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Monday, September 15, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Ben Lewin

Ben Lewin (left) and William H. Macy (right) on the set of THE SESSIONS
Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight
By Ben Lewin 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 exciting and original voices in modern 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 Ben Lewin, best known for writing and directing Sundance Audience Award-winner and Oscar-nominee, The Sessions.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why?
The standards of storytelling don’t change with the system in which they are made. It is merely a difference in accessibility for audiences that mean independent and world cinema aren't as talked about in the mainstream cinematic society in comparison to major Western productions. Just because these films aren't as popular to the masses, it doesn't in any way reflect the quality of their content, and it is important for young filmmakers to see as much quality art as they can.
Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view films of the past and why?
Movie-making has been a hugely successful business for over 100 years and this means that there is an enormous archive of important and defining films spanning decades. Current films are just a taste of this huge library of content. Not only this, but it is the films from the past that make the films of today possible, they have broken boundaries and become influences in ways that before no one thought were possible. Perhaps it is through that hindsight that we can truly judge a film’s importance and impact.
How did viewing indies and films from around the world help you when directing THE SESSIONS and any of the other films you've written and directed?
Looking to the past is always necessary for creating something for the future. It is always important to view other people’s work, as, consciously or not, we are all influenced and motivated by one another. I don’t like to dwell on life’s negativity when making films, as films are supposed to be an escape. Watching films, whatever type they may be, help in looking at ways to make light of a bad situation. That was important when making The Sessions, it is always important to keep a sense of humor and joy.
What's one American indie and one non-English-language film that you would recommend that film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
I would say one of the best American indie films I have seen in recent years is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and a very important non-English-language film that I would recommend for film lovers or young filmmakers to see is Fernando Meirelles’ City of God.
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Wednesday.

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