Can you think of a more heartwarming way to spend a Saturday afternoon than with nominees for Best Foreign Film Director? Sponsored by the America Cinematheque and Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the esteemed panel was held at the Egyptian Theatre.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. The glam feature was America’s own Angelina Jolie (who surprised even herself) and wrote/directed In the Land of Blood and Honey.
Open to the public with no charge, the panel was moderated by Screen International’s Mike Goodridge. Directors had translators to assist.
Besides Jolie, Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In), Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike), and Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) participated. Zhang Yimou (The Flowers of War) had a health issue in China.
Aren’t awards all about fashion? Ms. Jolie wore an upswept hairdo and dressed conservatively in a black suit. She wore no jewelry except gold hooped earrings and a ring on her second finger. The first-time film director was accessorized by her beautiful smile, with no Brad or kidlets in sight.
“It’s harder to be a director than an actor,” said Jolie. “But I prefer it. I like being unnoticed behind the scenes.”
She never set out to be a filmmaker. “It evolved from my learning about the Bosnian region when I was 17. There was a story I had to tell because their wounds are still very fresh. I found that the artists have such passion and openness and are survivors.”
Seated next to her was the famed director Pedro Almodovar. Yet again, the director worked with his muse, Antonio Banderas. “When we worked together the first time on Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! he was the most brilliant natural talent that I had ever met.”
Almodovar works only in Spain. “I don’t think the production style of this town (L.A.) really fits me. (The audience roared.) And I’m too old to learn!”
When he started his career, he shot in Super 8mm and in the reality he wanted to be a part of during a darker time in Spain. “We wanted to represent feelings, styles, actions, adventures, and plots important to the Spanish people.”
The Dardenne Brothers said that the inspiration for their film was from a news story about a boy in Tokyo. “We tried to find a fable that told something a little bit different from the original and thought, how could we have the boy not commit murder and escape his destiny?
“What we wanted to say was that love is stronger than death sometimes, and for a short time.”
“People all over the world have the same problems,” Farhadi added. “It’s the language that differs.
“I made this film so foreign audiences would learn more about Iran.” He suggested that his leading lady, who arrived at the set in a tony auto, act more like her character. “I made her pray five times a day, take the bus to work, arrive in a veil and not go near any of the men. She very quickly changed back to herself as soon as the film was over!”
Sue Facter owns a news agency that specializes in the luxury brand. Her work has appeared worldwide in prestigious publications, on broadcast, and the web.