MARRAKECH– Movie powerhouses, led by Martin Scorsese and his fellow Marrakech film fest jury members including Fatih Akin, Paolo Sorrentino, Park Chan-wook and Marion Cotillard, exchanged thoughts on world cinema, personal inspirations and the role of films in society during a surprisingly scholarly presser on Nov. 30.
“When I was growing up, I was watching movies all the time, I couldn’t play sports because I had asthma so I would watch lots of films in theaters and on television, foreign films too; not just Italian Neorealism films.”
“One day I saw a film about a small family living in a village in India, in black and white, dubbed in English with commercials; I was immediately drawn into this film (…) and to the people in the background,” reminisced Scorsese, alluding to Satyajit Ray’s “The World of Apu.” “It opened up for me a whole new world and made me fascinated by that culture.”
Added Scorsese, “It’s refreshing sometimes to see a film, whether from Mexico or Romania, which forces me to look at it in a different way. First I’m not interested, but suddenly I’m taken to another world.”
“This is what cinema can do in a middle-class area: I had no books and cinema was my window to the outside world.
“That’s why I think we need to preserve films, especially now that young people can see a film made in 1931 on a computer without getting a sense of history and the context in which these films are made.”
Scorsese also discussed his attachment to Morocco and the Marrakech film festival.
“I made two feature films in Morocco that are close to my heart — ‘The Last Temptation’ of Christ and “Kundun” — and they’re passion projects. When I made “Kundun” it was a very personal time for me: life was changing, my father had passed away, my mother was dying, and I felt a very strong connection with the actual landscape, the architecture, the people and the culture of Morocco.”
“So to be here in Marrakech at this festival is very important because it’s a good crossroads of all film industries from all over the world — from Asia, South America, France. It brings people from all over the world who are here to meet and exchange ideas, discuss, argue and it’s a showcase for international films which we don’t get to see much in the U.S.”
Addressing her exile from Iran, Golshifteh Farahani said the Iranian government disapproved of her “collaborating with Americans.”
“The whole mission of art is reunite and I realized as an actress from Iran that I couldn’t do that because of my hair and my skin. Things are now opening up in Iran with the new president but I need to see more reforms. I’m still being told that I provoke the new generation. I hope that one day we can all go back.”
Reacting to Farahani’s testimony, Morrocan helmer Narjiss Nejjar (“Les yeux secs”) said, “Movies are weapons of mass construction. I realize more and more through what I’m seeing here at this festival that Morocco is a cultural exception within the Muslim world.”
“When I hear Golshifteh I realize how lucky we are to be here in Morocco and be able to express ourselves and have that kaleidoscope of movies and people. I feel grateful.”
Asked what he was working on, Akin said he was working on a Western movie inspired by John Ford’s “The Searchers,” about Turkish immigrants who come to the U.S.
“With each film, I try to escape from this German-Turkish trap. I really want to entertain, do genre stuff. But somehow I always get pulled back into that trap.”
Added Akin, “Turkey is my parents and I love my parents and I love that country and I don’t want what’s happening in Iran or Yugoslavia to happen in Turkey. I try hard not do politics but it’s difficult.”
Cotillard, meanwhile, spoke about the elements she looks for in movies. “Films are about different creative forces coming together, it’s not just about your part or the director. The rest of the cast is also very important — if the actors are not fully committed it’s difficult to get into the story.”