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Friday, August 8, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Hany Abu-Assad

Hany Abu-Assad
Photo by Kevin Winter - © 2014 Getty Images - Image courtesy
By Hany Abu-Assad 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 responses below are from two-time Oscar-nominee, Hany Abu-Assad, writer/director of Paradise Now and Omar

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
Absolutely important. I feel the most powerful thing cinema can do is let human beings from different cultures or classes live in stories and with characters that are far from their reality. Cinema allows you to live the story of a lawyer, a hero, a criminal, a religious man, etc. Cinema moves you emotionally and pushes you to think about greater issues than yourself. This kind of experience (to be emotionally moved and pushed to think) enriches you as a human being. The more diversity of stories and language you see in cinema, the better enrichment you get.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why?
Again, absolutely important. One of the major reasons why humans beings develop is because we save our history. Not always, but sometimes, we learn from this history. I believe that people who develop themselves are people who are able to learn from their history. Films from the past are a part of our cinema history, and we should always evaluate them.
How has viewing indies and films from around the world helped you as a filmmaker?
A good example of a movie that inspired me as a filmmaker is Close-Up directed by Abbas Kiarostami. Close-Up moved me but let me also question things that I thought I knew as well as the language of cinema and the perception of the language. Above that, the movie allowed me to look inside the judicial system in Iran. This movie doesn't just help me explore the fine line between fiction and nonfiction, but it allows me to better understand the relationship between right and wrong. There are a lot of movies that have done this to me, and I believe, without them, I wouldn't have become who I am. 
Did viewing indies/films from around the world/classics influence you when creating PARADISE NOW, OMAR, or any of your other films?
Without watching movies - the Classical movies of Hollywood, the dramas of Egypt, the melodramas of Turkey, the musicals of India, the minimalist movies of Asia, the militant movies of Latin America, the beautiful African films, and the experimental films of Europe, I truly don't know if I'd have been able to do Paradise Now and Omar. 
What's one American film and one film not in English that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
I would love to recommend The Vanishing from Holland and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest from USA.
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Monday.

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