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Shekhar Kapur: Why ‘2001’ Is My Genre Film Choice for IFFAM’s Crossfire Section

The Macao International Film Festival and Awards (IFFAM) features the Crossfire strand where six heavyweight directors choose a classic genre film to play at the festival. India’s Shekhar Kapur (“Bandit Queen,” “Elizabeth”) chose Stanley Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey” from 1968.

“I believe cinema is more poetry than prose and my response to cinema now, especially that which is coming out of Hollywood is that it is too dominated by completely overwritten scripts,” says Kapur.

“’2001’ has beautiful things in it, but what it does is it has spaces in the narrative and every time you watch it, you are filling the spaces in the narrative with your own imagination. So when I first watched it, I couldn’t make head or tail of it, I watched it as a kid. But it never left me, because those spaces never got filled. The imagery and the suggestions in the film were so powerful at that time, we’d never seen anything like it. The power of those images, the way they were placed and the mythic ideas of the monolith that would come and go, it evoked such myth and I couldn’t place it. I couldn’t quite explain it. But each time I watch it I come up with a different meaning.

“So it moves with my life. It moves with the understanding of my life and that’s what great poetry does, that’s what great painting does, that’s what a great film does, and we forget that all the time.

“That’s what great editing does. It fundamentally survives because the spaces the painter or the editor or the filmmaker has left is for you to imagine yourself in those spaces. And that’s one of the reasons, other than the fact that it is brilliantly made – some of the visual effects are still to be surpassed — the sheer detail of it.”

“Of course, that cut has become one of the most famous cuts in the world,” says Kapur. The filmmaker is referring to the match cut from a bone thrown in the air to a satellite floating in space. “I am still trying to understand the last 20 minutes of the film. The idea that you are eternal and timeless. I didn’t understand it then, but now I do, your birth, your death and the middle, actually, it is all going on at the same time, the whole idea of a drop within eternity and you are that drop – all those things now resonate with me. So each time I watch it, I’ve moved on in life – that’s what I love about it.”

“That’s why I chose ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’,” says Kapur. “I thought I’d watch it again, but I said no, I’ll sit with everybody and see what it is doing to me now, now that I have to talk about it. It will be a completely different experience.”

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