Dialogue: Alfonso Cuaron
The filmmaker of "Children of Men" discusses the increasingly global movie business.
It has been a remarkable year for Mexican filmmakers and especially for Alfonso Cuaron, who had two films in contention at this year's Oscars -- "Children of Men," which he co-wrote and directed, and "Pan's Labyrinth," which he produced. On the eve of receiving ShoWest's International Achievement in Filmmaking Award, he spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway about the increasingly global movie business.
The Hollywood Reporter: You have made films in Spanish and English; you have lived in New York, and now you live in London. Do you think of yourself as a Mexican filmmaker?
Alfonso Cuaron: My nation is cinema, and my language is film. I make films in film language, and where they are made and the flag are just a circumstance. That comes from (the fact that) human beings are human beings first, and after (that), they give them a passport. But actually, this is very symptomatic of the times we are living in. The world is getting muddled in the interacting of different languages, cultures, countries. It is getting more blurred all the time, the line between what is independent and mainstream and what is considered foreign and domestic.
THR: Is that a good or bad thing?
Cuaron: I think it is great. The diversity just triggers new ideas and new schemes and new formulas.
THR: But isn't there the danger that national distinctions and artistic distinctions will disappear and film will become more homogenized?
Cuaron: Probably, but at this point, it is a beautiful breath of fresh air and breaking the homogenous aspect of cinema. It is bringing to the mainstream table different tendencies -- and you can see this with (the mix of Oscar nominees): "Babel" and "Pan's Labyrinth" were interacting with "The Departed." So, at this point, it is very good. But this is not defending globalization; those are two different issues. In the arts, it is a positive expression of this phenomenon; and at this point, it is the opposite of homogeneity.
THR: How does working in Hollywood fit into that?
Cuaron: The danger is to consider Hollywood a goal and destination. Hollywood can be part of the journey, but it would be terrible to think of Mexican filmmakers thinking how to make it in Hollywood. The amazing lesson this year from British cinema, for instance, is that they had their greatest success by not doing things the Hollywood way. They had been sleeping so close to Hollywood, trying to attract the Hollywood mainstream audience by formulating movies that they believe are going to be American-friendly, then this year the films that are honestly British are the ones that have been nominated for Academy Awards, like "The Queen" and "The Last King of Scotland." They are not trying to play into the "let's see what is American-friendly" game. They are doing what is honest.
THR: Do you and your fellow Mexican filmmakers see yourselves resisting Hollywood like the French New Wave filmmakers?
Cuaron: It is not like a French wave in that there is not a manifesto; there is not a Cold War in the way that the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) was against the "academy-ness" of French cinema. And there is much more diversity among (the current Mexican filmmakers). There are no more diverse filmmakers than Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro.
THR: But the New Wave has clearly been an influence on you.
Cuaron: Oh, no, it has been one totally. But by the same token, (director Claude) Chabrol used to say, "There are no waves; there is only the ocean." Personally, I love the French New Wave, and it has been very influential on my life, but so has the German cinema of the '70s or the German silent cinema or Ernst Lubitsch or American cinema in the '50s.
THR: The New Wave created the idea of the director as auteur. How does your work as a producer fit into that?
Cuaron: Sometimes you get the opportunity through your career to facilitate work for other people. But I like to produce the way I would love to be produced -- trying to create a space for the director. I believe the director is the one who calls the shots. I don't want to have a creative influence as a producer. I want to learn. And most of the movies I produced in the past are by first-time directors, to facilitate the path for new generations -- and for a more selfish reason: After all these years of trying to emulate and learn from the old masters, there is a point where if you keep doing that, you become very stiff, and you have to connect with the new masters and the new tendencies and the new ways of narrative. What is going to be the new cinema? I don't want to belong to the past; I want to belong to the future.
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