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Monday, August 4, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Ziad Doueiri

Still of Ziad Doueiri in THE ATTACK (2012)
By Ziad Doueiri 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 Ziad Doueiri, director/co-writer of 2013's The Attack (a film I consider a masterpiece and one of the most impressive films made on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict) and the director/writer of the 1998 Cannes and Toronto award-winner West Beirut.  Before beginning his directing career, Ziad was first assistant camera on all of Quentin Tarantino's films from Reservoir Dogs to Jackie Brown.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. Every film that was released in Beirut during my childhood and adolescence was imported: from Europe, New Wave, independent, US studio pictures, US independent, Italian neo-realism, erotic, pornographic (yes, Lebanon had porn theaters before in the 70's), martial arts from Asia, Indian, and Egyptian [films]. Today, I live in Paris, and it's very similar because there's a real international cinema scene here. Foreign films are not considered "Art House Movies". They are just films and they get distributed just like any other film. I get inspired from any good film. I still have a penchant for American films. The US has been coming out with some very interesting films, both...independent BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD was a remarkable film. I still think about it.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why?
I think it's important to view films from any period. Whatever you like. I have to admit, musicals were never my thing. I tried but couldn't get into it. However, I find myself relating more to films that came out in the '60's and '70's (if you want to consider the '60's and '70's as films from the past) simply because I was more exposed to them when I was growing up in Beirut. Sidney Lumet left an everlasting impact.
How has viewing indies and films from around the world helped you as a filmmaker?
I was a student in a French high school in Beirut. Part of the curriculum was to watch French films twice a week. That's when I was exposed to Resnais, Truffaut, Godard, etc. (I didn't understand a thing from Godard, but it felt hip to brag about it). Truffaut was wonderful, but so was Bruce Lee. One of my most influential films of all time, and I probably saw it more than 50 times, is RUMBLE FISH. That's indie at best.
Did viewing indies/films from around the world/classics influence you when creating THE ATTACK, WEST BEIRUT, or any of your other films?
I don't think the films I make are the result one particular category. It's the sum of everything I was exposed to.  I lived in three countries consistently, Lebanon, US and France. Juggling three different cultures certainly has something to do with my storytelling. In term of films' influence, I could say for example that Ron Fricke (KOYAANISQUATSI, CHRONOS, BARAKA, SAMSARA) was a great influence on me. Music plays a big part too.
What's one American film and one film not in English that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
I recommend THE VERDICT by Sidney Lumet. 
I recommend MEMORIES OF MURDER by Korean filmmaker Joon-Ho Bong. 
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Wednesday.

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