Directors

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How Signal Space and the VR Film Afterlife Are Moving Interactive Films Forward

Films and video games have been moving closer together for years now, including open world games that mimic cinematic storytelling and videos that include viewer input in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. The mechanics of the latter have often been intrusive, however, making viewers click a link or—with the recent flowering of virtual reality—direct their gaze at an icon indicating their narrative selection. While this can result in compelling products, like the 2017 VR film Broken Night, many filmmakers in the space miss the immersion of a traditional film and want to mask the more game-like control mechanics in […]

“I Think Everything is the Director’s Fault”: Steven Soderbergh on The Laundromat, LLCs and Systemic Corruption

Ever the productive workhorse, Steven Soderbergh has released two movies on Netflix this year. The first: High Flying Bird, a sharply scripted drama set behind the scenes at the NBA that follows a canny sport agent whose end game is to shift the financial power from white owners to black players, i.e. to seize the means (or balls) of production. The second: The Laundromat, a Big Short-style anthology film about the Panama Papers leak that explains the proliferation of offshore bank accounts and tax havens, specifically those provided by the firm Mossack Fonseca, and follows the victims of these global […]

“It’s Not That Strange, and It’s Not That Weird!” Pablo Larraín and Mariana Di Girolamo on Ema

With Ema, Chilean director Pablo Larraín moves away from the biopic (Jackie, Neruda) and the past history of his country (Tony Manero, Post Mortem, No) to turn towards its future. The film centers on Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo), a young reggaeton dancer who sees her marriage with celebrated choreographer Gastón (Gael García Bernal) crumble after their “failed” adoption. A simple enough story, but already in the film’s earliest scene, the surprising behaviors and reactions of the characters hint at their extremely modern identities. Ema and Gaston are unspeakably cruel to each other, but in their own way, they are incredibly […]

“It Was a Daily Process of Making Sure She was Comfortable with our Presence”: Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll on Their Doc about Family and Caregiving, América

It’s no secret that dedication and responsibility are both required when caring for the elderly. In Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside’s feature documentary América, those two traits are leaned upon heavily, as three adult grandchildren look after their 93-year-old grandmother, who gives the film its title. By resisting sentimentality, the film finds a new kind of emotional heft, burrowing into the daily grind of the specifics of looking after someone who’s always conscious but not always present. At times observational and at times detailed in its tracking of legal battles (the three men’s father is currently imprisoned for not looking […]

“The Privileged Life Can Also Come at a Price”: Eva Mulvad on her TIFF-Premiering Love Child

Having committed adultery and conceived a child out of wedlock, a couple is forced to choose between keeping secrets and family ties — or being true to love and residing in exile. Though that could be the plot of an old-fashioned romance novel (or modern-day soap opera), it’s actually the all-too-real situation the protagonists at the heart of Eva Mulvad’s documentary Love Child are forced to reckon with. Over the course of six years Mulvad (the Danish documentarian behind lighter dramatic fare such as the Grey Gardens-in-Portugal standout The Good Life, and more recently, A Cherry Tale and A Modern […]

“I am Interested in Multiple Uses of Power and the Different Forms of Violence and Abuse That Take Place in Close Relationships”: Five Questions for Disco Director Jorunn Myklebust Syversen

Religious extremism and its cult-like symptoms are of intense interest to filmmaker Jorunn Myklebust Syversen, her two feature films, Hoggeren (The Three Feller) and Disco offering ample evidence of this. The two films portray cultural manipulation from the top down, with the hierarchies of religious institutions providing the confinements for their leading characters. Premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Disco links professional shortcomings to a lack of belief in the holy spirit. Disco tells the story of 19-year-old Mirjam, a world champion freestyle disco dancer whose stepfather serves as pastor of the local church, Freedom. Once Mirjam’s success in […]

“A Movie is Not Something Where I Need to Convey a Message About How People Are Supposed to Live”: Director Kôji Fukada on A Girl Missing

Since his debut feature, Human Comedy in Tokyo, in 2008, Kôji Fukada has steadily become one of the most interesting filmmakers working out of Japan in the last decade plus. Many of his features can be characterised by a protagonist or family unit’s apparent stability being upended by one event, a plot development that illustrates how easily and turbulently lives can spiral out of control. In his sophomore feature, Hospitalité (2010), this was played for laughs. In that film, a family printing business is gradually taken over by a former associate who talks his way into a job, moves into […]

Five Questions for The Vigil Director Keith Thomas About His TIFF-Premiering Film’s Religious Horror

As a weighty, academic-like subgenre of the horror film, “religious horror” presents endless opportunities to explore both the occult and the minutiae of organized worship. Prepackaged with historical baggage and preconceived expectations, religious horror films play on our belief of the supernatural, however naively broad it may be; like any religion, most horror film films require some suspension of disbelief. While William Friedkin’s The Exorcist continues to stand as the most explicit cinematic example of clergy-meets-devil, other classics such as Rosemary’s Baby present a more subtle depiction of messianic workship: in an unexpected shock, the title character gives birth to […]

“My Zombi is Not Like Other Zombis… It is Someone Between Life and Death”: Bertrand Bonello Talks Haiti, Day for Night, and his New Zombi Child

A clear standout in Director’s Fortnight at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Bertrand Bonello’s mystifying, euphonious headfuck Zombi Child finally drifts onto North American screens this week at TIFF. Among other pleasures and singularities, Bonello’s work has long employed a meticulously curated soundtrack to bridge internal gulfs in subject matter both historical and cultural. In his House of Tolerance, set in a brothel late in the Belle Époque, the (at the time, at least) scandalously anachronistic soundtrack featured rare soul and blues records that exemplified the spirit if not the letter of what was on-screen—namely, the pained, Henry Miller-like alternations […]

Frightening with Cosmic Consequences: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead on their TIFF-Premiering Synchronic

Working for the past several years as a directing tandem, filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return to the Toronto International Film Festival with Synchronic, a film described by TIFF programmer Michael Lerman as “both suspenseful and subversive.” Following two paramedics based in New Orleans as they uncover a series of odd, drug-related deaths, Synchronic represents the next step forward for the two genre-filmmakers. Complete with two franchise-leading stars (Anthony Mackie of Avengers fame and Jamie Dornan of Fifty Shades of Grey), the film marks the directing duo’s return to TIFF after a five-year hiatus (when their gory foreign romance, […]

“It’s About Pursuing ‘Truth’ and How Each Journalist Interprets That Word for the Rest of Us”: Yung Chang on His TIFF-Debuting This Is Not a Movie

Long a thorn in the establishment’s side, veteran foreign correspondent Robert Fisk has spent the past four-decades-plus reporting “subjectively” from frontlines the world over, most notably in the Middle East. An Arabic speaker, who interviewed Osama bin Laden three times before 9/11, Fisk has forever served “on the side of the suffering,” political implications be damned. Unsurprisingly, this has caused the Beirut-based Brit to become a controversial, if highly respected, figure, labeled both human rights advocate and terrorist sympathizer alike. Now in his seventies and still dodging bullets, both literally and figuratively, Fisk continues to file columns for The Independent […]

“It Was an Era of Reinvention After a Terrible Trauma”: Five Questions for Ebs Burnough about His TIFF-Premiering Doc, The Capote Tapes

Dramatic feature films like Bennett Miller’s Capote have dramatized the life of the late Southern author by focusing on the time surrounding the writing and release of his classic piece of non-fiction storytelling In Cold Blood — a work that’s had astounding influence on today’s true-crime landscape. Now, another chapter of Truman Capote’s life is analyzed and evoked in the documentary debut of Ebs Burnough, The Capote Tapes. Although it covers Capote’s whole life, the doc, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival yesterday, focuses heavily on Capote’s final years, which include the writing of his unfinished novel, Answered […]

“I Tried to Take a Look at These Things from a Distant Future”: Thomas Heise on his TIFF-Premiering Berlin Doc, Heimat is a Space in Time

Winner of the Caligari Film Prize at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Heimat is a Space in Time is German documentarian Thomas Heise’s absorbing look at 20th-century history in his homeland via his own family’s artifacts — most notably astonishingly intimate letters that sweep us from the rise of Nazism, to the Cold War division of the country, to life on the Stasi-controlled side of the Berlin Wall. Three generations of firsthand accounts, read in unobtrusive voiceover, are gracefully interwoven with family photos and archival images to create a nearly three-and-a-half-hour cinematic epic — one that unfolds in digestible parts like a […]

“There Was Almost a Competition to See Who Could Spit on the Film More”: Ognjen Glavonić on The Load

A road trip movie where the destination is clear but the intent is hidden, Ognjen Glavonić’s The Load is something of a taut genre film with political subtext. Set in Yugoslavia during the 1999 Kosovo War (that ultimately concluded with the catastrophic NATO bombing that went unapproved by the UN Security Council), The Load goes micro in its study of a truck driver who’s trying to make ends meet by driving unknown cargo from one destination to another. What he’s transporting, he doesn’t bother to ask and he certainly doesn’t want to know.  Drab and dreary, war-torn and ravaged, The […]

“With Digital You Have to Spend a Lot of Money Before It Becomes Free”: Mark Jenkin on His Hand-Processed 16mm Bait

If you’ve heard much at all about Bait, the breakthrough feature of British filmmaker Mark Jenkin, it’s likely concerned the anachronistic means by which he’s constructed the experimental drama. Shot on a hand-cranked Bolex camera in black-and-white 16mm, then hand-processed by Jenkin himself with an assortment of unusual materials that lend scratchiness to the images, the film offsets potential accusations of gimmickry in making these aesthetic choices relevant to evoking something specific about where it’s set, an unnamed fishing village in the county of Cornwall in southwest England. As writer Ian Mantgani describes in his review for Sight & Sound, […]

“Every Viewer Can Decide What to Believe or Not Believe, Who to Trust and What to Question”: Avi Belkin on His SundanceTV True Crime Series No One Saw a Thing

Currently playing on SundanceTV, the Blumhouse-produced No One Saw a Thing is a true crime series directed by Avi Belkin, whose unexpectedly riveting Mike Wallace Is Here premiered earlier this year at Sundance (and launched in theaters just last month). It revisits a surreal episode in American vigilante history in which the small town bully of Skidmore, Missouri was shot to death while sitting in his truck, his wife by his side. This occurred back in 1981 —and to this day no one’s been charged. Even though a good chunk of the population witnessed the murder. While this mystery remains unsolved, […]

Brief Encounters: Director Jim Jarmusch on the Poetic Downtime of Coffee and Cigarettes

The following interview with Jim Jarmusch was originally published as our Spring, 2004 cover story, and it is appearing here online for the first time. — Editor “Why do people go to the cinema?” Andrei Tarkovsky writes in a book of essays, Sculpting in Time. “I think that what a person normally goes to the cinema for,” he goes on, “is time: time lost or spent or not yet had.”  Time lost, spent or not yet had is the stuff of Jim Jarmusch’s new feature, his ninth, Coffee and Cigarettes. Consisting of 11 short vignettes, all featuring two or three people […]

“Is That a Little Too Much Like Scooby-Doo?” Radio Silence on Ready or Not

Opening with a wedding and concluding with some kind of funeral, the horror-comedy Ready or Not is a welcomed late summer season addition. Grace (Samara Weaving) and Alex (Mark O’Brien) are married at the Le Domas family mansion. After the ceremony, the family announces that, as is tradition, they will promptly play a children’s game with (or more accurately, against) the bride, as she is the newest member of the Le Domas family and thus must pass a test. The game is Hide and Seek, and if Grace can make it to morning, she lives. If the Le Domas family […]