Jury Duty in Marrakech

December 1, 2019
We hear from Marrakech International Film Festival’s esteemed jury, including David Michôd, Andrea Arnold and Tilda Swinton.

The Marrakech International Film Festival’s competition line-up features 14 films from first or second-time directors. Five of the films competing for the Etoile d’Or (Gold Star) are directed by women and that includes Australia’s Shannon Murphy who brings her debut feature Babyteeth starring Eliza Scanlen and Ben Mendelsohn.

Find out more about the jury, the films and the prizes here.

When the jury members met the press in Marrakech, Australia’s representative, David Michôd admitted that being a filmmaker has affected his way of viewing films.

“I see it as a bit of a curse, but my experience of watching movies as a viewer is watching the art of filmmaking. I wish I could go back to how it was when I was a kid and just be told a story, but one of the things I love about filmmaking is the beautiful confluence of all the different art forms in one big soup. So, I think my experience of watching movies as a member of a jury is going to be pretty much as I watch them at home in my pyjamas. Movies excite me when I can feel a really distinctive voice.”

Bacurau director Kleber Mendonça Filho says cinema is all about being honest and listening to what’s happening.

“When my film came out in Brazil, it was seen as some kind of resistance [against Jair Bolsonaro]. But actually, the project had been in the making for ten years and we were listening, we were paying attention to the little beats of Brazilian history, of the society, the little tensions and what was happening in the world. When I sit down and watch a film, I look for honesty, for someone being very straight about what he or she is trying to say. Sometimes that hurts, sometimes that’s entertaining, sometimes it makes you think, and these are the best films.”

Andrea Arnold is an old hand at juries.

“I’ve been on a jury a few times and I love to not know about what I’m about to see. I just love to go to the cinema fresh and let the films come at me. I do this as well when I go to see films normally. I’d rather not know too much and I really don’t like it when people explain films before I’ve seen them. I love directors’ first works because sometimes that’s when it’s really coming from a place of passion and when people are trying to express themselves.”

Has Ingmar Bergman influenced the way that actor and fellow juror Mikael Persbrandt watches films?

“I first worked with Ingmar Bergman when I was 19 on stage and he clearly affected my view on the art of film. I’m interested in what happens between human beings, less explosions more human beings. I want to feel something. I grew up with his movies and I can’t say in what way it affected me, but it made me choose this occupation as an actor.”

Jury head Tilda Swinton is not too keen to judge.

“I was just reflecting on the word competition which is an insufficient word. We have to find a better word to describe what we’re doing, what these filmmakers are doing, bringing their work to the festival and to us. It’s more a gathering – as we know art can never be a competition. But what all of us have is the privilege to do as David says, put on our pyjamas and sit together, not alone, but with colleagues and chew the cud for a week over fresh cinema, to find a film and put a light on it and it may make a difference. I’m not a great believer in national cinema, but it is true that different parts of the world have different relationships with funding structures and whether governments support artists. But we’re all here because we’re film fans.”

I asked Michôd about being Australia’s representative on the jury when Australian cinema is the focus this year (25 films and more than 26 Australian filmmakers and actors attending).

“I very much agree with Tilda as I have some kind of genetic aversion to the idea of a national cinema. But I must admit I had a sneaking little welling of pride when I flipped through the programme and looked at this extraordinary collection of Australian movies that are playing here at the festival. I think one of the things that made me proud was that I couldn’t see a discernible Australian thread. It was the diversity of it all. Some of the movies are so brutal, some of them are so camp, but all are coming from this strange desert island continent at the bottom of the world.

“I also very much loved the fact that some of the older films in that collection weren’t directed by Australians. Wake in Fright was directed by Ted Kotcheff, a Canadian, and Walkabout was obviously directed by Nicolas Roeg, a Brit. I actually found myself thinking I wish more of that happened. I wish more people from other parts of the world would come to Australia to tell stories in our country through foreign eyes, because I think as we all know there’s something insidiously dangerous about this kind of bubbling nationalism that’s rearing its ugly head all over the world. I think it would be a wonderful thing for Australian cinema if it opened itself up to the world again.

“But I love that I’m on the jury here, I love that I’m the Australian representative at an edition of the Marrakech Film festival that has a very distinctive Australian flavour.”

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