#Halley Berry; #TIFF2020; #Bruised; #CameronBailey
Toronto/Canadian-Media: During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF discusses with Halle Berry her feature directorial debut, ‘Bruised’ following a former MMA fighter struggling to regain custody of her son and restart her athletic career. Cameron also encourages Berry to open up the challenges she faced as a woman of colour, and a black woman in the entertainment industry.
Cameron Bailey: Left; Halle Berry:Right
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian Media brings you the excerpts:
Cameron To Halley: As an actor you played superheroes, supervillains and people who were just struggling to survive like Jackie. What was it about Jackie and her story that drew you to her?
Halley: I think I understand what it has meant to being a black woman in this industry fight over the years to make a way for myself out of no way. That’s what connected me to this character. Having felt like an underdog both in my personal life, and in my professional life, I wanted to be connected to the underdog and understand the struggle, the fortitude, and the tenacity to survive and to rise above the odds. Whenever I think of a character, I have to feel like they can sit in my body and she sat squarely in my body the first time in the script.
It is also a very physical role that you had to play. This is a mixed martial artist, a fighter and I am just curious for that part of the role for the physicality of it. What did you have to go through or did you have some MMA background that we do not know about?
I did not have any MMA background but had a supreme love of the sport and an interest in learning everything I could about it. I went on a two and a half year journey of training and learning many of the different disciplines from Jui-Jitsu to TaekwonDo, to Judo, to wrestling, to boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai. I studied many of those different disciplines and sort of came up with a fighting style for this character, but it was about a two-and-a-half-year proposition.
Halle Berry. Image credit: TIFF
It feels real. Although I don’t follow MMA in a big way, those big fight scenes of the climax are really spectacular. There are so many boxing movies, not that much interims of MMA. Did you have to come up with a visual style as the director in terms of how you are going to shoot the fights?
The genre being very popular, my aim was also that the film should be in the genre so that the that the film should blend with the genre. But I challenged myself to bring innovative changes in the genre and I wanted everyone around me to think of new ways to shoot fighting. By introducing many of the different elements to these training sequences, I made the boxing in the film different from English boxing. I also was keen that the fighters in leagues such as the UFC, the MMA community, Bellator and Victor to see these movies to realize that it was an accurate depiction of their world.
This movie is just not about fighting, it is also a very powerful emotional story with remarkable actors you have cast alongside you. Could you tell us a little bit about why you cast each one?
OMG. Being the biggest job as a director was to find the actors, I succeeded in bringing in actors who were not only masters of their craft, but also to bring the talent to this movie. Starting with Sheila Atim, who plays Budhakhan, was the first character I actually cast. I was charmed with her appealing sincerity, her acting ability, and her command of the character. Even though I did not talk with her about the character, she she stood above everyone else during her audition, and blew me away with her own interpretation of the material. Besides her acting, I also found her to be a beautiful singer, a stage actress that English track over in the United States.
Top left to right: Cameron Bailey, Halle Berry, Sheila Atim. Bottom (left to right) Adan Canto & Shamier Anderson
Then we had Adan Canto, my Desi. I spent a long time looking for him to fit in the character with a sex appeal because he does play the main role of my love interest. Although formerly a fighter, there was something dangerous about him, but at the same time he very likable. In his audition, he really brought Desi to life in a beautiful way.
Then Shamier Anderson who has to carry the name Immaculate and has to have a bit of bigger life persona when they walk in the room. You have to feel his commanding presence while standing behind and without opening his mouth he says so much. Not only does he have acting chops, but also a talented born actor. When I got to meet Shamier right away I thought he is exactly the person I was looking for.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#TIFF2020; #GretaThunberg; #Documentary; #NathanGrossman; #IAmGreta
Toronto (Canadian-Media): Tom Powers, documentary programmer for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2020 discusses with Nathan Grossman, director of TIFF 2020 film, ‘I Am Greta’, about Greta Thunberg’s climate change activism.
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts of Part 2 of the conversation between Nathan and Tom:
Greta Thunberg. Image credit: TIFF
Tom to Nathan: Can you describe the sailing boat journey, which looked harrowing just to be a passenger, let alone trying to film it. Can you talk about how that was captured?
It was captured by me. During the entire film I have had the camera on my shoulder and had taken 95% of the audio myself. When the boat ride came up, not having much of the sailing experience, I was a bit afraid. I would have maybe considered going on a regular sailboat over the Atlantic. But on this kind of a race boat, by which Greta and her father were traveling, made me nervous. But I could not come to terms with the idea of another photographer to be hired, I decided to go to the trip to shoot this myself. The boat ride being very bumpy, it was hard for me to hold the camera stable. But when the days were less rough, it was more boring as you just sit and wait so that the parts of the boat to be filmed for the movie are most calm. When that happens, the boat stinks, but it was a very special two weeks experience on that ocean.
To Nathan: What challenges did you face by Greta’s values like not flying on a plane for instance, or her taking on positions that many people in a consumer society find challenging?
I have two small anecdotes on that. During one of the earliest trips that I did with Greta and her family travelling on a train, I bought lunch salad in plastic jars at Copenhagen and put it on the table. Greta took a picture of the salad and posted it on her Instagram account, which showed plastic jars on the table. Since then Greta has been attacked by the media and in the film by right wing media questioning her why she was eating from plastic? From that time, I became more aware of not buying plastic stuff. The second anecdote was that for shooting this film I had to travel on electric cars and trains with Greta and her family all the time which was more time consuming. But I tried hard to make the film from her point of view.
Greta on boat in Atlantic Ocean
To Nathan: How did you benefit from your relatively early move to film Greta compared to other people looking for the same access?
I think this movie would never have had the same kind of tone if we did not get to know each other so early on. I had plenty of time with all these frenzy starts till it became more of team going into the frenzy than an external part trying to portray it. So that was one advantage I had over other filmmakers. I also I decided very early on that I was not going to keep anyone away. For that I took a step back. We benefited from lots of scenes in the film to cover Greta, where she talks to media. I could use other media comments and surf a little bit on that, which was beneficial for both me and Greta as Greta did not have to repeat answers to me.
Nathan Grossman in Conversation with Tom Powers. Screenshot
To Nathan: You actually took away a lot of pressure from a young person having to answer those questions on a constant basis and in a backdrop like the UN summit. The film gives us a really privileged view of those pressures. Can you elaborate on that based on your experiences with Greta and her family, that outside world cannot see what it is like to live when you have that much attention on you?
One thing was to create a timeline for stop filming. I could follow this because I was very ethical in producing earlier documentaries, which are a hard genre in that sense. So, lots of discussions we had after may be eight o’clock, are not part of the film. Both Greta and I were very strict with that. Greta waned to keep some hours exclusively for herself before she goes to bed, during which she neither did any interviews nor looked at her phone. I think that is a really smart thing that we should actually learn from her.
#Toronto; #TIFF2020; #ChaitanyaTamhane; #KhayalMusic; #IndianClassicalMusic; #TheDisciple
Toronto, Nov 3 (Canadian-Media): During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF discusses the film 'The Disciple' with Chaitanya Tamhane, the director of the film -- winner of TIFF 2020 Amplify Voices Award, and Best Screenplay award at Venice Film Festival -- in which he examines a lifetime journey devoted to the art of Indian classical music.
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts:
Chaitanya Tamhane. Image credit: Official Facebook
Cameron to Chaitanya: Can you talk a little about the form of Khayal music, that your disciple is learning and that you’re exploring in the film?
Chaitanya: Khayal, a form of Indian classical music, a complex art with its strict framework of rules, believed to be 5000 years old with its foundation to be improvisation. Khayal translates literally to a state of transformation of an artist’s performance expressed through the music similar to the Western classical meeting jazz because the performer is a singer-composer.
Khayal music. Image credit: Facebook page
To Chaitanya: Is the improvisation provided primarily by the singer, the soloist, or by all the members of the ensemble?
The accompanist’s presence is mandatory to adapt to that art to respond, because it like a conversation between the musicians on stage, a kind of being brought into being as it is going. Once you start understanding and appreciating it, its similarity to the original version of rock and roll becomes obvious. The suspense and thrill are being unfolded slowly to the audience how a performer resolves that particular beat cycle or how he lands again on the resting note.
To Chaitanya: How did you become interested in Indian classical music and decide to make it the subject of your film?
When I was younger, I did not like the traditional setting of the music with its rituals such as extreme reverence, submission to your guru, or to your elders. But gradually I developed an interest in the stories, the history, and the anecdotes and learned how to separate the music from the facets of unappreciated elements of the world. Once attracted to it, I started following musicians on social media, attending concerts, reading books on the subjects, watching documentaries. I realized the richness of the well-documented subject with an endless ocean to dive into and decided to make this the subject of my film.
Indian classical music. Image credit: Wallpaper Cave
To Chaitanya: Fans of Western classical music might find the element of the music a little bit different when they watch ‘The Disciple.’ Sharad, your disciple in the film, is not appreciated for studying this very complex ancient Indian art form. Where does this music stand now in Indian society?
This is something that even I thought as well. After I started researching and attending concerts, I realized that it was a very dynamic thriving subculture in the country, though with a limited, niche audience similar to arthouse cinema, in being a much younger media. Although not a part of the mainstream dialogue, or pop culture, practitioners, and performers of this art form are fully committed and have an audience, and are adapting to changing times. It is not a dying art form.
To Chaitanya: As a maker of arthouse films, was this film then kind of a personal story for you?
Yes, it is a kind of exploration of personal life, but it is slightly different when it comes to films as opposed to music. I was born in 1987 and while growing up films had a very different value, mystery, and position in popular culture. Today there is a great change where media, memes, video games, etc. are competing for people’s attention. Although different in some ways, the film is universal and could be the story of a ballerina, an athlete, or a dancer.
To Chaitanya: Being part of one of the world’s most famous mentorship programs, the Rolex Mentoring Protégé Initiative with Alfonso Cuaron as your mentor as well as the executive producer of this film. What was your experience working with him as a protégé and what was his contribution to this film?
It would take me approximately 10 or 15 years to fully comprehend and realize what all I learned from Alfonso as my learning is an ongoing process. Although Alfonso calls it a two-way process and considers it to be a dialogue between two artists, one relatively younger and upcoming, and the other more experienced, I consider him to be my mentor. Watching him work expanded my vocabulary of filmmaking. He constantly pushed me to be fearless, to have a strong vision, to pursue it with conviction, and to demand the best. And although not being experienced in editing by myself, he insisted that I edit this film with his reasonings, “Who will know better than you?” and provided me with valuable feedback. When faced with challenges to communicate this complex art form with a context to a lay audience who knows nothing about this music, he just said ‘Don’t even try, just do it. Just tell your story. And trust the audiences’ intuition.’ Alfonso’s advice to just grant intelligence rather than being expository to the audience was very valuable.
Alfonso Cuaron. Image credit: Facebook page
To Chaitanya: The visual style of the film, although meditative, never feels slow. There is a discipline in framing each image, making them move from one to another. Did you follow a particular strategy to approach the visual style and the rhythm of the film?
Every story and every narrative demand its own cinematic language and is a constant process for the artist to discover that language while shooting, while prepping, and while editing. I felt it unethical to impose a certain style on a film or to give set motions to it. In spite of my affinity towards continuous stakes and wide shots, and a certain kind of pacing, compared to my first film ‘Court,’ the language has taken a new turn in “The Disciple”, in being more dynamic, subjective, and more emotional. I followed the strategy of sensitivity and openness, to what the film itself demands, and then to follow your intuition in finding that language.
To Chaitanya: In both your previous film “Court,” also widely celebrated, and ‘The Disciple,’ you mentioned that you filmed not only just portraits of individual characters, but also of institutions in India, the justice system, and in this case, Indian Classical Music. Are you inclined towards exploring institutions?
Being raised in a very insular middle class set up compared to the diverse and dynamic Mumbai, I was completely driven by curiosity towards different subcultures, different worlds, and different settings, than the institutions. Having a similar approach to the journalist, I wanted to engage with something totally new and alien, and then to marry that external stimulus with something deeply personal. You begin to realize that people and cultures, at the core essence, are universal, and similar at the end of the day. I am still in the process of searching for what I would explore in the future.
The Disciple. Image credit: Twitter handle
#TIFF2020; #GretaThunberg; #Documentary; #NathanGrossman; #IAmGreta
Toronto, Nov 1 (Canadian-Media): Tom Powers, documentary programmer for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) discusses with Nathan Grossman, director of TIFF 2020 film, ‘I Am Greta’, about Greta Thunberg’s meteoric one-year rise from high-school climate strike organizer to inspiration for a global movement.
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts of Part 1 of the conversation between Nathan and Tom:
Greta Thunberg. Image credit: TIFF
To Nathan: What drew you to Greta’s story and what allowed you to get in before other people were paying attention?
It was that classical documentary serendipity. I learned from a friend of mine, who knew the family, that she was going to do this school strike before the Swedish election. Having covered environmental issues earlier in my documentaries I was interested to portray children and their relationship with climate change. So, I decided to take my camera and go down to Rick Scott street, outside the Swedish Parliament. That was how I came across Greta in the beginning.
To Nathan: A film about Greta Thunberg could take many different forms. When people come to see this film, they would have got some preconception of what it will be in mind. How did you choose your focus on what you were going to keep in and what you were not paying attention to?
I could see that Greta is picked up by the media very quickly and Greta is very articulate about how she speaks about this matter. When I listened to her answers to the journalists, and while listening to her speeches, I wanted to understand her inner monologue, which is the background noise that spins in our head before the formation of words that come out of our mouth. Anxious to get beyond those words that just came out in the media, I tried to get her point of view which would enable me to portray her much from her perspective. There were no interviews with Greta’s family. I mostly relied on her narration, based on her interviews and to a large extent to her diary notes. We also worked very hard to get the camera down to her level as I am fairly tall being 190 cm. while she is very short. So, I really scrunched my back to be able to film what I was interested in about Greta.
Tom Powers (left) with Nathan Grossman (right). Image credit: Screenshot
To Nathan: How did you handle the sensitivity with Greta and her family when she is retreating to her room, understandably needing a break from all the pressures of the world?
My early acquaintance with Greta and her family before she became an activist star, resulted in Greta and I became very close friends. I also had this deal with Greta and her family not to film something, they did not want me to. But actually, that seldom happened because we filmed only when we were in very close contact, as I could not always follow Greta and her family on their expensive traveling.
To Nathan: Around the world, we see climate activists, who are black, indigenous, people of color, who do not receive the same attention that Greta does. I remember last December at a UN meeting in Madrid, Greta was trying to put more of an emphasis on turning the microphone over to other people. Can you reflect on the way that the media focuses on Greta?
Recalling one of her quotes during one scene in the movie, when she sits with another activist in Belgium when she says what’s so good about this movement is that everyone is important in this broad, and inclusive movement. The core of what she has been speaking about is a lot about climate justice. Being aware that this will affect people of color disproportionately, and also that she comes from a privileged background, she speaks for these less privileged people to the media by diverting media’s attention to these people. As I did the film from her point of view, I had a chance from the beginning to show the variety of tasks and activities that are out there.