Posts Tagged ‘SAN SEBASTIAN’

A Proper Job | Un métier Sérieux (2023) | San Sebastian Film Festival 2023

Dir/Wri: Thomas Lilti | Cast: Vincent Lacoste, Francois Cluzet, Louise Bourgoin, Adele Exarchopoulos, Mustapha Abourachid | France Comedy Drama 101′

Real life pals Adèle Exarchopoulos and Vincent Lacoste star in this amusing schoolroom drama – they were last seen giggling together on the Red Carpet at Cannes for the premiere of Elemental. 

A Proper Job is the latest from French writer/director Thomas Lilti whose sobering sophomore feature Hippocrates saw Lacoste as a junior doctor thrown into the deep end at the Hospital Rothschild in Paris. This time he’s Benjamin Barrois, a junior tutor with no experience – and it shows – trying to finance his PhD at a Normandy secondary school with few resources. And his first day teaching rowdy adolescents certainly gets off to a bad start when a more senior colleague mistakes him for an intern, in front of the class. This doesn’t help his cause.

True to say that many otherwise decent kids can be monsters in the classroom and that’s certainly the case here. Benjamin lurches from crisis to crisis as Lilti demonstrates in semi-documentary style the many pitfalls of being a schoolteacher nowadays. And we’ve already seen these situations in films like The Hunt (2012), Mr Backmann and His Class (2021) and most recently in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses (2023).

So when one of his pupils, an unruly kid with a troubled home-life, refuses to respect the simple code of class conduct Benjamin has a problem on his hands, then the boy files a complaint with the school head (Abourachid) that leads to a disciplinary process.

Lacoste is such a versatile actor you can’t help liking his portrayal of Benjamin: he can be serious but there’s always a cheeky glint in his eye. And when he joins a surfing break in Biarritz with other members of the staff there are moments of high tension and the camaraderie between the colleagues is really put to the test. They support each other unfailingly when the chips are down.

Lilti fleshes out the backstories of the other teachers: Pierre (Cluzet) is having marital difficulties, and single parent Meriem (Exarchopoulos) is struggling to teach her own kid while juggling her career. Another teacher Sandrine (Bourgoin) is pushed to the limit in a livid classroom confrontation.

Lilti never looks for simple solutions in his well-paced script, and the finale is spectacular. A really good cast and a sympathetic treatment of the issues involved make this another convincing feature from a much deserving director who has so far received 14 nominations but never won a prize. Let’s hope he will soon. MT


Azor (2021) San Sebastián 2021

Dir: Andreas Fontana | Cast: Fabrizio Rongione, Stephanie Cleau, Gilles Privat, Elli Medeiros, Carmen Iriondo, Pablo Torre Nilson, Ignazio Vila, Juan Trench, Juan Pablo Geretto| Argentina, Switzerland, 99′

Another sophisticated Argentine thriller along the lines of Rojo set during the ‘Dirty Wars’ and this time seen through the eyes of a Swiss banker who arrives in Buenos Aires to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his partner only to discovers intrigue and subterfuge amongst the elite.

In 1976 a military junta seized power from Eva Peron’s government resulting in the deaths of over 30,000 people. Swiss born filmmaker Andreas Fontana transports us back to these uncertain times with high society characters who feel real in their glamorous settings, manicured poolsides, lush estancias, exclusive polo parties where Fabrizio Rongione strikes just the right tone of cool circumspection and biddability in his role as the trustworthy banker with a listening ear (a million miles away from the shoddy service we’ve come to expect from our own banks).

Cleau adds allure as Ines, his chain-smoking wife and confidente, oiling the wheels of their social encounters – where smoking is ‘de rigueur’ -with her unthreatening, savvy charm. Other characters who stand out here are Carmen Iriondo, a society hostess, and the Monsignor, who strikes fear into the proceedings with his chilly glare. These are people you may not trust to post a letter but as the gatekeepers of Argentina’s shady upper echelons of power, they must be respected.

In their car from the airport Yvan and Ines witness two men being held up at gunpoint, Yvan suavely fails to bat an eyelid, and once in their comfort of their exclusive hotel, Buenos Aires stretches before them just like any other international capital city, although the tinkling harpsichord score warns of trouble ahead, in the style of those Claude Chabrol thrillers. The couple get a rude awakening from the rather glib thickly-accented lawyer Dekerman (Geretto), who welcomes them to BA on behalf of ‘the client’, before rudely ordering his own whiskey before offering Ines a drink (and failing to light her cigarette), preparing her for the macho set up that will follow.

Business here is not just about talent but also moving in the right circles and keeping quiet at the right time (the code word ‘Azor’ means to ‘keep shtum’, rather like the Sicilian ‘omertà’). As a private banker from a monied background Yvan De Wiel settles graciously into the hushed scenes of high society in this enjoyably taught first feature from Swiss director Fontana who writes and directs with considerable flair, capturing the zeitgeist of these dangerous times with a florid eye for local detail.

A De Wiel sashays discretely in soigné villas, lush lounges and amongst the polo ponies, he swiftly gains the trust of the movers and shakers repositioning his bank’s interests with the junta when it dawns on him that his partner Rene Keys had possibly pulled the wool over his eyes bringing his firm into question. But he has another string to his bow, that of deal-making (aka laundering blood money) using his utmost caution. it’s a restrained performance and one of subtlety.

From the outset Fontana creates a real sense of danger here, a feeling that anything could go wrong as De Wiel’s investigation leads him deeper and deeper into the exotic hinterland of Argentina’s pampas where the Junta’s sinister types hang out in the film’s seething finale.

There is more that a whiff of colonialism to Azor. Silence and an evocative ambient soundscape prove to be Fontana’s best weapon in ramping up tension in the final stages of his restrained thriller, a slick seventies score of musak playing out during discrete cocktail parties where these smooth operators mingle under swaying palms, waiters plying them with drinks as they plot and plan how to deal with the trappings of colonialism. MT

San Sebastian Film Festival 2021

Haruhara-San’s Recorder (2021) San Sebastian Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Kyoshi Sugita; Cast: Chica Araki, Takenori Kaneko, Saha Ito; Japan 2021, 120 min.

HARUHARA-SAN’S RECORDER won this year’s main award in the International Competition at FIDMarseille. Jury president Lav Diaz certainly related well to the leisurely tempo. The Japanese director describes his style as “probably different from the general method. I think most people start their different preparations after having originally completed the script, but in my case, I write the script in the end, after having settled the casting, location scouting and shooting schedule”. The result is an uncompromising cinematographic poem where windows, doors, balconies, staircases and thresholds have the same significance as protagonists’ emotions.

Based on a tanka (31-syllable one-line poem) by Naoko Higashi, Sugita creates a narrative-free universe fraught with feelings. Lockdown brought the production to a halt after the first day of filming, and the subsequent loss of a close friend had a significant impact on Sugita, and is reflected in his melancholy central character Sachi (Araki) who has now works in a cafe, dreaming of a partner who will never be at her side.

Essentially a series of graceful reflective vignettes that never fully play out, loss and recuperation are central themes throughout this subtle drama. In the opening scene Sachi (Araki) is saying goodbye to her flatmate who leaves no forwarding address. Family and friends arrive to share tea and sympathy. We see Sachi leaving on a friend’s scooter on the way to an amusement park dwarfed by a huge rollercoaster, but a cut propels us hours forward, with Sachi and her friend drenched by the rain.

Sachi then plays muse to a young filmmaker, her performance projected onto a high window, for an audience full of friends. The plot-free structure allows ordinary life to take centre stage, giving full rein to Sachi’s artistic endeavours: she creates a banner with calligraphic symbols of Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain, which floats off in the breeze from her balcony. There is one amusing vaudeville scene when her uncle Takeshi comes to visit, and Sachi’s friend Taeko hides in an overhead cupboard, freaking the old man out.

DoP Yukiko Iioka creates delicate images, mostly tracking shots, giving this a very intimate, chilled out atmosphere. Chica Araki, in her acting debut, is a contemporary dancer and calligrapher whose ‘unbearable lightness’ is a captivating presence in this meditative oasis of calm. AS

San Sebastian FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 25 SEPTEMBER 2021




Yuli (2018) ***

Dir: Icíar Bollaín | Carlos Acosta, Santiago Alfonso, Carlos Enrique Almirante, Keyvin Martinez, Laura De la Uz | Biopic Drama 104

Cuba is the dazzling backdrop to this ‘all singing all dancing’ traditionally-styled biopic that vivaciously explores the rags to riches route to the international stage of its best known living export Carlos Acosta, now an celebrated ballet dancer. Based on his 2007 memoir No Way Home, it stars Acosta himself looking back on a career that has gone from minor to major striking nearly every thematic chord in life’s libretto from childhood poverty to paternal domination, racial discrimination, political turmoil and self realisation through artistic endeavour, under the glare – and glory of Castro’s regime.

Teaming up for the third time with her English husband and scripter Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake) Spanish director Icíar Bollaín (The Olive Tree) creates the irrepressibly vibrant milieu of modern Cuba where Acosta is seen rehearsing for a show that chronicles his life in the medium of dance. He is then transported back – by means of a red-bound scrapbook – to memories of his childhood where as ‘Yuli’ the cheeky young Acosta (Nuñes), named after the Cuban Santéria religion, is growing up in an impoverished barrio of Havana, with his white mother Maria (Perez) and his black father Pedro (Alfonso) who we first meet dragging Yuli away from a brilliant break-dancing routine with his pals.

The draconian Pedro has set his sights on better things for the wayward whippersnapper, and soon he is forcing him into a formal training despite the boy’s natural inclination to join a football pitch rather than the stage of the respectable Cuban School of Ballet where he soon fetches up, his talent capturing the imagination of his teacher Chery (De la Uz), who encourages him into a strict regime of training.

The years go by and the grown-up Carlos (Keyvin Martínez) finds himself travelling to London to take up an offer he soon manages to refuse, missing the warmth of his native Cuba which is by now in political meltdown. Back home, his father and Cheryl point him in the direction of dance rather than ballet – despite an approach from the Royal Ballet.

Laverty’s script tiptoes lightly over Maria of the rest of the family – alluding to mental illness for his older sister Berta (Doimeadíos) – but no love stories for Carlos, despite his popularity with the opposite sex. Knowing how well-received father/son relationships are (Boyhood, Field of Dreams etc) maybe Laverty and Bollain have decided to put Carlos and Pedro in the limelight of a story of male inspiration, particularly as it is a black one, although the decision to have Pedro give a diatribe on the slavery question in Cuba seems awkward, and strangely misplaced.

Bollaín injects plenty of joie de vivre into this sun-filled optimistic portrait with its terrific dance routines and sweeping cinematography. And although Laverty’s script sometimes follows a schematic road the performances overcome this, with Olbera Nuñes and Acosta himself the standouts. Yuli provides flamboyant entertainment for ballet lovers and mainstream audiences alike, enlivened by the presence of Acosta having so much fun. MT



Le Cahier Noir | The Black Book of Father Dinis (2018) *** San Sebastian 2018

Dir: Valeria Sarmiento | Chile | Drama | 113′

Valeria Sarmiento follows her Locarno curio La Telenovela Errante (2017) with a classically-styled lavishly-mounted 18th century drama that follows the petripatetic exploits of an (unknowingly) aristocratic Italian nursemaid Laura (Lou de Laâge) after her employer dies in mysterious circumstances leaving her in sole charge of an infant son Sebastian.

Based on a literary work by Chilean novelist Camile Castelo Branco, and adapted for the screen by Carlos Saboga, this sedate and ambitious affair establishes an air of intrigue and uncertainty with an sinister orchestral score as Laura is hotly pursued by the saturnine  Marquis Lusault (Niels Schneider), who quickly ravages her before rakishly marrying someone of better birth – or so it initially appears – until Laura’s real heritage is revealed by  Stanislas Merhar’s priest with an ill-fitting wig. The drama then takes off across Europe visiting a series of sumptuously decorated stately palaces with little to distinguish whether they’re in France, Italy and England. No expense is spared in the costume department although everyone shares the same sepia-tinted lipstick (including the men).

Gracefully performed by its accomplished ensemble cast, The Black Book is an elegantly rendered potboiler that pays homage to Sarmiento’s late husband Raúl Ruiz, sharing the same sombre pacing as his masterpiece Mysteries of Lisbon (2010) while also referencing Sarmiento’s 2012 Lines of Wellington (prepared by Ruiz) although not its breadth of subject matter. A solid and engaging drama. MT



The Third Wife (2018) ****

Dir.: Ash Mayfair; Cast: Ngyuyen Phuong Tra My, Tran Nu Yen Khe, Thu Huong Maya, Le Vu Long, Nguyen Tranh Tam; Vietnam 2018, 83 min.

Ash Mayfair (aka Nguyen Phuongh Anh) left Vietnam at the age of thirteen to study film at RADA in London and New York. Her debut is a surprisingly mature and meticulous drama that focuses on the many-layered exploitation of the women in a feudal household in late 19th century Vietnam.

May (12 year-old Ngyuen Phuong, no relation to the the filmmaker), is married at the age of fourteen to feudal lord Hung (Long), and has to share their home with his first two wives Ha (Yen Khe) and Xuan (Huong Maya). May soon becomes pregnant and competes with Ha and Xuan to bear a son to the master. Sadly she fails and gives birth to a daughter, Ha saving her life with an impromptu caesarean carried out with a kitchen knife. Gradually May is drawn to Xuan while Hung’s son (Tanh Tam) rebels against his father and his dominating regime: he refuses to touch his child bride Tuyet during their wedding night – dishonouring her in the eyes of her family. The young girl hangs herself on a tree, overlooking the river. Gradually, May becomes accustomed to the male dominated household and closes ranks with Ha and Xuan. In spite of her youth, she is already resigned to a life with no real choices. Lien, one of Ha daughter’s, cuts off her long hair in protest – but her gesture is only symbolic.

DoP Chananun Chotrumgroj’s camerawork is sublime, impressionism dominates, particularly Monet’s paintings spring to mind in a soft haze of pink, yellow and blue; every frame a jewel box, a new adventure. The mournful piano music scored by Ton That An heightens the melancholic narrative; the souls of the women are slowly drowning in beauty. But even though The Third Wife won prizes all over the globe (Toronto, San Sebastian, Minsk, Chicago and Cairo), there is something missing. Compared with most other newcomers, Mayfair seems already to be the finished article: the main message of her feature is resignation and suffering, there is no rebellion. Somehow one does expect a little wildness from a first film – but The Third Wife, has very little spirit in its perfection. It is comfortably executed, like a minor etude, playing out without sharp edges let alone barbed wire. AS



San Sebastian Film Festival 2018

The San Sebastian Film Festival is Spain’s only A-list event running from 21 September until 29th in the North West Spanish town, often known by its Basque name of Donostia. This year celebrating its 66th edition, a selection of Spanish titles and international fare competes for the Golden Shell Award in venues such as the Kursaal and the Victoria Eugenia theatre. 

Joining the main competition will be the latest from Alfonso Cuaron, Jacques Audiard and Jia Zhangke also join the lineup of features already announced: Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, in which he portrays a musical who falls for a struggling artist (Lady Gaga), Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Damien Chazelle’s First Man starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the first astronaut to walk on the moon, and Claire Foy. The film premieres at Venice where it open the festival running from 28 August 2018 on the Lido

This is the first time that Spike Lee will compete for an award in San Sebastian. His film BlacKkKlansman, the story of an African-American policeman who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan, won the jury grand prix honor at Cannes and the audience award at the Locarno Film Festival. Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, also premieres at Venice, it is the story of a maid working in a middle-class district of Mexico City in the early 1970s.




After 25 years of marriage, Marcos and Ana question themselves deeply on the subject of love, the nature of desire and faithfulness, making a decision that will change their lives forever.




The story of Angelo, an African born in the 18th century, who is brought to Europe at the age of 10. Now a servant in the court of enlightened nobility, he skilfully employs his otherness to become an appreciated guest and attraction for the members of high society. Being close to the emperor, he decides to marry Magdalena, a young maidservant with whom he falls in love.



Ruth works in a neuroscience research lab, despite coming from an extremely traditionalist and conservative Christian family. She suddenly finds herself facing her past when her former lover reemerges after twenty years in jail, prompting her to question her feelings, her life and eventually even her faith.



Manuel, an influential deputy secretary of a regional government who has everything going his way for making the leap into national politics, sees how his perfect life falls to pieces after news leaks of his involvement in a corruption ring with Paco, one of his best friends. While the media starts reporting the extent of the scandal, the party closes ranks and only Paco comes …


Isra and Cheíto are two Roma brothers: Isra was sent to prison for drug dealing and Cheíto signed up for the Marines. When Isra is released from prison and Cheíto returns from a long mission, they return to San Fernando. The reunion between the siblings brings memories of their father’s violent death when they were only boys. Twelve years have passed since La Leyenda del tiempo…




Deep space. Beyond our solar system. Monte and his daughter Willow live together on board a spacecraft, in complete isolation. A solitary man, who uses his strict self-discipline as protection against desire (his own and that of others), Monte fathered the girl against his will. His sperm was used to inseminate Boyse, the young woman who gave birth to the girl.




In 2029, after the governments of North and South Korea announce a 5-year plan to reunify the country, strong sanctions by the world’s most powerful nations cripple the economy and lead to a hellish period of chaos. With the appearance of an armed anti-government terrorist group called The Sect which opposes reunification, the President creates a new police division called …




This is the story of the late eighteenth-century adventures of a singular couple formed by a little orphan with mysterious origins and his young Italian nurse of similarly uncertain birth. They lead us in their wake, from Rome to Paris, from Lisbon to London, from Parma to Venice. Always followed in the shadows, for reasons we don’t know, by a suspicious-looking Calabrian




Lila Cassen was the most successful Spanish singer of the nineties until she mysteriously vanished from one day to the next. Ten years later Lila is preparing her triumphant stage comeback; however, shortly before the long-awaited date she is involved in an accident and loses her memory. Violeta’s life is dominated by her conflictive daughter Marta. Every night she finds escape..




In the mid-70s, a stranger arrives in a quiet provincial town. In a restaurant, for no apparent reason, he sets about attacking Claudio, a well-known lawyer. The community supports the lawyer and humiliates the stranger, who is thrown out. Later, on the way home, the man intercepts Claudio and his wife Susana once again, determined to wreak his terrible revenge on Claudio.




Jeanne leaves for Japan in search of a rare medicinal plant. During the trip, she meets Tomo, a forest ranger, who accompanies her on her quest and guides her through the traces of her past. 20 years ago, in the forests of Yoshino, Jeanne lived her first love.




Yuli is the nickname given to Carlos Acosta by his father, Pedro, who considers him the son of Ogun, an African god and a fighter. As a child Yuli avoids discipline and education, learning from the streets of an impoverished and abandoned Havana. His father, however, has other ideas, and knowing that his son has a natural talent for dance, sends him to the National Ballet Schoo…




OUT OF competition

For decades the Guerrero brothers have controlled the flow of drugs from the peninsula to the rest of Europe. Now they’re faced with one of the most crucial moments in their history. The eldest brother, Daniel, is released from jail after fifteen years, eager to recover his place in the family. The world Daniel left behind no longer exists. His father Abraham is sick, ..




Special Screenings

The storm breaks after a hard day’s work in the fields. When the rain eases off life springs up from the previously barren land. Fruit grows and ripens, survives disease and becomes the apples which give life to cider. Then comes the time to harvest, offer toasts and celebrate love. A story about the cycle of life and death, the fight for survival. Where the passage of time…




Special Screenings

In 9177, give or take a thousand years (there’s no point in being finicky about these details) the whole world, and, according to some authors, the universe too, has been reduced to a single Representative Building and squalid suburbs inhabited by all of the out-of-work and hungry in the cosmos. One of the down and outs, José María, decides that by facing up to the difficul…





Wojciech Marczewski, Film Director Kinoteka 2013

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Wojciech Marczewski, Polish Film Director, born in Lodz in 1944. Winner of the Silver Bear and FIPRESCI Prize in Berlin, Special Jury Prize, Critics Award, a Golden Lion and two Silver Lions at the Polish FF and the OCIC award at San Sebastian. Here for the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival in London.

AT I have only had the opportunity to see two of your films prior to this, due to difficulty seeing your films in this country! Shivers (Dreszcze) and Escape From The ‘Liberty’ Cinema (Ucieczka z kina ‘Wolnosc’).. Great then that you have this festival in London…

WM Ah yes. Both of these films Shivers (1981) and Liberty (1990) were made right on the cusp of the Solidarity Movement so when Solidarity first appears, only thanks to this do these films appear! Shivers, I wrote this script before Solidarity appeared..

AT But you knew that Solidarity was coming…?

WM Nobody Knew! [laughs] We sensed something Maybe would happen, but… also I would say that especially Shivers is a part of my biography, so it was important for me and also an important part of Polish history, because it was (set in) the mid-Fifties in Poland, which was the darkest of times there. So I wrote the script anyway. I didn’t believe that the film would be made right now.

AT But it was something you felt you had to write?

WM Yes, yes. So when my producer saw the script, he said ‘Are you kamikaze?! You have no chance.’ But I insisted. The procedure was that we had to send the script to be accepted… or not- to the Ministry of Culture. The first answer was ‘Are you crazy?…’ but then, in (just) two weeks, the Solidarity Movement hit and it was like a big blast, so in the meantime, I was asking the Minister for a meeting and he turned around and said ‘I am forced to meet you and say yes. I am forced’ and I said ‘what do you mean ‘forced’? Look at what is happening on the streets’. I had one year to make it and in three months, Martial Law was declared and the film was banned for more than four years. That’s the story of Shivers..

AT But the film wasn’t destroyed…

WM No. No. (You see), the film won a prize at the Polish FF and there were some German distributors and some people from the Berlinale and they said ok, we want this film and (the Ministry) said ‘ok, in a couple of months we will send you the perfect print’ and I said ‘No. You take this one right now, otherwise, no deal’. (One) sensed that, at any time, anything could happen, you know, so I wanted them to take it right then. They took the print with them (and) that was crucial. And then it was accepted into Competition at the Berlinale. So (then) the (Ministry) said they would ‘like to change the film’ to (better) represent Polish cinema at the Berlinale (ie use an alternative film, not Shivers). But the Berlinale supported me and stated ‘We have already published the catalogue with stills from this film, we cannot change them now, or tear out a page..’ but this was not true [laughs] and a German distributor also said if the film didn’t appear in the Berlinale, that they wanted to put on a limited release of the film in cinemas around the Berlinale anyway. So the Polish authorities, they had no choice and then the film won the Silver Bear.

AT And Escape from the Liberty Cinema.. What inspired this story?

WM After Martial Law came in… I felt badly, you know, I felt like a Rottweiler… that I couldn’t let it go.  I hated these people that (created) this Martial Law but I felt that for some years, being in this (angry) emotional state was not the right state to make this film, so I left it a while and then one day I (realised) I needed to find a special code to say what it is I want to say, but at the same time, I don’t want to make a film where the main character simply hates everybody; that it should be a bit ironic, a bit sarcastic you know, a bit crazy and I decided the main character needed to be a Censor.

Because for any artist, any writer, any filmmaker, they are of course the biggest enemy; several films were banned- some of them were even destroyed, so I decided to make the main character a Censor, because during this Communist period, everybody was (inevitably) involved in this regime. Of course, when there was Solidarity, then that was different, but when they came at you with tanks, then, you (toed the line). (So) let’s make a film about a guy who was involved in this system, but I (wanted) to see how he became a censor and also (illustrate that he is) still a human being.

No one could predict what was going to happen, but we felt that something was going to. It couldn’t stay as it was. So I sent the script to the Censor and the Deputy Minister called me in for a meeting and he said ‘this is like something from a Gogol play, you know’, he said ‘listen, it so beautiful, the images are from a Chagall painting, wonderful this small town..’ I said ‘why is it a small town?’ And he said, ‘yes of course, in a small town there is no censorship, but it’s not necessary that your character is a Censor, he could be a clerk.. or an office worker… he mustn’t be a Censor’. But I insisted… I thought ‘Either I will wait, or I will not make this film’. History helped me; what happened politically;
The DAY we finished shooting officially, the Polish Parliament (ended) censorship in Poland. Can you imagine what kind of party we had?!?!! [laughs]

AT It’s funny isn’t it when you set out to make a film, how sometimes amazing things can conspire to help you.

WM Exactly So! Very much, yes.

AT What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

WM That’s not a simple easy answer. I was not crazy about film and filmmaking. I was much more involved… as a teenager, I painted, I wrote some simple but funny poetry. I loved theatre. Film came later. When I painted I exhibited and even got a few prizes, but I felt that the (indicates)…

AT Ceiling was quite low.

WM …Ceiling was low, yes, exactly. And the same with poetry.
But I saw more possibilities as a Director- (In film) you need many halves… you needed to have a half of talent.. (and skills in) many different disciplines: imagination, literature, drama, images, actors and humanity. Then I said (with all of) these different halves, this is interesting to put together! So I came to film school when I was 18.  But it was too early. I got good grades, but it was too early (I was too young). The director has to have some (life) experience and personality. What kind of film can I make that will compare or have anything to say? You need to be able to say something personal as well, you know, because everybody lets talk about freedom about brutality but it’s all the same you know?

We all know the old plots, you know from Greek tragedy… but the tone, how you are telling it and what you are saying and how you balance your story makes a big difference. So the Directors personality is so important. So after (only) a year and a half, I left film school and went to University and studied History and Philosophy I quit, then I worked as a regular worker in the street and only then did I come back to the film school and then I studied. Before, I was a pupil but I wasn’t a student. Then I started making films and so then it becomes my dream. So it wasn’t from my childhood that this was what I wanted.

AT You grew into it.

WM I grew into it.

AT What inspires you to make a film, is it anything…

WM There are several sometimes strange sources. Sometimes it’s a book, sometimes a short news article, but very often I make quite alot of notes, nearly every day.

AT Thoughts?

WM Thoughts… observations, situations, dialogue, sometimes an image I remember and (it) is very interesting sometimes then to go through a copybook and look at these notes and ideas. Then, sometimes you can see something that later on you realise, maybe even a year later… you see that it can be important or a theme (evolving).

But very often I think much more about the characters than the plot. I believe that the plot you can invent. You sit down on your arse.. Concentrate.. And you can invent. But the characters… to feel the characters, not only know (them), that’s sort of a deeper understanding..

AT For them to be real…

WM Yeah, right. Real, unpredictable sometimes, very often…. for example when I made Escape From The Liberty Cinema When I found that the Censor (himself) could be my main character, then I tried to imagine myself being that main character.

AT And that’s what makes the film suddenly spring into being real because the Censor was originally an artist himself….

WM Right….

AT …Who then went over to the other side.

WM Exactly. When I teach, I usually advise students to shorten the distance between the author and their character; try to imagine himself as that person. Doesn’t matter who he or she is doesn’t matter if they are a bank robber… or a Minister.. try to imagine yourself to be in their position. Then, very often you escape from the cliché way of thinking.

(It is easy to say) that the Official is very tough and it is easy for him to make a decision. (But) Maybe he is frightened. Maybe he can be fired at any moment, so he is terrified to make a decision. Immediately the character becomes much more complex, more human and therefore more interesting. I think.

AT But also much more believable. So with this man (the Censor in Escape From The Liberty Cinema) he must have been full of ideals when he was young, wanting to be an artist, but he crashes headfirst into the reality of his Communist society.. those around him… and has a child he needs to feed..

WM Exactly. My main question – how to behave and how to be honest. How to survive. The Church, family, school, friends, they have a good attitude- they wish you no harm, but, at the same time they are saying to you ‘be as we are’. How (do you) survive and create your own personality?

My first nightmares.. 30s in Poland the church was strongly against this book (and) in the 70s, the church was still against this book, but I found in it this beautiful story about a child who is fighting to be free. To be himself. I envied this author (for writing) this story… that it wasn’t me. And here we are decades later and still we have the same problems, the same issues. So I decided to make this film that the church still is against. But it doesn’t matter. What can you do?

AT You made a decision to be a filmmaker, but on top of that you…  were very courageous. Do you feel that there is something about filmmaking that is about more than just being an entertainer?

WM Absolutely, yes…

AT Do you believe that making a film is also making a political statement?

WM I think that, yes. We are not only obliged, we are responsible. We cannot just talk (drivel), because we then make our society rubbish..

AT And film is a powerful medium..

WM Film is an extremely powerful medium. And of course I am not against comedy or entertainment and I like some of them as a viewer as well, but I also need to know where those films are when I want to talk about important issues and things in a serious way, or listen to someone scream through the screen… that somebody wants  to tell me something really important. These kinds of films need to be produced as well.

AT Talk to me about producers. How do you find working with them?

WM Now I’m not really happy that producers organise everything as well. Europe make mistakes. They see the American way of doing things and they/we accept this way without questioning it at all. Poland just accepted this method without question. But look what’s happened. I don’t know too many ‘Creative’ Producers. I fully agree to have a partner or a boss if the producer is a partner for me. If he knows what it is I want to say. If he knows what my script is about. If he knows which actor is really a great actor and not necessarily just a star at the moment. Then I will say right, ok, the producer can be in charge of this. But most of the time they think solely about the money, about distribution- and they take final cut and they change your film! I think that they’re just silly and that it is not ‘producing’.

AT So many producers call themselves ‘creative’, which actually means that they merely take creative control over the film, but don’t allow the real creatives the room to create.

WM You know, when I think about ‘creative’ producers… I once met I remember, David Puttnam; it was a private party and we talked… about theatre, music, art… but not about film. And when I left the party, I was walking down the street and I thought about it and realised that if I hadn’t known who he was and someone were to ask me ‘what job does that man do?’ I would say- maybe a writer, or a director- not a film director, but a theatre director, because they are usually far better educated than film directors… they have read more, etc., but never would I have said ‘he is a Producer’.

It’s absolutely a partnership and if (I were to) work with him, then the final cut can be his, because he is honest, he’s not stupid, he’s an educated man I respect, is sensitive…

AT Has integrity.

WM Exactly. But it is so rare. So I think that there is a need to educate the right producers and, as a matter of fact, the system needs to be more flexible than it currently is.

AT It seems to be run by the accountants, by the budget and the creative element is all but absent. There was a time when the creatives were left to go and do what they do best, but now there are so many execs all wanting a say… sorry. I’ve gone off topic.

WM No. I fully agree. Yes.

AT Do you know what’s next for you?

WM I am working on a script. But you know my problem is I am not very much interested in telling a compact, linear story.. I would like to… I am thinking about a film that would be like notes on a screen, but it is extremely difficult. if the audience accept the main character, then they are (involved) in the film, but I am a bit bored by this (kind of) fiction story-telling.

The way of telling a story… (formulaic) out of books… how to make the story Progression… ‘and there’s the Turning Point..’ so dull. Of course, it should not be boring, it has to be interesting, but this (also) does not mean that there is only one way to make something interesting.

AT Are there filmmakers that you like? Do you like Altman?

WM Yes I do, but I’m not so… I would say that I am much closer to literature than film.

AT So…

WM Some short stories. It doesn’t matter if it’s from the 19th Century, or from South American writers right now.  Some Czech stories I like also right now. But life is interesting, so I am not bored.

AT I think we have to wrap up now. Thank you so much…

WM Thank you. That was interesting.

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