Tuesday, January 17, 2012


"When are you going to give me a job?", Angelina Jolie asked Pedro Almodóvar during an event that gathered all the candidates for Best Foreign Film at Golden Globes 2012.

"Don't worry, you're young", responded the director, visibly surprised by the confrontation.

"But one day you will?", insisted Jolie.

"Yes, definitely. This is a promise in front of the cameras", affirmed Almodovar.

It was with a combination of jealousy and amazement that I watched this exchange happen. Of course, the majority of the afternoon was considerably more serious, but within the first 5 minutes Jolie took the opportunity to do what any actress would; corner a world-class director and ask for a job. But Jolie was not attending the panel discussion, which took place at the Egyptian theater, as an actor. She was representing In the Land of Blood and Honey, her screenwriting and directorial debut. Almodóvar was representing the haunting and ingenious The Skin I Live In. Of course, Jolie and Almodóvar were in incredibly good company, joined by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Kid With a Bike), Asghar Farhadi's (A Separation), and a group of translators. Language barriers aside, many of the directors had similar assertions to make about their work - commenting on the political nature of their films and the place of film in the politics of their respective countries. Farhadi had some particularly poignant assertions to make about politics, which is a dangerous and delicate matter in his native Iran. When asked how he was able to raise the funds to make A Separation, the most critically acclaimed film of the year and now winner of the 2012 Golden Globe for best foreign film, Farhadi scoffed. He said he would not divulge the secrets that would unveil the politics behind filmmaking and, therefore, make the process seem less pure. He alluded to the fact that there are less-than-glamorous measures taken in order to make art in Iran, but the only important thing for us to do is watch the movie. When asked about the politics of In the Land of Blood and Honey, Jolie was more eager and generous to share her opinions (you can understand why). At the beginning, Jolie was apprehensive being an American filmmaker shooting a film about recent and tumultuous history in Bosnia. This is not a history of grandparents or past generations, this was the Bosnian War of the 1990s and the ever-present threat of sexual abuse to women. Jolie was nervous the crew would not be well-received. Much to her surprise, the Bosnian people embraced her and the film. Jolie sees the film as an educational movie, intended to bring awareness and information to the rest of the world. She sees the relationship between her two principal characters, Danijel and Ajla a metaphor for what was happening in the country as a whole. Farhadi responded to Jolie's claims, stating that no story he could ever tell would accurately represent an entire country of people.

Of course, Jolie and Farhadi had the two most politically charged films when compared with  Almodovar and the Dardenne brothers. The Dardenne brothers had some insightful comments about the rehearsal process for a film, which they approach like theater. Many of the directors present use a repertoire of actors, like a company instead of one-time gigs. Before the shoot, they do 40 days of full, physical rehearsals. They also prefer to work with untrained or discovered actors. Almodóvar discussed his signature style and how it is achieved. He puts his signature on every decision made in front of the camera, maintaining control over every aspect of the frame. He charmingly stated; "I am a frustrated artist, I am a frustrated set designer, I am a frustrated costume designer, I am a frustrated hairstylist, I am a frustrated musician..." and the list went on. Although the comment got a laugh it shows the involvement and importance Almodóvar places on even the smallest details in frame.

Another theme introduced was the question of realism vs. represented reality. Almodóvar, for example, chooses to show a heightened or idealized reality. This, he stated, comes from the mindset of a boy growing up in Franco's Spain. Unable to go to film school because of Franco's government, Almodóvar went to see American and Italian films to escape his reality. He taught himself everything he knows on a Super 8 camera. Film, he stated, is a means of escaping reality. "For example, Penelope in Volver. I'll tell you a secret. The jacket she wears is Dolce and Gabbana. She is a housekeeper, she would not be able to afford it, but it doesn't matter. It is high end but it looks like a tablecloth." Farhadi and the Dardenne brothers had contrasting arguments. Jean-Pierre Dardenne stated, "a film can never be realism because it is always a representation," but the brothers do try to achieve as heightened a sense of realism possible. Same was true of Jolie, who tried not to dress sets or use intricate lighting, but instead film the country exactly as she found it.

The event was an inspiring discussion from some of the most talented filmmakers alive. I felt lucky to witness the discussion and look forward to watching their next steps.

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