Thursday, November 6, 2008

BIFF part two: Lidenskapen, Reindeer, and James Caan

Apologies for the delay!

So, as promised: first, a report on the screenings. The first one was sold out, which was a real surprise. A pleasant surprise, to be sure, but somehow unexpected. A sold out screening in Vancouver is one thing, being neighbors with the US. But Norway? I think it pays tribute to our poster image, the nice blurb in the festival program, and, frankly, the Obama-fascination that is apparently all around the world. However, I would also like to think that it means we've got a good film on our hands.

Interestingly, after the film, there was hardly a Q&A at all. The full-house crowd sat, quiet as a mouse, with only one or two questions being asked. Afterwards one of the (incredibly nice) festival staff who was leading the session sheepishly apologized and said next time hopefully there would be some better questions.

While the film was screening, I was actually doing a panel discussion with two other documentary filmmakers for the BIFF TV website. I think most of what I said ended up on the cutting room floor. (There could be a long post here about what it's like to be on the other side of the camera, being asked questions, what it's like to wonder if what you're saying is interesting, but... maybe another time). By the way, "Lidenskapen" means "passion."

So, on to the other part of what I promised next time: an interesting dinner companion.

When your film gets accepted to a (larger) festival, there's a chance they'll fly you out, put you up at a nice hotel, and take you out to dinner every night. Boy, it's nice. I'd recommend you all start making films in order to experience this part of it. It's a little bit of payback for the 40,000 hours spent lugging equipment, pulling your hair out wondering if you've got a story, and working the kinks out of your mouse-clicking arm. Anyway, the second night, I found myself eating Reindeer again, sitting next to a man with a rather loud, low, gravelly voice. He seemed a little tipsy. He was telling stories in English, Norwegian, and a couple of other languages. I was talking to some other people at the table and hadn't really listened too much, especially since I couldn't understand most of it.

It came up that I was a teacher of film production, and so we started talking about films (what a surprise). Somehow the notion of the Dogme 95 movement came up, and how one of the leaders of that group (Thomas Vinterberg) had a new film that was here at the festival. I said that even though I thought some of the ideas behind it were great, there was really only one of those films that I liked, which was The Celebration. The guy I was talking to reminded me that Vinterberg was the director, and his film was here. He also casually pointed at the guy next to me, the one telling stories in Norwegian, and said. "He was in The Celebration." I blinked. "Really?" "Yeah. Remember the loudmouth brother? That was him." His name is Thomas Bo Larsen and we ended up having a really great conversation about acting and directing, especially after he told me that the best piece of directing he ever got was when Vintenberg told him during the shooting of The Celebration that "in this film, you are playing the role of James Caan in The Godfather." Really, what actor wouldn't nod and say "Ahh. Got it."? It was fun talking about good directing (short, loaded suggestions) and bad directing (long-winded explorations of minutiae), and what actors like and don't like (being part of, and excluded from, the creative process, respectively). At the end of the evening, he volunteered that he would fly himself to Northwestern to talk to my classes. I think he was a little drunk, but I believe he meant it at the time.

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