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Alejandro González Iñárritu and Chloé Zhao on the Future of Cinema: ‘Young People Are Dying to Feel More’

Zhao spoke with the "Bardo" director about how cinema needs to become less technical and more emotional if the art form wants to survive.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 10: (L-R) Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Chloe Zhao speak onstage at Netflix's Bardo Experience at Goya Studios on December 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Netflix)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Chloe Zhao speak onstage at Netflix’s Bardo Experience at Goya Studios

Getty Images for Netflix

For years, film industry observers have warned everyone who will listen that young people’s lack of interest in serious movies could ultimately lead to the death of cinema. But Chloé Zhao and Alejandro González Iñárritu aren’t ready to sound the alarms just yet.

Zhao recently sat down with Iñárritu for a conversation about directing at Bardo Experience, a Netflix event promoting Iñárritu’s new film “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” which represents Mexico in the International Feature Oscar race this year. The topic eventually turned to the future of cinema as an art form, with Zhao predicting that the future can be bright as long as filmmakers don’t play things safe. Watch the full conversation in the video below.

“Sometimes a story told objectively, I can sit back and watch, there’s always some safety. Your films always, whether it’s through the brilliant sound design, cinematography, all your planning and all the deep, dark work you do yourself, that I’m pulled in, I can’t not experience it,” Zhao said. “The future of cinema, young people today, they want to feel more, they’re dying to feel more and we can’t just feed them the same stuff anymore.”

Iñárritu said that he thinks the versatility of cinema makes it uniquely positioned to elicit those emotions, and that conventional films only scratch the surface of the medium’s capabilities.

“I think cinema is very generous as a medium,” Iñárritu said. “I always say that is water, cinema is water. It can be expressed in a cloud or in a cup of tea or as rain or as a pond, as a river, as an ocean. Water can be expressed in so many things so that’s why there’s so many genres, there’s so many kind of films, expressions, possibilities, it’s incredible, generous, and malleable. But personally, now I’m interested in a way to use, let’s say, water in a way that it flows inside.”

He went on to say that, to achieve that effect, filmmakers need to deconstruct cinema as an art form and make movies that break from established structures in pursuit of communicating a deeper truth.

“It’s not just a technical objective experience with a very conventional language of closeup, closeup, two shot, over the shoulder, wide shot, master, next, closeup, closeup, over. This is the storytelling medium,” he said. “The storytelling to the cinema, it was born, it was attached later, but the possibility that the juxtaposition of time and space, images and light can be used in order to get us an experience and trigger maybe some subconscious possibilities without the rationality of act one, act two, act three, plot point, storytelling, boy meets girl, blah, blah, blah. I suddenly found myself keen to explore that possibility because those are my favorite films. Films that I don’t understand how have been made with no story and suddenly there’s something that makes me grow as a soul.”

“Bardo” streams on Netflix December 16.

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