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Friday, July 11, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Aharon Keshales

Aharon Keshales© 2013 - Magnet Releasing
By Aharon Keshales and Joshua Handler 

Recently I've been disturbed by the amount of people who don't seek out independent films, non-English-language films, and classics.  So, I asked some of the most distinctive voices in independent and world cinema to submit responses to a few questions about why/if they think indies/non-English-language films/classics are important to view, and how those films have been influential on their careers.

The response below is from Aharon Keshales, best known as co-writer/co-director of Big Bad Wolves (my review), the twisted, blackly comic Israeli film that Quentin Tarantino named the best film of 2013.

Do you feel that it is important for people to view independent and world cinema and why?
I think that every director should watch aspire to watch as much films as he can. The American cinema is a great source, but if you're an aspiring director your greatest source of inspiration will be indie and foreign cinema. These kind of films will teach you everything you need to know about small scale concepts and manageable budget. There's a strategy to be learned from those movies. But strategy is not the only thing to take from theses films. Because the budget is smaller and these films also have personal and artistic aspirations, you'll have a whole different experience while watching them. These films will always try to catch the human angle in the story. Take the early Coen Brothers films - they'll make a genre film but it's always different than your usual genre film. Try to compare RAISING ARIZONA to another big budget Hollywood film, try to compare Jim Jarmusch's GHOST DOG to any big budget assassin film and you'll see the difference. Those stories have a unique voice and lots of narrative surprises that will make your head spin around.
Do you believe that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and film-goers to view films of the past and why?
We'll be nothing without watching films from the past. Those movies lay the ground rules and without watching them, you can't start appreciating today's cinema. Without RIO BRAVO, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, and BAND OF OUTSIDERS, we wouldn't have films like RESERVOIR DOGS or PULP FICTION. You can also see that Hollywood had more respect for narrative back in the day. The characters were richer and so was the plot line.  
Those films made me think harder about how to restrain myself and building our stories out of those restrictions. RESERVOIR DOGS is almost a one-location kind of a movie. You don't even get to see the heist. It's all about the dynamics of the characters in one intense situation. We used one location in both our films. In RABIES, the entire film takes place in one forest, and in BIG BAD WOLVES, more than 60% of the film takes place in a basement. Your characters and their emotional shifts become your action sites. Roman Polanski made lots of brilliant films with those restrictions in mind: CUL-DE-SAC and KNIFE IN THE WATER.  Even when he became a big name director he used those technique. Take, for example, his Oscar winning film THE PIANIST. 
How has viewing indies and films from around the world helped you as a filmmaker?
Both BIG BAD WOLVES and RABIES owe a great debt to indie and foreign films. Korean films such as I SAW THE DEVIL and SAVE THE GREEN PLANET, John Huston's THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, Sergio Leone's FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, The Coen Brothers' FARGO and so many more - all those films have helped us understand our movie better. RABIES owes a lot to Wes Craven's early work and an underrated exploitation film named HITCH HIKE (not THE HITCHHIKER). 
What's one American indie and one film not in English that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
One international film everyone needs to see is HARAKIRI by Masaki Kobayshi, one Israeli film everyone should see is YEAR ZERO by Joseph Pitchadze. 
The next response is yet to be determined.

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