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Monday, July 14, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Sebastián Lelio

Sebastián Lelio
Photo by Max Pallocchini
By Sebastián Lelio 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 Sebastián Lelio, best known for his highly acclaimed 2013 film, GLORIA, which I included on my top 10 of 2013.  Sebastián also directed the award-winning films LA SAGRADA FAMILIA and EL AÑO DEL TIGRE.

Do you feel that it is important for people to view independent and world cinema and why?
Of course it's important. Cinema exists in the tension between tradition and rupture, so it's always a combination of a constant revision of film history and the desire to conquer new expressive territories. In that sense "Independent" and "World cinema" are essential, the natural space for cinema understood as an art form, for experimentation, for daring films, for projects that are more fragile in terms of business, but a lot of times stronger in terms of quality and relevance. Although it's hard for me to think exclusively in those terms; "Independent", "World cinema", "Studio Films". I rather use the ideas of good or strong cinema, because "independent" is not always equivalent of quality and "Studio films" are not always necessarily uninteresting.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why (if you don't feel that it is important, please tell why)? 
It's better to know as soon as possible that you are not inventing the wheel. Cinema is not a format, is a language, so it needs constant investigation of its own history if you really want to master that language. 
Paulina García stars in GLORIA.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
How has viewing indies and films from around the world helped you as a filmmaker?
Coming from Chile, seeing independent films like Cassavetes films made me understand that it was possible to film, that I could make a film with what I had in hand, that there where no excuses not to do it, and that there was a beauty in the urgency to compensate  [for] the lack of material resources by having something to say, or as Hitchcock would say, "Something to show."
What is one Chilean film and one non-Chilean film you'd recommend that filmgoers or aspiring filmmakers view? 
Chilean film: "Tony Manero" by Pablo Larraín.Non-Chilean film: "Festen" by Thomas Vinterberg.

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