The five nominated directors in Oscar’s international feature film category had their movies selected to represent their countries. But for Norwegian director Joachim Trier, whose film “The Worst Person in the World” is in part an intimate look at life in his home city of “Oslo,” the honor of getting selected for the category is more about getting to show the specifics of his own life and inspire viewers across the world to do the same.
“I’ve been shooting film since I was a kid,” Trier said at the Variety International Film Festival. “Before I could write, I had a camera in my hand. I was lucky. I was one of those people who had parents who allowed me to shoot on Super 8 and stuff. So to me, it’s always been about showing something specific. And to show the streets I grew up in, show characters that I love or created. And that’s what it’s about. And if that can inspire people from one country over, five countries over, somewhere else to do their own specific type of cinema, their own shape, and form of what a movie should be, that would be an honor for me. More than just thinking about the national aspect.”
Trier was joined by Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who received a nomination for his film “Drive My Car;” Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, who directed “Flee;” Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, recognized for “The Hand of God;” and Bhutanese director Pawo Choyning Dorji, recognized for “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom.” In a panel at the Miami International Film Festival, the five directors discussed their nominations and worked on the films with Variety film awards editor Clayton Davis. The panel was introduced by Jaie Laplante, the executive director of MIFF.
“I’m very honored to be in this line of people and to be here with this film,” Poher Rasmussen said. “I’ve worked on this film for eight years, and it’s about a dear friend of mine. So to see his story out there and to see it getting this recognition is just amazing.”
During the panel, the directors talked about the challenges of making their movies and how the pandemic affected their films. For Sorrentino, the film, which is heavily inspired by the events he went through during his childhood, was conceived during the pandemic, which caused him to reflect.
“The pandemic for me was helpful in order to choose this kind of movie to do because sadly the pandemic brought me the feeling that it was not so easy to understand which story was important to tell or not,” Sorrentino said. “And so I went back to the most important thing that you have, and in the case of everybody, most important thing is yourself, your personal life. So the pandemic helped me to make this movie because I was not able to see, to understand the world, what was going around in the world.”
Choyning Dorji, when asked about the biggest challenge of making the film, talked about the demanding filming process of making “Lunana,” which was filmed in a remote Himalayan village with no electricity. For a year and a half, the crew had to take ten-day treks to the village, carrying the supplies and the solar equipment to shoot the film on. Because the crew only had one camera and two solar panels, Choyning Dorji could only playback what he shot two months after when he brought the footage back. As a result, he had to meticulously plan the filming to ensure he was getting everything he needed for the film.
“Because we were so limited, it really made us into meticulous planners,” Choyning Dorji said. “Every scene, we had to plan out, and all our production meetings were in the dark with our headlights on. So I think it actually helped us be very meticulous because we didn’t have the luxury of falling back on security nets, you could say.”
Hamaguchi said during a discussion about how the films represent evolutions in cinema and what trajectory the world of cinema is going in. However, he doesn’t know exactly what the future of cinema is; he hopes that the very personal films of the directors nominated this year represent the type of movies audiences are interested in seeking out.
“I can’t quite answer where exactly cinema is going from here, but at the same time, I do think after watching all of your films as well, I feel like there is more space for more personal films, more in local films, and that these kinds of culture can be preserved and saved,” Hamaguchi said via a translator. “I think today we’re living in a world where there’s information, and then there’s also our physical bodies. And I think information has been very quick these days, but when I’m shooting what we’re shooting, I think there’s a sense that our physical bodies can’t quite catch up with what we’re doing. And I think the camera has the ability to capture our bodies at the speed at which we live in. And I think we’re able to see that pace in the movie theater then. We’re taken outside of the speed of information that goes beyond our physical bodies, and we’re pulled back into this pacing of our own physical senses. And I think that’s perhaps why films like ours are being sought after and are resonating with people.”
The Miami International Film Festival took place from March 4 to March 13. The Oscars ceremony will be held on March 27. Watch the full conversation above.