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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From the Mouths of Filmmakers: Bradford Young

Bradford Young
By Bradford Young 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 Bradford Young, cinematographer of Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Pariah, Mother of George (his work on all three won him the Excellence in Cinematography Award: Dramatic from the Sundance Film Festival), Middle of Nowhere, and the upcoming films A Most Violent Year, Selma, and Pawn Sacrifice.

Do you feel that it is important for aspiring filmmakers and filmgoers to view independent and world cinema and why (if you don't feel it is important, please tell me why)?
I think it's extremely important for filmmakers and filmgoers to be connected to all forms of independent and world gestures towards storytelling. In spite of vicious commercialism in all corners of the craft, independent American cinema is one of the last bastions of an ethos and pathos that looks at cinema as a tool of culture, an art form. World cinema, as the other, still remains connected to local culture. It's driven by a national identity that is concerned with serving the interest of the people, at least in principal. These pieces of art are important to see because it reminds us that we can be practitioners of our craft and active viewers without being subjected to corporate interests. We can honor ourselves by honoring our right to be independent.  
Do you believe 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)? 
If you don't know where you come from, you do not know where you are going. We operate in an art form that was forged by Birth of a Nation. If we do not know this history, we are bound to repeat and reinforce stereotypes and questions of representation that are deeply problematic in that film. In fact, I see plenty of those images being reinforced by filmmakers in the 21st century. We must know from which we came.   
How did viewing indies, classics, and/or films from around the world help/influence you when shooting SELMA, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, PAWN SACRIFICE, AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PARIAH, or any of the other films you've shot? 
My interest in filmmaking, and cinematography specifically, was birthed the first time I saw the movies of Haile Gerima, Charles Burnette, Kathleen Collins, Djibril Diop Mambety, and Andrei Tarkovsky. These filmmakers were and are aware that in order for a film to feel like something it must look like something. I always return back to their work no matter the project. In my eyes, they still remain the most important filmmakers in my life. 
What's one American indie (narrative or documentary) and one non-English-language film (narrative or documentary) that you would recommend film-lovers or young/aspiring filmmakers see?
American Narrative would be Ashes and Embers by Haile Gerima. American documentary would be The Exiles by Kent McKenzie. Non-English narrative would Touki Bouki by Djibril Diop Mambety. 
From the Mouths of Filmmakers continues on Friday.

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