Q&A With Director Taika Waititi: Eagle vs. Shark
DC Film Society members took part in a Q&A with Eagle vs. Shark's director Taika Waititi at the AMC Loew's Georgetown theater on June 14. DC Film Society Director Michael Kyrioglou moderated.
Michael Kyrioglou: Where did the story come from?
Taika Waititi: I wanted to make a movie and I really wanted to work with Loren Horsley. We talked about it: she wanted to play someone who was not romantic, confident, and good looking and I wanted to do something different. She doesn't have a makeover scene but has internal beauty and looks gorgeous. Jemaine [Clement] and I and Loren have known each other for years. In Wellington there is a big artistic community and everyone works on others' projects.
Q: How was the film funded?
TW: By the New Zealand Film Commission. You write an application; it's a bureaucratic process. The script for the film was quite weird. That year I had made a short film [Two Cars, One Night] that won an Oscar nomination, so my project got funded faster. It was a hands off process. Usually people are in development for years but they just gave me the money. There wasn't much interest from outside investors and Americans find the accent to be a problem.
Q: Will people outside New Zealand get it?
TW: In capturing the New Zealand culture and dysfunction, I was worried that people wouldn't understand but it's normal in New Zealand. In my family there was a constant flow of visitors and people staying over; some were relatives. The father in the wheelchair is depressed and sits around in his wheelchair. It's okay if people don't relate to the quirky aspects of life. It's easy to make a film and populate it with eccentric people and sit back and say they are dorks. It's important that we have an emotional connection with their lives. Heartbreak is universal. I have love for my characters, not contempt. Jarrod has lots of bad male characteristics but I felt sympathy for him.
Q: Why the animation?
TW: I love animation and wanted to have some in the film. Stop motion animation is primitive and reflects the kind of film I was making. It was important to have that style. It's my first film and low budget; it's my chance to experiment and make mistakes. My next film will be bigger budget and I will have more pressure.
Q: How long did it take to shoot the sleeping bag [animated] scene?
TW: Six or seven hours.
Q: Was that movie theater in the film a real theater?
TW: No. All elements were made up--Meaty Boy, the fast food restaurant, and Fight Man, the video game. I love using stuff from the 1980s; it was the height of technology then and now it's obsolete. The murals were found wall hangings from real people's houses. We used backyards we found. Some things were taken from real life--I had a friend who made candles. The porn on the computer was something that happened with a friend--porn popped up on his screen and he pretended nothing had happened. Many things were based on my childhood and my friends' childhoods.
Q: Is the human hamster wheel a common item?
TW: It was popular in the 1980s and dangerous. I found a guy on the internet who was designing a safer version. All kids in neighborhood liked it, but we couldn't leave it behind.
Q: Is Jemaine still doing comedy?
TW: The HBO series "Flight of the Conchords" begins June 17.
Q: Were you involved in making the trailer?
TW: No. The trailer is out already. It's strange to see how your film is marketed.
Q: What is your next project?
TW: I'm making something called The Volcano. It's an extension of Two Cars, One Night, about kids growing up in the 1980s in a small town around the time when Thriller came out.
Eagle vs. Shark opened in the Washington area on June 22.
Local Film Festival
Slapsticon: Fifth Annual Comedy Film Festival
Arlington County Cultural Affairs and the Friends of the Arlington Library will once again host the Fifth Annual Slapsticon, the premiere early comedy Film Festival at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theater, 1611 N. Kent St., in Arlington, Virginia, Thursday through Sunday, July 19-22, 2007.
First unveiling itself to the Washington, D.C., area in the summer of 2003, in five short years Slapsticon has developed an international reputation as a world-class festival. Silent and early sound comedy fans from around the world have an opportunity to meet, talk, share research and have a wonderful time watching rare films from the Golden Age of Silent and Sound Comedy, starring everyone from the legends like Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy, to the more than 100 obscure comedians who made films in those years.
Thanks to the cooperation of archives like the Library of Congress and the UCLA Film and Television Archives, as well as private collectors from around the globe, Slapsticon unspools dozens of rare and classic comedy films, both short and feature-length, in a delightful weekend of fun. This year’s line-up includes some terrific funnies like Spuds (1927) the last feature-film of comedian Larry Semon, an extremely popular silent film clown who tragically died the following year after this film was made. Thought for years to be lost, Spuds will be seen for the first time in 80 years in a new restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Jewish comedian Max Davidson (whose brilliant comedies for Producer Hal Roach include one title, “Pass the Gravy,” on the National Film Registry) will be showcased in one of his few starring features Pleasure Before Business (1927), restored and preserved by the Library of Congress, and a newly restored short comedy The Boyfriend (1928), preserved by UCLA.
Laurel and Hardy will also be on the bill in a newly restored print of their classic film Way out West (1937) printed off the original camera negative from UCLA.
Musical accompaniment for the silent comedies will be supplied by two of the finest silent film pianists working today, Dr. Phillip Carli, who performs regularly at the Eastman House Dryden Theater (Rochester, NY), and Ben Model, house accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY).
The brainchild of Arlington resident Robert Farr, and programmed and coordinated by Film Historian, Author and Collector Richard M. Roberts, Slapsticon is a fun weekend for everyone from the serious Cineaste to those just looking for a good laugh. Despite all the high-flown archival and historical importance of the Festival, Slapsticon strives to retain its atmosphere of a relaxed, happy weekend of fun.
A full festival pass is available for $99 or day passes of $30 may be purchased by downloading the registration form at the website.
Zoe Cassavetes Talks about Broken English
This Q&A with Director Zoe Cassavetes took place at the Goethe Institute on June 21. DC Film Society Director Michael Kyriouglou moderated.
Michael Kyrioglou: Zoe comes from a film making pedigree--father John Cassavetes and mother Gena Rowlands. Did that influence you when you were growing up?
Zoe Cassavetes: It was so interesting. My parents made movies in the house and I was always hanging around. We lived in Hollywood Hills but we were the anti-Hollywood family. To me it was very romantic. I would come home from school and dad would be working on a film. I liked to write from a young age. As a director and writer you have to have something to say. I wrote the script four years ago but had to get financing. People read the script and thought it was a romantic comedy which was not my intention at all because it was about a woman who was lonely and was embarrassed about it. It had elements of romance. You'll say anything to get financing.
MK: What was the impetus for the story?
ZC: There wasn't anything specific. You evaluate your life in your mid thirties. I was talking to friends and eavesdropping on people's conversations which is easy to do in New York. I don't mind writing about my insecurities.
Q: Did you write with Parker Posey in mind?
ZC: No, I don't write with someone in mind because they might not be able to do it. But Parker Posey is such a magnificent actress and always has been. She is seen as specifically a comedic actress and people want you to keep doing what you do well. There was no doubt in my mind that she could play the part. We had lunch and talked for three hours; we clicked and she trusted me: "Honey, I'm in."
Q: This is your first feature. Your father had a stock company of people he liked to work with over and over again. Do you see yourself doing that?
ZC: I would definitely work with every single actor again and most of the crew but it would depend on the topic. It depends on what I write. I'll write about women again.
MK: You captured New York so well without relying on landmarks--the reality of where people live and go to cafes and parties.
ZC: I made it in New York because I live there. I wanted it to be claustrophobic because the character was having a claustrophobic moment in her life. She was a sophisticated woman who had never been to France or out of country but when she went to Paris she could breathe. New York can be very tiny if you don't have money; you end up nesting in your neighborhood.
Q: How did you choose Melvil Poupaud [Julien in the film]?
ZC: I found him through my boyfriend. I looked at all the films he did including some short films about himself. I loved his spirit. It was a tricky part to write. He was so sincere and did a lot of work on his part.
Q: Was character of Nora's mother based on your mom [Gena Rowlands]?
ZC: No. She's not pushy like that. She's smart and open, not pushy on that level at all. It was the only part I wrote specifically. We worked for two days on her part; it was really fun to work with her.
Q: How did you decide on the ending?
ZC: She always bumped into him at the end. Originally it was a plane but that was too expensive. The train was a really a nightmare and we had only two hours to film it. My investors fought with me about that: "no way would anyone meet someone on the train." But it happens all the time. I wanted something nice to happen to her; she went through so much.
MK: Did you have any input on when during the course of the year your film got released?
ZC: When you sell a movie to someone you don't really have any say. My distributor, Magnolia, let me be part of the trailer and part of the poster. I've worked on this for so long, it's my baby; I feel like I've given birth to a 94 minute baby. But it's nice to follow through on the whole thing.
Q: How long was the shooting schedule?
ZC: It took twenty days to shoot the movie. We worked during the middle of May and early June of last year and finished in time for Sundance.
Q: What does the title mean?
ZC: It's about the lack of communication between two people.
Q: What sort of difficulties or barriers do women working in the industry have, whether writer or director?
ZC: I didn't think about being a man or woman, but as an interviewer pointed out, middle aged white men run things and you have to start way back of the starting line. There just aren't many women writers or women writer/directors. It's not a chick flick. It about people who are lonely and want to be loved. I'm interested in making movies about women because that's what I know. Go see independent movies. The studios eat us up; we need a 70s style revolution.
Broken English opens in the DC area on July 6.
Talk to Me: A Panel Discussion
Talk To Me stars Don Cheadle as Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene Jr., a radio personality in DC during the mid to late 1960s. A preview of the film with a panel discussion was held at Landmark's E Street Cinema on June 27. Present for discussion: Mark Lloyd from the Center for American Progress, Joe Madison, radio personality WOL and XM Satellite Radio channel 169, Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer, and moderator Melody Barnes from the Center for American Progress.
Q: Is there an audience today for people like Petey Greene?
Joe Madison: There were Petey Greenes in a lot of American cities--Georgie Woods in Philadelphia, Butterball Jr. It was a combination of music and talk, particularly in the morning. The DJs could pick their topics between the commercials and songs. In Detroit if you wanted to get a message out to the community you could go to the show, talk about policy, argue with the mayor. As radio station ownership changed from white-owned to black-owned, the message changed. If I'm the boss I define what the message should be and decide what you will hear. Right-wing conservative radio learned from that--that ownership of the radio station allowed them to control their message. And it's not necessarily an AM station--it can be XM, Internet or broadband.
Melody Barnes: Radio is powerful, with a greater concentration than newspaper or internet. 91% of programming is conservative.
Mark Lloyd: I started out doing radio in Detroit. When hearing about Dr. Martin Luther King's death it was important for me to go to a black-owned resource. It tells us about our lives and is important for how we see ourselves and our identity. Rules have changed. Now a radio owner can own 1,200 radio stations like Clear Channel. This is forcing out the Petey Greenes and hurts small communities. We no longer find about what is going on in the community, things you don't hear on TV or radio or read in the newspaper.
JM: I remember Cathy Hughes [owner of WOL] when taking on the Contra issue. If I had done that at Clear Channel, I would be kicked off the air. As owner she said, "I don't care what issue you get but find one and take it to the airways. That's what we are about." That's ownership. If I work for Clear Channel in Detroit and they fire me, I can't work for another station because they own so many stations. Black radio was the only place you could hear any community message. We used to get calls from small towns: "There's nothing like what you are doing. Where did you come from?" Back then, there were no blacks on TV reading the news. The first was Max Robinson, then Carol Simpson. There was not one black anchor on a single network news. Now, when CNN did the presidential debates, the presidential candidates were more diverse than the newsmen. There were four middle-aged white guys asking a woman, a black, a hispanic, and two or three white guys.
Denise Rolark Barnes: I'm trying to recall this period of time in DC; it was a tinderbox at the time of Dr. King's assassination. We lived a few blocks from WOOK and I remember the competition between them and WOL. The music was great on WOOK. WOL was more progressive. Some of the older generation became dependent on Joe Madison and didn't read newspapers. They relied on people who looked like them--Petey was a man of the streets; he knew what the community needed and people listened to him. Church was the only other place where people talked about the community.
Q: Why don't young people today know who Petey Greene is?
JM: We as parents are responsible for this. My folks came from Clarksdale, Mississippi and they never talked about the impact of segregation. In my black high school, the teacher never taught us about black history. Today's hip hop DJs don't talk.
Q: Where is the historical footage of Petey Greene?
DRB: My faher died in 1994 and I tried to get the tapes. They couldn't afford to archive it and taped over it. I called Channel 4 which had footage but they also taped over it.
ML: Someone must have some recordings.
JM: We have to be careful about that in this digital age. It's easy to delete things. I did a two-hour interview with Alex Haley and it no longer exists. We need to archive things now.
Q: Are there non-profit radio stations?
ML: The FCC allows low power radio stations in rural areas, just a few blocks area.
Q: How can I talk in my hip hop show?
JM: Go to XM radio. They are the alternative. Be as creative as you want. People are doing it and making a fortune.
Talk to Me opens in DC this month.
We Need to Hear From YOU
We are always looking for film-related material for the Storyboard. Our enthusiastic and well-traveled members have written about their trips to the Cannes Film Festival, London Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Munich Film Festival, and the Locarno Film Festival. We also heard about what it's like being an extra in the movies. Have you gone to an interesting film festival? Have a favorite place to see movies that we aren't covering in the Calendar of Events? Seen a movie that blew you away? Read a film-related book? Gone to a film seminar? Interviewed a director? Taken notes at a Q&A? Read an article about something that didn't make our local news media? Send your contributions to Storyboard and share your stories with the membership. And we sincerely thank all our contributors for this issue of Storyboard.
Calendar of Events
FILMS (Francis Leclerc, 2005), about an accident victim dealing with amnesia.
American Film Institute Silver Theater
"Madrid in the Movies" is a series of 11 films set in Madrid. Films in July include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, The Lovers from the North Pole, Queens, The Day of the Beast, Opera Prima, The Hooligans, Welcome Mr. Marshall, The Beehive, and Not on Your Life. More in September. A series of films from the 1980s includes Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, Firday the 13th, Evil Dead 2, Purple Rain and This is Spinal Tap with more in August. Actor Al Pacino, recently selected to receive the AFI Life Achievement Award, can be seen this summer in Scarface, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice for All and Scarecrow; the series continues in August. A retrospective of director John Huston's most beloved films starts July 6 with The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle, Key Largo, Heaven Knows Mr. Alison and The Misfits; and continues in August. "50 Years of Janus Films" Part II celebrates fifty years of the pioneering distribution company. See The Organzier, Knife in the Water and Jules and Jim with lots more coming in August.
Freer Gallery of Art
The 12th Annual "Made in Hong Kong" film festival takes place at the Freer in July and August. On July 13 at 7:00pm and July 15 at 2:00pm is After This Our Exile (Patrick Tam, 2006); on July 20 at 7:00pm and July 22 at 2:00pm is Infernal Affairs (Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, 2002); and on July 27 at 7:00pm and July 29 at 2:00pm is House of Fury (Stephen Fung, 2005). The series concludes in August.
National Gallery of Art
To accompany the exhibit "Foto: Modernity in Central Europe 1918-1945" is a series of films produced between the wars. On July 1 at 4:00pm is The Singing Earth (Karel Plicka, 1933); on July 7 at 1:00pm is The Blue Light (Leni Riefenstahl, 1932); on July 7 at 2:30pm is Spring Shower (Pal Fejos, 1932); on July 7 at 4:00pm is Faithless Marijka preceded by two short films; on July 15 at 4:00pm is In the Shadow of the Machine (Albrecht Viktor Blum, 1928) shown with Mother Krausen's Journey to Happiness (Piel Jutzi, 1929) and Children Must Laugh (Aleksander Ford, 1935); on July 22 at 4:00pm is Waxworks (Paul Leni, 1924); and on July 29 at 4:00pm is The Dybbuk (Michal Waszynski, 1937).
"From Vault to Screen" is a selection of films from various preservation programs: on July 14 at 12:30pm is Ten Cents a Dance (1931); on July 14 at 2:30pm is Stolen Moments (1920) shown with The Young Rajah; on July 21 at 12:30pm is Selva: Portrait of Parvaneh Navai shown with Falling.Desert.Syn; on July 21 at 2:30pm is The Golden Bed (1925); on July 28 at 1:00pm is Harvest: 3000 Years; and on July 28 at 4:00pm is A King in New York (1957).
Milos Forman will appear on July 8 at 4:30pm with his new film Goya's Ghosts.
National Museum of the American Indian
The Trail of Tears (Chip Richie, 2006) is a feature length documentary about the forced removal of the Cherokee from the southeast to Oklahoma in 1838. A discussion with the producer, director and chief of the Cherokee Nation will follow the screenings on July 7 and 8 at 1:30pm.
National Portrait Gallery
In July is "Magical Musicals" with An American In Paris (1951) on July 10; West Side Story (1961) on July 17; Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) on July 24; and Chicago (2002) on July 31. All are at 5:00pm.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
To celebrate Frida Kahlo's centennial year are two films: on July 10 at 6:00pm is Julie Taymor's Frida (2002) starring Salma Hayek and on July 10 at 8:30pm is Paul LeDuc's Frida (1984). "Women Directors at the Oscars" is a two-film series with Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola) on July 11 at 7:00pm and The Piano (Jane Campion) on July 18 at 7:00pm.
Films on the Hill
July is swashbuckler month with Douglas Fairbanks' The Thief of Bagdad (Raoul Walsh, 1924) on July 11 at 7:00pm, the most expensive film in its day and also one of the most imaginative and creative. On July 14 at 7:00pm is Gregory Peck in Captain Horatio Hornblower (Raoul Walsh, 1951), in Technicolor and based on C.S. Forester's popular novels and on July 18 at 7:00pm is Kidnapped (Alfred Werker, 1937) starring Freddie Bartholomew and Warner Baxter, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On July 9 at 7:30pm is Time of Favor (Joseph Cedar, 2000) from Israel; on July 16 at 7:30pm is Five Days also from Israel; on July 30 at 7:30pm is The Ten (2007) with director David Wain as special guest.
More "Shakespeare on Film" continues in July. On July 3 at 7:00pm is The Winter's Tale (1962); on July 5 at 7:00pm is Hamlet (1969); on July 6 at 7:00pm is Macbeth (1971); and on July 17 at 7:00pm is The Tempest (1979). See the website for more.
The "Politics in Film" series concludes with Texas-Kabul (Helga Reidemeister, 2004) on July 2 at 6:30pm. A new series "Summer Dreams: Great Expectations" starts on July 9 at 6:30pm with Go, Trabi, Go (Peter Timm, 1990) and French for Beginners (Christian Ditter, 2006) on July 16 at 6:30pm.
On July 11 at 7:00pm is The Singer (Xavier Giannoli, 2006) starring Gerard Depardieu and Cecile de France.
The National Theatre
A series celebrating Katharine Hepburn's centennial continues with Adam's Rib (1949) on July 9; The Rainmaker (1956) on July 16; Suddenly Last Summer (1959) on July 23; and Long Days Journey Into Night (1962) on July 30. All begin at 6:40pm and are held at the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue.
National Institutes of Health
"Science in the Cinema" is a film and discussion series on topics of science and medicine in film. This year's topics include drug addiction, asperger's syndrome, death with dignity and suicide patient treatment. Held at the AFI Silver Theater, a guest expert will comment on the science depicted in the film and take questions from the audience. On July 11 at 7:00pm is Half Nelson (2006) with the topic of drug abuse; on July 18 at 7:00pm is Lost Weekend (1945) covering alcoholism; and on July 25 at 7:00pm is Rory O'Shea Was Here (2004) on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and cerebral palsy.
Screen on the Green
Classic films on the mall take place between 4th and 7th Streets at dusk. On July 16 is Annie Hall (1977); on July 23 is The Thing (1951); and on July 30 is Wait Until Dark (1967).
Presidential favorite films is a companion to the exhibit "School House to White House: The Education of Presidents." On July 13 at 11:00am and July 14 at noon is a favorite film of Richard Nixon Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) starring James Cagey.
National Museum of Natural History
A four-part series covering the Mekong River's flow begins on July 6 at noon with Part 1: Turbulent River in Tibet and Southwests China (1994) and Part 2: Mother of All Waters in Laos (1994). On July 7 at 1:00pm is Part 3: Great Water in Cambodia (1994) and Part 4: Nine Dragons in Vietnam (1994).
On July 11 at 8:00pm is Bitter Coffee (Börkur Gunarsson, 2004) as part of the Czech Lions series of films. On July 18 at 8:00pm is Back Home (Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche, 2006), about a French Algerian deported to Algeria, part of the French Cinematheque series.
Three classic musical films will be shown in July presented by film historian Max Alvarez: on July 11 is Singin' in the Rain; on July 18 is The Umbrellas of Cherbourg; and on July 25 is Fiddler on the Roof. All are at 10:00am.
On July 15 at 1:00pm is Mémoires Affectives