Festival jury with a mission: Looking for the truth in 24 frames a second

THESSALONIKI – Acclaimed Czech filmmaker Jiri Menzel, heading the jury at the 48th Thessaloniki International Film Festival, is looking for «a nice story about people,» he told a press conference on Sunday. «I do not like angry films, but those that address humanity,» he said. International panel The award-winning director (his «Closely Observed Trains» received an Oscar for best foreign film in 1968, among others) is joined on the panel judging the 14 entries for the Alexander awards by: producer Fred Roos («The Godfather, Part II,» «The Godfather, Part III,» «Apocalypse Now,» «Rumble Fish,» «The Cotton Club,» «New York Stories» and more); Argentinean director, screenplay writer and producer Lucrecia Martel (a member of the so-called New Argentinean Cinema, she served on the panel of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival Feature Films Jury); American producer Michael Fitzgerald (produced and co-wrote John Huston’s «Wise Blood» and has also worked with the likes of Miklos Jancso, Bruce Beresford and Sean Penn); Romanian film director and screenwriter Nae Caranfil («Don’t Lean Out the Window,» «Asphalt Tango,» «Philanthropy»); Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad (an awarded writer of script for television commercials, currently an advertising executive creative director); and Greek poet and professor at Brandeis University Olga Broumas (has received numerous awards, such as the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1981 and the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1977). As anyone in the film business knows, a «nice story» is not quite as easy as it may sound. Fitzgerald notes that «many young people make films, but what I hope to find [in the festival] is the filmmakers among them.» «More and more young people around the world,» he added, «are being given the tools to make cinema. I am in a perennial search for those who know how to use them.» Ahmad, for her part, argues that «in cinema you are looking at the lives of ordinary people, but you are also looking for poetry. Genuine sentiments, surprisingly, are not a common thing. There is a lot of fake sentiment in cinema.» On a romantic note, poet Broumas said that what she looks for in all works of art is «a sentiment of humanity, the feeling of a dream.» Fan vs critic For filmmaker Caranfil, who admits to being a stauncher critic as a cinema buff than he is today serving on a critics panel, his favorite films are those «that help me forget my own films.» Martel is looking for filmmakers with a point of view, «a mission.» Roos, however, argues that cinema «is not a sport for there to be competition. All the films are good. They passed the first panel and were accepted.» John Malkovich and Mr Mudd In a small, unscheduled press pool, the acclaimed actor, producer and director John Malkovich told us – in great theatrical manner – where the quirky name of his production company, Mr Mudd, comes from: «He was my driver in Thailand and he was supposedly a convicted murderer. Supposedly. And one day I asked him about his murder rap, and he said to me: [adding the accent and voice] ‘Sometime Mr Mudd kill, sometime Mr Mudd not kill!’ That really stuck with me. It was an absolutely fantastic philosophy!» On the «imperialism» of American cinema: «I don’t really like that word. I’ve never heard of anyone being forced to watch [Hollywood blockbusters]. I mean Malcolm-McDowell-in-the-‘Clockwork-Orange’ watch them. By the same token, I understand that American actors, for a long time, had a sort of golden age, a run of opportunity and we’d have to say English-speaking because it was not just Americans. They had all kinds of opportunities, possibilities and rewards that other people never had whose talents were at least commensurate with theirs. I think it’s less that way now and it will be even less in the future. And, of course, the influence of foreigners on the American movie industry is incalculable and will continue to be. Imagine it’s a Mexican [Alfonso Cuaron] directing ‘Harry Potter.’ But, as long as people like it, they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing. And when people don’t like it and don’t go, they’ll do something else.»