at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater January 14 panel that featured the five Golden Globe-nominated nominees for Best Foreign Language Film.
Garnering the biggest ovation at his introduction, the Spanish director spoke of his humble origins as a filmmaker and how he produced his own work despite the oppressive Franco regime of the time.
“During the 70s, I couldn’t go to school. My own history was just to make Super-8 movies, where you make everything,” he said. “This is the way that I make a movie. I go over every little detail.”

On reuniting with star Antonio Banderas, he said, “I missed him a lot. I miss him as a brother, because we were like brothers. But I also feel like a mother. I’m very proud of him, but I miss him.”

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (“The Kid With a Bike”) spoke about their common practice of setting their films in their hometown and whether they’d expand to other locations. “Sometimes my brother wants to,” Jean-Pierre said, “but I’m not too warm about it. The worst part is that we shoot where we spent part of our youth. When we were there as children, it was a very rich industrial region with a working-class culture that had developed a great deal of solidarity. In the ’70s, there was a crash and an economic crisis. We started to see people in the streets that you see in some of our films. What we’re looking for is that our characters, who are alone, find someone else, a friend, an acquaintance, someone that will help pull them out of their solitude.”

As a first-time director (and the panel’s only woman), Jolie had plenty of stories about the production difficulties of not only working on a first film, but doing so in anarea still dealing with a brutal war’s aftereffects. “They were worried about what it is we were trying to do or say, understandably. But the cast came together from all sides of the conflict,” Jolie said. “The style for this was dictated by the war. Some people say that lighting was beautiful in some scenes. But there was no electricity. We were limited. It wasn’t some genius move of mine. There were lots of sets where it looks austere, but it’s because people emptied out places and they didn’t have anything.”

Perhaps the most poignant comments came from Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”), whose film has generated political and cultural discussions both in his home country and across the international film community. “I didn’t make this movie so that a foreign audience would learn more about Iran. Google is much better at that,” Farhadi said, through a translator. “No movie can ever claim that I have a complete picture of an entire country. How could I possibly say that my movie is an image of 70 million people?”

Discussing his relationship with government, he said, “I don’t want to bring up all the issues that we have in filmmaking just to get sympathy out of you. When you see my movie, imagine that I made it under the best possible conditions. This does not mean that I condone the difficult situation that exists there. I don’t want to be like a beggar on the street who exposes his wounds just to benefit himself. Nobody forced me to become a filmmaker under these difficult circumstances. I chose to do so myself.”

When asked about the acclaim “A Separation” has received, Farhadi said, “I don’t know exactly why, but I can venture a guess. This is, in a way, a detective story, but the detective is the audience. We’ve seen many detective movies where the language in it was not realistic. I don’t think local films are necessarily antagonistic to universal films. They can be both. The most local film I’ve ever seen was Kurosawa’s ‘Rashomon,’ and it’s also the most universal film I’ve ever seen.”

The role of Razieh was not a conventional one and Farhadi made sure actress Sareh Bayat understood that. “I told her that I wanted her to pray five times a day like an authentic religious person. I said, ‘Don’t come my office with your expensive car. Come by bus or the metro. And when you come to work, don’t approach males too closely.’ She had become a religious woman, at that point.” Farhadi added, sans translator, “Don’t worry. She changed out.”

Farhadi also spoke about the faulty assumptions surrounding his country, his film and the way the two have interacted, “There’s an image of Iran outside of Iran which is not correct. I don’t mean to say that there are no issues or problems, but the type of problems that you often imagine are not the ones that are there. A Western audience might go into this movie with that preconceived notion that they have. For them, it might be strange that Iranians have such layered, complicated difficulties. The problem is that we look at people of other countries through the prism of politics. If you put aside the politics and see the real picture of our lives, you’ll see how similar they are and their difficulties are.”

Tonight’s Golden Globe Awards will reveal the winner, where Farhadi is the presumptive favorite.

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