Dialogue: Danny Glover


It's hard to imagine where DIFF Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Danny Glover finds the time to make movies. The actor-director-activist, who also will take part in DIFF's Cultural Bridge Panel, is a tireless champion of social causes around the world, and sits on the board of a number of international human rights organizations, including the TransAfrica Forum, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the economic, political and moral ramifications of U.S. foreign policy on Africa and Latin America. Fresh from an ICM luncheon -- the agency is here repping both Glover and director Nick Broomfield -- Glover sat down with The Hollywood Reporter's Kevin Cassidy to discuss his impressions of Dubai and the need for an open dialogue between cultures.

The Hollywood Reporter: This is your first time in Dubai. What is your impression of both the festival and the city?

Danny Glover: You have to be moved by the sheer magnitude of the project itself. You have a country, or a city state for the most part, that has very little oil wealth remaining (but) has been able to change its image -- it's just pretty amazing you know? You simply have to look at the number of buildings going up, which is an extraordinary process. In some ways it gives testimony to the intellectual and technological ingenuity that's possible. The question is who is this really in the service of?

THR: Were you drawn here by the festival's desire to connect with other cultures?
Glover: Well, I mean, we're all attracted to that, for various reasons. I exist as a citizen not only in my own country but in the world. I come to places to define some sort of common thread between the world I live in and the world we all inhabit and ask how can we support the necessities of human kind in that world? Culturally, for me, that's what I ask. How do I determine and assess what is happening here, and what reflection does that have on what I see happening in other parts of the world? Would I find a common creative thread that we all share? I'm amazed as I watch this dynamic, interesting country. There are 90 different nationalities that live here. I've met people from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Japan, other places in the Middle East, Europe, Eastern Europe -- there's all kinds of people here.

THR: Finding that common thread is a major theme of the festival, and in that sense are there any misconceptions about America or the West that you are trying to change?
Glover: I don't think we're in the business of going places to try and correct images. I'm simply trying to listen and to see, through their work and their culture, who they are and how they see themselves in their world. If I can set that as a premise at the beginning, then that becomes the foundation and the basis of acceptance. If I accept them and who they are, then certainly it automatically reshapes how I see myself in relation to them.

Can you tell us a little bit about participating in the cultural panel and what that means to you?
Glover: It certainly gives us an idea, a possibility, from the beginning, to talk about imagination. To talk about who we are as human beings, what culture means, what tradition means, respect to cultures and traditions -- it's all on the table. Anything's on the table when you talk about building cultural bridges. We're creating a consensus about the importance and the value of what we do. If this world didn't reflect on how we perceive ourselves and did not reflect on our identity, if this world did not reflect itself someway on the images that we want to create of ourselves, then certainly I would be kind of disappointed. We as artists are a very interesting flock of people. Maybe if the people that we impact look at their citizenship and look at their responsibility to themselves, their expectations of those who govern them might be different.

Given the great amount of conflict in the world right now -- especially in the Middle East -- do you feel a more heightened sense of urgency to communicate this message?
Glover: I only need to go to New Orleans to find a heightened state of urgency. I don't need to come here to find that. How do we respond to what is happening, with the heightened levels of fear? We are forced to live in the world where there are certain assumptions of how valuable we are in our ability to consume, so if there are 2.6 billion people in the world that live on less than 2 dollars a day, then they're not consuming very much. Their struggle is just the right to exist. So in a larger context, the whole idea for us -- even those who sit here in these hotels -- is "what is our relationship to all the wealth that has been created" and "how is that wealth in some sense distributed equitably in the rest of the world?"

Do you feel that you can be as outspoken here as you want to be?
Glover: (Laughs) I'm not in the business of setting up a barometer to determine how outspoken I'm going to be in a situation. I get asked a question and I respond to it. I've just been here two days, so all I can comment on is what I've seen initially. When somebody said to me, "Three years ago none of this was here," you look at it and say woah! It took my four years to remodel my first house! (Laughs)