SAN SEBASTIAN — Director-producer-actress Carmen Chaplin is set to direct “Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World,” a theatrical documentary feature which will add a hardly-explored new facet to the creator of the Tramp, one of the most iconic cinema characters in popular consciousness, plumbing Chaplin’s Romani roots and heritage.
Marking the first time that the Chaplin family is involved at a deep creative and industrial level in a movie about Charles Chaplin, grand-daughter Carmen Chaplin is also co-writing the documentary’s screenplay with Amaia Remírez, a co-writer on “Another Day of Life,” a European Film Awards best animated feature winner.
Described in a statement by its producers as a documentary which “radically reinterprets Chaplin’s oeuvre from a Romani perspective and examines the persecution of gypsies through his lens,” “Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World” is produced by Madrid-based Wave of Humanity’s Stany Coppet, Dolores Chaplin and Ashim Bhalla, Remírez at San Sebastian’s Kanaki Films, a lead producer on “Another Day of LIfe,” and Nano Arrieta and Silvia Martínez at Madrid’s Atlantic Pictures.
For what will be its first film, Wave of Humanity has reached an agreement with the Chaplin family through the Chaplin Office in Paris to make the film with its partners, Coppet said.
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“Charlie Chaplin, A Man of the World” will be made in association with France’s MK2 which owns rights to Chaplin’s movies. Currently in development, it is scheduled to go into production in the first quarter of 2020, he added.
“Determined to subvert audience expectations of a documentary on the silent film master,” “the storytellers envisage a dynamic fusion of animation, film excerpts, interviews with artists and Chaplin’s children, and cinema verité footage of Roma life today coming together to a soundtrack of new interpretations of Chaplin’s original compositions,” the filmmakers said in a statement.
Enrolling two outstanding Basque talents, ace cinematographer Gorka Gómez Andreu – a 2017 ASC Award Winner for “House of Others” and Camerimage Debut Award winner for “Chaika” – will serve as DP on the doc feature. “Another Day of Life” co-director Raul de la Fuente will be its editor.
Chaplin himself made no secret in his autobiography that his father was half-Romani, as was his mother. Chaplin did not have a birth certificate. He kept locked in his bedside table a letter, discovered in 2012 by daughter Victoria Chaplin, he received late in life claiming that he was born in a Gypsy caravan at Black Patch Park in Smethwick, Staffordshire.
“He was very conscious of his Romani heritage. He told my father and his other children that they had Romani heritage. It was something that he was proud of but was very much overlooked,” Carmen Chaplin told Variety at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Romani roots may help to explain, along with other factors, Chaplin’s sense of identity, and creation of his best known character, the Tramp, as well as his opposition to Hitler. It may in other ways have influenced his films, Carmen Chaplin argued.
“Charles Chaplin was a self taught musician and that was very Romani. When you tell Roma people that Charlie was Romani they say ‘obviously,’” she added. “They can tell that in his sense of humor, his way of telling a story, the tragic comedy in his films, and their music.”
Roma people form the largest minority in Europe, Remírez said. “That the most recognizable representation of humanity, the Tramp, was created by a Roma and all around the globe people relate to the character is a highly interesting concept we want to explore.”
Interviewees look set to include members of the Chaplin family, stars who relate to or have Romani roots, and other representatives of Romani culture and experts such as Toni Gatlif and Stochelo Rosenberg. “Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World” looks set to deliver a withering portrait of Romanis’ social acceptance past and present.
“Wandering in Bucharest years ago I became fascinated by the stray dogs and gypsy children.As they scavenged for food whilst hiding from the cops, the gypsy children struck me as being straight out of ‘The Kid,’ [Chaplin’s 1921 silent film]m” Carmen Chaplin recalled.
“I recounted what I’d seen to the Romanian people closest to me. To my utter shock they condemned these children as criminals and low-lifes. This encounter with anti-gypsy stigma stayed with me: I saw that otherwise pleasant individuals could also view other people as worthless and in fact barely human.”