Who’s Behind the Camera?: AFI FEST 2015 Moviemakers on Favorite Recent Films, Festival Moments and Cameras

Prev1 of 2Next
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

The 29th edition of AFI FEST presented by Audi will take place November 5-12, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

A leader in showcasing American and international cinema, this edition’s line-up is once again full of talent across all categories, which the fest continues to screen free to the public. MovieMaker sent out a survey with three questions for a wide swath of directors whose films are playing the festival:

  • What did you shoot your film on?
  • What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?
  • What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

These are their responses.


Benjamin Naishtat, El Movimiento (World Cinema)

What did you shoot your film on?

The film was shot using an ARRI Alexa camera with Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses. Although it was a tough choice (it’s heavy equipment for a film mainly shot on a handheld camera), my cinematographer Soledad Rodriguez and I chose the Alexa because of its wonderful response in very dark situations. The film is set in 1835; most of the scenes happen during the night and were mainly lit using fire.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

Recently at a Chilean festival I randomly entered a screening because I saw they were showing 35mm prints. The film was Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran (1934). Although the film was made when sync sound was already available, Flaherty chose to create a strange atmospheric soundtrack, where there’s always distant voices and we listen to the gigantic waves of the Aran Island. As a result, you enter an almost hypnotic experience, and certainly a most inspiring one in terms of sound design.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

As a teenager I use to attend a short film festival in a small town called Villa Gesell, in my home country of Argentina. When a short was boring or too long, the audience started yelling, “Fast forward, fast forward!” And the projectionist would comply and play the film in fast forward until something more interesting would seem to happen in the short. Ever since, when I’m editing a film and I’m not sure on when to cut, I remember that angry crowd.

Still from El Movimiento

El Movimiento

Radu Jude, Aferim! (World Cinema)

What did you shoot your film on?

We shot it on 35mm black-and-white film, the stock was Eastman Double-X negative film. We chose this option (after we tested a lot of others) because, since we wanted to emulate the old American westerns, we thought it fit the idea of a classical film. An homage to Hawkes and Ford, in a way.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

I don’t see so many films. A few days ago I saw French Cancan by Jean Renoir and I was truly impressed by the mise-en-scene, it is fantastic! I also saw the great Hôtel Terminus by Marcel Ophüls. Winter Sleep by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Toto and His Sisters by Alexander Nanau. The Danube Exodus by Peter Forgacs. All My Life by Bruce Baillie.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

In 2013, when I was with the short film “Shadow of a Cloud” at the Directors’ Fortnight section of Cannes. I shared an apartment with the writer Florin Lazarescu and with the great theater director Alexandru Dabija (who played the lead in the film). We had a few days of laughter, endless talking about virtually everything, and heavy drinking.

Still from Aferim!

Aferim!

Ciro Guerra, Embrace of the Serpent (World Cinema)

What did you shoot your film on?

We shot on Super 35mm. Words can’t explain it: Film is just film, there’s nothing else like it.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

I was tremendously moved by Patricio Guzman’s The Pearl Button. It is the work of a true master, full of beauty and wisdom.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

During the Havana Film Festival, at a screening of my previous film, The Wind Journeys, which has a lot of music in it, I looked back and I saw people dancing in the aisles. It was incredible.

Still from Embrace of the Serpent

Embrace of the Serpent

Logan Sandler, “Tracks” (Shorts)

What did you shoot your film on?

We shot “Tracks” on Super 16. The aesthetic of 16mm film gave “Tracks” a very grainy, naturalistic touch which I believe supported the realism inherent in the script. I felt that shooting on film focused the entire crew and cast in a way that digital does not. There’s this magic to film—a heightened energy when you yell “action” and you hear the film rolling through the camera. It’s unlike anything else. The actor’s eyes will light up with an extra glow. You really feel as if you’re actually capturing these images, rather than on digital where you can kind of just roll and roll for as long as you please. You end up becoming more precise when shooting on film, and it shows in the final product.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

About Elly by Asghar Farhadi. For me, it’s very reminiscent of Antonioni’s L’Avventura—one of my favorites. His use of space is masterful. The atmosphere is thick with a palpable sense of danger that slowly builds as more information becomes revealed to the audience.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

I was blessed to have had a works-in-progress screening of my upcoming feature film Live Cargo, starring Keith Stanfield and Dree Hemingway, at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival in Paris. It was my first trip ever to France and to top it off I had my film screening there with the iconic Arc de Triomphe right outside of the theater. The experience was unforgettable.

Still from Tracks

“Tracks”

Roxanne Benjamin, Southbound (Midnight)

What did you shoot your film on?

The ARRI Alexa. My DP, Tarin Anderson, and I were going back and forth on the XT Plus and the M. We needed something with a 4:3 sensor to shoot anamorphic. The XT Plus is good for both handheld and sticks, and we were doing a lot of both for my part of the film. The M can get into tighter spaces but you’re stuck to a tether which slows you down, but we did use that in some scenes for B-cam. We were shooting with these old Kowa lenses from the ’70s, that gave everything a bit of a warp when we went to the super-wide, which was really fun to play with. We wanted everything to feel a bit off-kilter, a bit surreal and unsettling.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

Green Room. I love what Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair are doing. It’s such a simple story that just builds and builds in tension—and he’s so good at creating a mood that’s both darkly humorous and continues to rachet up the stakes in a dramatic way. So many people try to ride that line and fail at it. His films honestly remind me of Peckinpah. The violence is always deliberate and shocking.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

Probably the night someone had a seizure and two people fainted at our Sundance premiere for V/H/S. That was pretty intense. That whole experience of having a film at Sundance for the first time was pretty amazing. We didn’t have any money so we literally made our poster the night before by duct-taping a VHS tape we stole from the place we were staying to poster board. I think it was Snow Dogs. And we wrote “Who’s Tracking You?” on it with a black sharpie. It kind of blows my mind knowing that poster will be in the Sundance archives forever. The other thing that comes to mind is the feeling of standing backstage at the Ryerson for TIFF’s Midnight Madness as a director for the first time, and watching the auditorium fill up… That was a pretty humbling moment.

Still from Southbound

Southbound

Zia Anger, “I Remember Nothing” (Shorts)

What did you shoot your film on?

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera with some nice Super-16mm lenses. We used this camera because of financial constraints.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

No Home Movie by Chantal Ackerman.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

At Locarno, watching Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie. For the first hour and 15 minutes, there was just this constant stream of people walking out. It became a part of the viewing experience. There was a certain camaraderie among those who stayed.

Still from I Remember Nothing

“I Remember Nothing”

Grimur Hakonarson, Rams (World Cinema)

What did you shoot your film on?

The ARRI Alexa with anamorphic lenses. I like the softness of the Alexa and the skin tones. We basically wanted Rams to look like it was shot on film. We would have shot it on 35mm if we had the money. We got pretty close by shooting on Alexa with anamorphic lenses and some tricks we did in the grading.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

Leviathan by Andrey Zvyagintsev. A very good film with a lot of depth, great acting and cinematography. A film that makes you think and stays with you. It captures the essence of contemporary Russia but also has a bigger meaning.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

When I was in Tirana International Film Festival in 2005, Ken Loach was screening his film Tickets and there was a riot in the cinema. The people thought he didn’t give off the right picture of Albanians in the film.

Still from Rams

Rams

Celia Rowlson-Hal, Ma (Breakthrough)

What did you shoot your film on?

The Red Epic. My DP, Ian Bloom, owns the camera and stands by it. We shot on vintage anamorphic primes.

What is the best film that you’ve seen recently?

Old: Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth. The concept is brilliant, the simplicity was refreshing, and I truly enjoyed the performances—it was a very satisfying meal. New: The Lobster because Yorgos Lanthimos is brilliant and can do no wrong. That cast.

What has been your most memorable experience at a film festival?

I anticipate it to happen at AFI Fest!

Ma

Ma

Prev1 of 2Next
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.