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Int’l Helmers: Film equals politics

Directors discussed censorship, character vs. story

Six international helmers agreed Sunday that it’s nearly impossible to separate art and politics.

At the International Directors: Artistic Expression, Cinematic Dialogues, Global Views panel of the Variety Village Cannes Conference Series, Faouzi Bensaidi (“A Thousand Months”) stated “film is politics and politics is film. There is a political dimension in every film.”

Joao Botelho (“The Woman Who Believed She Was President of the USA”) said, “I still believe in the class struggle. Every time I saw a Lubitsch comedy I thought of the class struggle. The politics are in the position of the camera.”

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz (“James’ Journey to Jerusalem”) finds it “very hard to think of a film which doesn’t have a political connection.”

“Kitchen Stories” helmer Bent Hamer agreed, adding “a film which functions is always larger than a political view.”

At the Sunday session, Samira Makhmalbaf (“Five in the Afternoon”) launched a spirited attack on what she called “the lies of satellite TV for not offering the voice and life of ordinary people. They lie to us, they are the voices of governments and nations.”

The group tackled other issues as well. For Yu Lik Wai (“All Tomorrow’s Parties”) the biggest issue is that of “censorship and, what is more dangerous, self-censorship. We do it subconsciously, too. I try to avoid it but to a certain extent I censor myself.”

Makhmalbaf said the situation in Iran had improved and “although it’s very hard not to self-censor I try my best. Maybe because I’m young and rude!”

New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell, the panel moderator, asked if art has to provoke. Most agreed yes, with the answers including Bensaidi’s “It must be rude. There is always a rebel side to any artist” and Botelho’s “you have to provoke.”

Alexandrowicz denied he provokes and Hamer suggested, “I think film should try to reflect the director’s personal view. If it requires rudeness he should do it.”

The group also mulled the issue of which comes first, character or story.

“Narrative is for kids,” Botelho said. “I identify with the ideas of the characters.” He then left the room for a smoke via “John Wayne” and accusing Cannes of being a “bordello!”

Bensaidi stressed the importance of the situations while Alexandrowicz compared film to being “like a machine. Story and character can be tools in this machine.”

Makhmalbaf waxed maternal, preferring “ugly babies who can breathe to beautiful babies who can’t and, for me, my movie must be alive.”

Yu Lik Wai worried about “today’s uniformity of film language which terrifies me.”

Bent Hamer then invited audience to “come to Norway and make a gay Viking film!” as long as everyone sticks to “their own views and represent(s) them personally.”

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