How does one judge a movie? How do you compare two films, two stories, two storytellers, each presenting a tale personal to them? It’s a harder job that you may imagine it to be, and at every festival a collection of filmmakers, made up of those with illustrious careers from both in front of and behind the camera, are tasked with the challenge of deciding what film is to be crowned the best – and at the Marrakech International Film Festival, HeyUGuys had the pleasure of sitting down with three members of the jury ahead of the annual event’s closing ceremony.
The now retired, Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr is the president of the jury, and he’s joined by several big names from across the globe, two of which are Australian megastar Jason Clarke, and Italian actress Jasmine Trinca, and we spoke to the trio at the halfway point of the festival, sat outside in a beautiful garden, sipping on sweet Moroccan tea. A challenging task to undertake, certainly, but it could be worse.
“It’s very hard work because you cannot compare films,” Tarr began. “Each director comes from a different country, a different culture, a different history, different conditions, different budgets. It’s hard to measure them, to say one is better than the other because they are different.”
So what does the venerable director look for – what’s his criteria in selecting the film that will eventually go on to be crowned the best of them all?
“Well I’m a simple viewer, I need to be touched,” he smiled. “I need to see the director on the screen, because when you watch a movie you see the director, and you see if they have enough empathy, if they understand the logic of the character’s lives, or just creating something that is fake. I do not expect simple, small realism, but I want to see the life.”
“I see how it was made because I’m a filmmaker, and I know how it works. But I prefer the films when I forget, and I do not see, I’m just going with the film.”
Perhaps actors have a somewhat different perspective, though Clarke tells us that again, above all, it’s the story which is the most important aspect.
Trina, best renowned to American and UK audiences for her turn opposite Sean Penn in The Gunman, agreed.
“I’m looking for a good story. Movies that really move me are the movies that I prefer. It can be a first feature film with some problems, but I don’t care, not at all. Cinema to me is something beautiful, to sit and watch, and feelings are more important.”
One of the most alluring elements to the Marrakech Film Festival, for punters and judges alike, is the ability to indulge in movies from cultures different to our own, to learn about the world through the medium of cinema. Trina believes that this particular art-form allows us this privilege in a way unlike anything else.
“It’s a journey and you have this strange possibility to sit and start a journey,” she said. “The glance of a director of films from other countries is the only possibility we have to open our minds. That’s the thing I most appreciate in a movie, is to give me the possibility to understand another dimension, and cinema does that easily.You’re not just looking at the story, you are in the story. When reading a newspaper that’s very hard to do.”
This sentiment was echoed by Clarke, who also goes on to explain why he thinks festivals such as this are so important, not only to broaden our imaginations, but to give a platform to talented filmmakers otherwise lacking in exposure.
“A lot of these films won’t get big international distribution, it’s tough. They’re small, very personal films. It’s hard for any of us to watch them, it’s a very big business now. Nobody sees these films. People pay their money and they want 150 million dollars worth of action in the film, it doesn’t even need to make sense, it just needs a couple of great sequences, some kind of ending and we’re happy. The stories here are very universal, it’s great to see one set in Mongolia, or one set in Tehran, or one set in Russia. It’s a great, great shame that the only way to see a lot of these films is to search them out yourself. Mostly by seeing them at a festival, but a real festival, like Marrakech.”
“You see an old farmer dealing with his wife’s death and killing a bull, and you think, this makes sense to me, even though it’s set in beautifully exotic locations. On a personal note I’m grateful for that, if anything, watching two films a day, I’m really grateful for that. It makes me want to go and backpack again. It’s nice to see a film that, while completely different, you still relate to, whether t’s Chinese or Afghan, a good story is universal, and our life journeys are very similar.”
The Aussie, who has a wealth of fascinating productions in the pipeline – having only just finished shooting Chappaquiddick with John Curran, where he plays Ted Kennedy, admits that in spite of the personal fulfilment he has taken from this experience, it’s been pretty tough going.
“I’ve never done it before, but having to watch two films a day is intense. It’s a lot to watch. It’s emotionally exhausting to quickly forget one and watch another, it’s non-stop. But I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve enjoyed seeing films from literally all around the world.”
So exhausting, in fact, that Trinca is having a fair few early nights. “It’s very tiring, it has to be said. So I do not go out. I don’t want to be tired when I’m at the screening. It’s not fair to be tired.”
Finally, we couldn’t leave without questioning Tarr briefly on his own future in cinema, as the Hungarian hasn’t made a film since The Turin Horse, and regrettably, admits he’s unlikely to do another (but what a way to bow out).
“In 34 years I was developed a language step by step, film by film, and slowly I built up my own style this language was what I wanted to say, and I had a feeling before The Turin Horse I knew it would be the last, because the work is done, completed,” he told us. “I don’t want to repeat myself, to bore you with ugly copies. This was so important for me. My filmmaking is done, but it doesn’t mean I’m done. I will do some other things. I’m doing an exhibition in Amsterdam, and maybe later I’m thinking about opera, because I’ve never had any theatre experience. Maybe I’m absolutely bad for this, I don’t know, I will find my own way to articulate what I am thinking, but filmmaking is done.”
The Marrakech International Film Festival is taking place between December 2nd to 11th, and be sure to check back on HeyUGuys for more interviews and reviews throughout the week.