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Sunday
Aug262012

TFF 2012 GUEST DIRECTOR ON TARKOVSKY CLASSIC: THE GEOFF DYER INTERVIEW 

British-born Geoff Dyer (pictured, below) was offered the role of Guest Director of the 2012 Telluride Film Festival following the publication of his book ‘Zona’, a brilliant exploration of Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic 1979 film Stalker and its impact on the author’s life. “Zona is one of the best books ever written on a single film,” said Tom Luddy, co‐founder and co‐director of TFF. During his visit to the Sydney Writer’s Festival earlier this year, Dyer sat with SCREEN-SPACE to discuss his obsession with the great Russian work and its place in film history:  

 

When, where and, perhaps most importantly, who were you when Stalker first impacted you?

I saw it when I was in my early 20’s, so about 30 years ago, when it was first released in the west in 1981. In my time in university I had seen a lot of the canonical works of film history, so I was very up to speed with things. I guess, most important of all, I was used to this idea that really great works of art often had a little quality of boredom attached to them. I got very used to things moving very slowly. I found it a bit frustrating to watch and I went away from it, not knowing it was one of those life-changing experiences, but the film never quite left me. I’ve found that that is not an uncommon experience with Stalker. Goodness knows I’ve done other things in the last thirty years but one of the things I’ve continued to do is see the film over and over again.

Another Tarkovsky work, Solaris, holds a similar fascination for me. I must be frank and state I found Stalker (pictured, right) a challenging film to get through.

It is so interesting that you should say that because I’ve always felt the way about Solaris that you feel about Stalker! There are amazing bits in it, but I’m in that minority of Tarkovsky admirers who finds Solaris a bit of a bore. I think the Steven Soderbergh remake, with Natascha McElhone and George Clooney, is pretty good.

Admittedly, I was fortunate to have seen Solaris on the bigscreen and have only ever seen Stalker on television.

I think there is something really special about seeing the film, and seeing any serious film, in the cinema. It demands such an absolute, complete immersion in it so that you can totally transact with it and seeing it in the cinema makes that easier. But also there is something about the quality of the images and seeing them projected in a cinema. I don’t mean to be rude about your television but I think any television struggles to convey Stalker. The first time that it was shown on British television in, I guess the 1980’s, Channel 4, a very serious channel, transmitted the whole film in black-&-white. This meant that one of the great moments in cinema, when they get to The Zone and the film switches in that amazing, beautiful way from black-&-white to colour...well, the Channel 4 broadcast never let the characters and viewers get to The Zone. They were stuck in this monochrome world for the duration.

I came across this wonderful quote of yours, in which you state, “If you give yourself over to Tarkovsky-time, the helter skelter mayhem of the Bourne Ultimatum will seem more tedious than L’Avventura.”

Time is sped up so much so that we have all become habituated to films and TV shows that are cut very quickly. Stalker is a long film with only 142 shots in it, thereabouts; just these really long takes. Now, I don’t like boring films, but generally speaking the last 20 minutes of these Hollywood blockbuster when things just start blowing up and any psychological element of the film is just abandoned is incredibly boring. Tarkovsky said something very instructive and that was, “When you expand a take in a film, people’s first reaction is boredom, but expand it further and the scene takes on a quality of attention, then expand it even further and you can deliver (your audience) into a trance-like state.” (American composer) John Cage said something similar. And think about those long tracks by (Australian jazz band) The Necks or about classical Indian music, pieces of a fantastically expanded duration. Once you get over that friction of wanting time to move, then you do this beautiful thing where you move into a kind of timeless zone. To loop this point back to the film, once they get to The Zone there is no time there; it is very difficult to tell how long they have spent there.

Do readers run the risk of missing out on their own ‘Tarkovsky awakening’? Of experiencing Stalker only through your book rather on their own, via their own perceptions?

In my books, I’ve tended not to give an objective account of what I’ve written about because I don’t feel that when I decide to write a book I haven’t sworn an oath, I’m not a witness at a trial. I’m just giving my very prejudiced, very partial, highly contingent version of things. One of the weird things is that, by being as faithful as I am to that principle, maybe in the course of the book I’ll end up articulating certain feelings about the film which are shared by people who have seen it in very different circumstances and who bring to it a very different set of cultural expectations.

The New York Times said that, “Just as Stalker is about the artist himself so too is Zona.” Is it too grand a notion to suggest that Zona is Stalker remade in your image, through the prism of your existence?

(Laughs) Yeah, I guess, maybe. There is a paradox at work because I am always trying to make the writing of a book come close to sharing some of the qualities of the film. How does that work in this instance? Well, one of the qualities of The Zone is that, allegedly, it has these magical properties and is always reconfiguring itself to the beliefs and expectations that people bring to it. So I quite like the idea that Stalker maybe doesn’t exist in some absolute way but that is itself reconfiguring to where or when or who you are in your life when you see it. Zona is very much my experience of it, my version of it.

Finish this sentence. Stalker is what it is to me because...

Oh, because I can’t imagine what my life would be without my having seen it.

And, out of curiosity, what’s your second favourite film?

Well, in all seriousness I would probably say another Tarkovsky film, Mirror. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, probably Where Eagles Dare (pictured, right). Some people don’t believe Where Eagles Dare to be the work of genius that I believe it to be (Laughs).

Friday
Aug102012

ANTI-BULLY ADVOCATE CAPTURES TEEN TURMOIL: THE LEE HIRSCH INTERVIEW

Lee Hirsch is a filmmaker whose works provide a strong voice for those that can’t otherwise be heard. His 1993 debut, the short The Last and Only Survivor of Flora, intimately captured the memories of a 94 year-old Polish Jew; his first feature, the acclaimed Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony, celebrated the musicians who fought apartheid in song. His latest, Bully, stands strong for the down-trodden and abused children in America’s high-school (though the scourge of bullying is certainly universal). Attending the Melbourne International Film Festival, Hirsch sat down with SCREEN-SPACE to discuss the film and the tide of social change he hopes it will engender.

You have been very open about the victimisation you endured at school. How did the experience shape who you are today and lead to the work you do?

I think I shut it out for a long time. I think it drew me to the kinds of movies I make. It drew me to activism, to stories about the underdog. I got out of school really quickly and didn’t go to college for a whole year, instead just throwing myself into film which is where I found some meaning.”

In a nation with an estimated 13million bullied children, how did the production zero in on the subjects that made it into the film?

The biggest breakthrough was getting access to a school. The school came first; having a place where we could film and be in the hallways, be allowed in the principal’s office and in the lives of the teachers and students was the hardest to source. When we got the ‘yes’ in Iowa it was a huge breakthrough.

And the decision to focus on Alex?

Alex (pictured, right, with Hirsch) we met on the first day and somehow we just felt he was bullied, though a lot of kids in that school were dealing with it. Other kids we found because their parents had written in to websites or posted YouTube videos about what they were going through. We found Ja’Meya’s story just be searching Google News.

How did the school in particular and the community in general react when the bullying that took place there was exposed?

I think they have been pretty amazing in standing by this movie and standing by their choice to open themselves up to potentially be embarrassed. It takes a lot of courage to be willing to let people see your dirty laundry, so to speak. It sparked a lot of intense conversation in the district, in the school community. At one point there was a full-page editorial in the newspaper in Sioux City; a Sunday paper, front page, top to bottom, that said ‘Bullying Must Stop’ and that that attitude must start here, in our town. I think it’s been cathartic for them. I think they are happy that it is not in theatres anymore (laughs).

One of the saddest moments in Bully is when Alex’s sister reveals she is being singled-out for abuse just for being his sister. It destroys the sanctuary Alex has as a member of a tight, loving family.

The family unit is so important, it is all a lot of these kids have. I love The Libbys, I think they are an amazing family. But, yeah, some of those scenes are just heartbreaking. For me, that scene between Alex and his mum, when he says, “If they are not my friends, then what friends do I have?”; wow. Alex is such a good kid, so funny and likable, it is really emotional to watch him. Sorry, I got off topic, but my point is adults sometimes just don’t know what to do. Alex has Aspbergers, which complicates things; he is IAP, which requires a whole plan to cope with. His life is made up of all these intricacies that is very hard to navigate.

When Alex’s parents become aware of his suffering, their visit to the school leads to the film’s most infuriating scene.

That experience of families going to schools and saying, “This is happening to my kid and what are we going to do about it?” and then getting brushed off is really intense and really real. On our website are a lot of resources to help parents navigate that.

I suppose the greatest result would be for Bully to become a kind of time-capsule piece, a document of a world we once lived in but, thankfully, doesn’t exist anymore. Is that reality closer?

Yeah, I think we are getting there. I think the notion that we have, over time, put things behind us (is a positive). At some point, mankind figured out that it was probably best that we didn’t drink and drive. Generally speaking, most people adhere to that; next it will be texting and driving.  Domestic abuse is something that was very similar to bullying, at a certain point, where victims thought they were alone and that no one would back them, but society changed for the better. I see bullying taking the same course.

The film makes the point that if one person stands up, others will be inspired and soon “we will have an army”. What are the first steps the individual and the community can take to start fighting against bullying?

If you’re a student, look around. See the kid who is isolated and reach out to them and take a stand. For communities, I think it is important to create conversation on the topic of bullying. We are working with the US Conference of Mayors to facilitate town-wide conversations. Hold the Town Hall and get educators, experts, kids and ask these questions. Screen the film together and then ask these questions. Just talking about it is a really big first step.

Visit the website The Bully Project for further information regarding anti-bullying initiatives. Contact Village Roadshow on 02 9552 8600 for information on how to arrange community screenings of Bully.

Monday
Jul232012

CRISPIN GLOVER ON WERNER HERZOG

A chat with Hollywood iconoclast Crispin Glover turned into a breathless account of one man's admiration for his idol, German 'bad boy' auteur Werner Herzog.


Having just wrapped his tour of Australia, many of those who viewed his one-man show/screening sessions will be intrigued by the world-view of a certain Crispin Hellion Glover. To say that he is ‘idiosyncratic’, ‘eccentric’, even ‘slightly loopy’, is an understatement.

But he is also a passionate artist and advocate of free artistic expression, a standpoint that has not only put him occasionally offside with Hollywood power-players (he bailed on Back to the Future II over issues of ‘character integrity’ with Robert Zemeckis) but also seen him align himself with other unique talents in global cinema. One such influence was the great Werner Herzog (pictured, right).

Given the opportunity to interview Glover prior to his arrival in Perth for the first leg of his performance trip, I raised our shared passion for the films of Werner Herzog. Specifically, I posed the question “Herzog has said that ‘Dreams and nightmares do not follow the rules of political correctness. Is that also relevant to your films?” In particular, I commented upon the similarities his films What Is It? and It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE share with the German director’s Even Dwarfs Started Small.

It was as if Glover’s subconscious floodgates had been opened with this most innocuous of questions. In full, here is his response (the remainder of the interview can be read at SBS Film):  

“I had toured with my Big Slide Show (a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books he has authored - Ed.) and a rough cut of the film. Norm Hill had organized my show in Seattle. I spoke with him about my interest in Herzog’s work. I had also met Herzog in 1990 at the Venice Film Festival because the publicist for the film he was there with was the same publicist for a Jersey Skolimowski film I had acted in that was only released in Poland and France (30 Door Key, aka Ferryduke, 1991 – Ed.) I had told the publicist how much I admired Herzog’s films and he arranged a dinner that was just me and Herzog and the publicist and a woman the publicist knew. Herzog was very easy to talk to and it was a great dinner. Years later Norm Hill was producing the DVD of Herzog’s films for Anchor Bay and he invited me to do a number of commentaries for the DVDs with himself and Herzog and I chose to do Fata Morgana and Even Dwarfs Started Small because those two had influence on What is it? in different ways. It is something I am very proud of in my career to have done. Years later in 2005, when I premiered What is it? at Sundance, coincidentally Herzog was premiering Grizzly Man and I went and saw his premiere and he came and saw What is it? and was incredibly supportive and has been very kind. I am very grateful to him for that. I am also very grateful to David Lynch who, years before I made What is it?, had agreed to executive produce It Is Mine (the as-yet-unproduced final film in Glover’s trilogies - Ed). This ended up leading to me making What is It? I have seen Herzog at various functions and at my house and even at the airport over the years and it always a great pleasure to speak with him and get tidbits of insight in to how he thinks about filmmaking.

As soon as I got my driver’s license when I was 16 in 1980 I attended screenings at revival theatres that were quite popular in LA before VHS competition cleared many of them away. Many of these revival theatres no longer exist such as, one of my favourites, the beautiful Fox Venice with a wide cinemascope screen on Lincoln Blvd. The films I saw that played in these venues tended to question culturally accepted truths with performances that underscored these concepts. Films played such as Ken Russel’s The Devils, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown, Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Cassanova, John Cassavete’s A Woman Under the Influence, Orson Wells’ F is for Fake and Citizen Kane, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sunset Blvd, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living, Todd Browning’s Freaks, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove, Werner Herzog’s Aguirre Wrath of God, Even Dwarves Started Small and Fata Morgana. I was a regular attendee of David Lynch’s Eraserhead (pictured, above) at midnight on Fridays at the Nuart. I studied actors giving performances like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider, Timothy Carey in Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, Charles Laughton in The Hunchaback of Notre Dame Brad Dourif in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Wise Blood, Peter Lorre in M Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh and Klaus Kinski in Aguirre Wrath of God. These films and performances characterized the atmosphere of cinema and acting I believed I was stepping into as a young actor. 

By 1982, at age 18, I began to act in feature films. At this time I believed contemporary film’s main purpose was to question suspect things in our culture. I enthusiastically supported the idea of questioning our culture. To help support the idea, I also questioned the film industry’s and media’s messages.  Sometimes I have felt scorned and isolated; other times I felt accepted and admired. Then, at one point, in the midst of my career, I realized that the types of films the industry was financing and distributing had changed almost diametrically from the types of films I had watched when I was 18".

Monday
Jul232012

THE 61st MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

A buff's paradise awaits those willing to brave the bracing early-August cold of the southern capital. SCREEN-SPACE takes a brief glimpse at this year's MIFF ahead of the extensive daily coverage we will offer for the duration of the event, which begins August 2 and wraps up August 19.

The 2012 edition of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), centred at the iconic Forum Theatre (pictured, above) on busy Flinders Street but taking place at 8 venues citywide, may very well pride itself on an expansive programme of global cinematic delights, but takes its status as an Australian institution ver seriously. The decision to allot the two most prestigious slots – the opening and closing night sessions – to highly-anticipated Aussie pics is a fervently nationalistic nod and a gesture that honours 61 years of happy co-reliance between MIFF and the local industry.

Kicking off the Festival will be Wayne Blair’s Cannes hit The Sapphires, further priming the marketplace for what many are predicting will be the year’s biggest film when it goes wide on August 9; an 11 strong contingent of cast and crew notables (among them stars Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy) will attend. The always-debauched closing night revelry will by fired-up by PJ Hogan’s Mental, which sees him reunited with Muriel’s Wedding muse Toni Collette.

Other indicators that MIFF remains focussed on Australian content include 11 local works that make up this year’s Australian Showcase, including the world premieres of Boyd Hickin’s Save Your Legs, Luke Walker’s Lasseter’s Bones, Alan Rosenthals’s The First Fagin and Jeffery Walker’s made-for-TV crime drama Jack Irish – Bad Debts, starring Guy Pearce; a selection of works from indigenous artists (amongst them Tiffany Parker’s Scar and Leah Purcell’s She, Say) presented by Blackfella Films; Ian Darling’s stirring profile of one of great musical poets, Paul Kelly: Stories of Me; and, 27 locally-produced shorts across 8 divergent strands dedicated to the short-film form.

International cinema has been afforded a vast platform at MIFF 2012. The strands that offer an insight into the state of global filmmaking are:
Telescopes: Visions from the EU – A selection of 12 films that will be judged by representatives from the Film Critics Circle of Australia and awarded the Telescope Award; they include, Oslo, 31. August (Norway), The Red and the Black (France), The Legend of Kaspar Hauser (Italy; below), Palaces of Pity (Portugal) and L (Greece; pictured, right);
Through The Labyrinth: Latin American Cinema – Screening will be the Sundance-honoured Las Acacias, drug-running drama Miss Bala and two searing portraits of the volatile student politics movement, Celina Murga’s documentary Normal School and Santiago Mitre’s feature The Student.
Facing North: Swedish Cinema in Focus – A two-tiered examination of Swedish film. Criminal Record looks at five films from the region that have helped defined the Crime Film, including 1938s A Woman’s Face, 1976s The Man on the Roof and 2010s Easy Money. In the contemporary strand, Fijona Jonuzi’s Pure and Patrick Edlund’s Flicker are highlights.
And Asian cinema is prominently featured in two programming initiatives - Accent on Asia, a 20 film strong overview of Eastern film culture, including classic Takashi Miike works and the developing cult-hit, Vulgaria (pictured, left); and, Street Level Visions, a celebration of independent produced Chinese documentary makers.


 
Retrospective events this year include 70s New Hollywood Comedy, a revisiting of some comedy classics from the period, including works by Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude), Woody Allen (Take the Money and Run), Mike Nichols (The Fortune), Carl Reiner (Where’s Poppa) and Albert Brooks (Modern Romance); 5 archival prints, supplied by the Cinematheque Francais, will lead a celebration of the impressionistic French filmmaking master Jean Epstein; and, The Last Romantic, a selection of Leo Carax’s most divisive works  (Bad Blood, 1986; Pola X, 1999) designed to put his latest, Holy Motors (screening at MIFF) into a career context.

The reputation that MIFF has cultivated amongst the international cinephiles has always ensured the roster of global talent is a highlight of the event. Amongst the 33 notaries scheduled to attend in 2012 are acclaimed UK historian/critic Adrian Wotton, who will present the Charles Dickens on Film screenings and lectures; a return visit by script analysis expert Wendall Thomas, who will hold four masterclasses dealing with the intricacies of script writing; and, key talent such as directors Benh Zeitlin (Beast of the Southern Wild), Bobcat Goldthwait (God Bless America), Ben Lewin (The Sessions), Lee Hirsch (Bully) and Axel Petersen (Avalon).

To get your MIFF 2012 experience started, here is a selection of SCREEN-SPACE reviews and interviews. Please bookmark this page and check back regularly as we aim to provide coverage leading up to the August 2 opening night and then every day from the event, which we will be attending in full:
Golden Slumbers
: Interview with director Davy Chou.
The Sapphires
: Directed by Wayne Blair, starring Deborah Mailman and Chris O'Dowd.
Bully
: Directed by Lee Hirsch; interview with Lee Hirsch.
Maniac: Directed by Franck Khalfoun, starring Elijah Wood.
Killer Joe: Directed by William Friedkin, starring Matthew McConnaughey, Emile Hirsch.
Postcards from the Zoo: Directed by Edwin, starring Ladya Cheryl, Nicholas Saputra.
Side by Side: Directed by Chris Kenneally, featuring Keanu Reeves.
¡Vivan las Antipodas!: Directed by Victor Kossakovsky.
Safety Not Guaranteed: Directed by Colin Trevorrow, starring Audrey Plaza, Mark Duplass.
The Imposter: Directed by Bart Layton.
A Monster in Paris: Directed by Bibo Bergeron.
Bestiaire: Directed by Denis Côté.

Friday
Jul062012

CHOU'S SLUMBER AWAKENS AUDIENCES TO CAMBODIAN CLASSICS

Paris-based filmmaker Davy Chou was born into a cinematic heritage that largely exists today in the memories of aging artisans. His grandfather was Van Chann, one of the leading film producers from Cambodia’s golden age of cinema, which ran from 1960 through to its demise at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in the 1975. When the brutal rebel forces stormed Phnom Penh, theatres were destroyed, actors and filmmakers were slaughtered in the hundreds and a vast film history was systematically destroyed. In his film Golden Slumbers, Chou recounts the time when Cambodian cinema was the pulse of a proud and progressive nation. Softly-spoken but passionate and forthright, the young director spoke with SCREEN-SPACE when in Sydney for the film’s Sydney Film Festival premiere; it screens this week as part of Perth’s Revelations Film Festival.  

What is your earliest recollection of seeing Cambodian cinema?

One day I went to my aunt’s house, with my mum, and my aunt was very excited because she had just received a VHS from the US with all Cambodian films. Everybody was very excited as we wanted to know if it was the film of my grandfather because for 35 years we hadn’t seen any of the films with my grandfather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t those films, it was two other films. We watched the first film and it was very strange; I couldn’t speak Khmer and it was in black and white with this kind of redubbed voices from the 1990. But there was a trailer between the two films and it was a trailer for a film of my grandfather.

Golden Slumbers is a beautiful looking film, shot with incredible artistry. It is not that common amongst low-budget documentaries that the finished product is so polished.

We did everything we could to raise one’s imagination of the films; that was the main purpose of my film. I didn’t want to show the old films because I wanted to be faithful to Cambodia as it was when I arrived there, where the old films are not shown anymore. So even if the films had not existed for 40 years, I wanted to make (the memory) of them seem very vivid and real, and I did that with my use of sound and image and really concentrating on things like cinematography. At the end, I wanted the audience to have felt that they had seen the films even if I had nothing to show. (pictured, right, Chou with the film's Yvon Hem, Dy Saveth, Ly You Sreang and Ly Bun Yim)

You were born and bred in France and did not visit Canbodia until your mid 20s. Recount for us what the experience of reconnecting with your genealogical homeland was like.

I was naive in thinking it wasn’t going to change my life when, of course, it did. I didn’t know the culture, I didn’t speak the language but I had this strong desire to learn all that I could, mostly to honour and understand my parent’s heritage. Also, I had this film project and I thought I had to know the country, even just a little. But by the end of my time there, I felt very much part of the people and the culture, which was unusual because I was still a Westerner, born in France, as you say. I met a lot of family there and also formed relationships with the four main characters in the film, who all became like aunts and uncles. When I can back to France I had not expected to have been changed so much.

Did the impetus for Golden Slumbers come from that visit or had you begun the pre-production process? Was that trip essential in terms of research, for example?

Of course, I needed to make the research there because there is nothing outside of there. But even in Cambodia, on my first trip in 2008, I couldn’t find films there. I went to the markets, I went to the Bophana Centre, which is the archive building in Phnom Penh; nothing. Then one guy, a French guy working in the archive, said to me, “You know this website, right?” and I said “Which website”. And he showed me this amazing blog, written in French by a Cambodian who moved to France after the Khmer Rouge, and he had on this blog the entire filmography of Cambodian cinema. It was all there – by year, casting, music. From that website, I was able to access the surviving films, around 25 or 30 films, I think, all of very bad quality. That was in France, but back in Cambodia the biggest resource I had was just talking to the people. And not just the people who made the films but also the population who remember the films. (pictured, above, Chou preparing to film actress Dy Saveth)

I understand that the population was integral in helping you locate the old theatres sites you visit in the film.

I had to talk to the population just to find the buildings that were once the theatres, because now, as you see in the film, they have all been turned into restaurants and pool halls and so on. The filmmakers couldn’t help me with that, because they only knew of the three main theatres (where films were premiered). But it was the population who took me around, pointing out “This was a theatre” and “This was a theatre.”It was a reconstruction of a memory in a very collective process, because everybody brought one story that helped us imagine that the past was once like this. It had been so destroyed that, at the beginning, it was very hard to understand.

How important was the national cinema to the people of Cambodia in the pre-Khmer Rouge period?

They say that before 1960 there were films showing in Phnom Penh, Indian films and Chinese films, but the most popular form of entertainment was traditional theatre. But when Cambodian films came out, they became very popular, very quickly. It had to do with a love of their own culture; they were very proud to see Cambodian actors in big theatres. But I have to say that the political context was very important as well. With communism starting in 1960 and ended in 1975, people always talk about the same period for films, from 1972 to especially 1975, when the nation was in the middle of a civil war and the Khmer Rouge were getting closer and closer to Phnom Penh. It was very dangerous and people from Phnom Penh couldn’t go outside the city limits, so movies were the only form of entertainment for them. And many of the big movie fans I spoke to were teenagers then, so you can understand, their lives seen through the context of war, why film was so important and so unforgettable for them. One of the cinephiles, at the end (of the film), says he forgot the face of his parents but not the faces of the actors. That is because of this special feeling that, for him, cinema was everything, I guess.

Western cultures like Australia and the US and your homeland of France have very clear chronological histories of their film culture’s development that each generation draws upon. Yet Cambodia is missing a huge chunk of its history. How is that impacting the young Cambodian filmmakers of today?

First of all, there are not too many filmmakers in Cambodia. There is no film school, no one teaching film at the moment, but I think, well, I hope that is going to change. I know some young filmmakers there, and they have heard of the great years of Cambodian cinema, mostly from their parents, but they don’t have access to the films and there are no books, so.... But I think it is a bridge to build again. That is not really the purpose of my film, but if it can help in that way, that would be good and interesting. The link that has been broken between the old generation and this new one should not have been broken. Should a new film school open, so much has changed in filmmaking since that great time, many might think the surviving filmmakers should not be teachers, that techniques have changed too much. But I think a place should be found for them because they are the keepers of the film history of their country. 

Golden Slumbers has found tremendous favour with critics and audiences since you completed the film in 2010. That is a long journey for you. Did you have any notion that it would be so embraced in so many different cultures?

It is hard for me to imagine a time before Golden Slumbers (laughs)! I never imagined the film would have had this sort of impact or been this successful. Before I made the film, I would tell people I was making a documentary about Cambodian cinema and they would say “Ok....” (laughs). But, in the end, they realise it is a very universal theme. Everybody loves cinema, every country has a cinema, so the experience of imagining what it would be like if that cinema was lost...well, that gets people interested.

Golden Slumbers will screen at MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL on Friday 10th August at 6.30pm and Tuesday 14th August at 4.30pm.