state of independence
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– . – State of Independence

 

State of Independence

Filmmakers John Sayles and Todd Haynes, stars of new documentary Great Directors, discuss why independence is crucial to the future of films.

In 1982, during the Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders set up a TV camera in a hotel room. He asked a handful of the world’s greatest directors to enter, sit down and address the unattended camera, answering one simple question: ‘What is the future of cinema?’ The result was Room 666, a fascinating snapshot of the state of the silver screen, featuring everyone from Steven Spielberg to Jean-Luc Godard. In many ways, there hasn’t been another film like it—until now. Angela Ismailos’ Great Directors is a two-hour documentary that gathers together ten of the world’s finest living filmmakers.

Although she pays tribute to Wenders’ film with a clip of it in Great Directors, Ismailos is not so concerned with asking provocative questions about the future of cinema. Rather, hers is a more personal journey, investigating, as she puts it, “all the memories I had growing up as a kid, admiring all the big directors.” She certainly has good taste. Among those interviewed are Ken Loach, David Lynch, Stephen Frears, Bernardo Bertolucci, Richard Linklater, Catherine Breillat, Agnès Varda and Liliana Cavani, each discussing aspects of their career and their filmmaking ethos.

When the film premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Ismailos was accompanied by two of her interviewees, John Sayles and Todd Haynes, both of whom could lay claim to being true independent filmmakers. Sayles, 59, made his directorial debut in 1980 with Return of the Secaucus Seven, and has since made a further 15 features including Eight Men Out, City of Hope and most recently 2007’s Honeydripper. Haynes, 48, made his full-length feature debut with 1991’s Poison. Since then he’s shot four films, his last outing being the stunning Bob Dylan bio I’m Not There.

Little wonder then, as movieScope sat down with Haynes and Sayles, the conversation swiftly turned to the state of independent filmmaking. “I do think we’re in a critical period right now,” says Haynes. “I think we’re all trying to figure out how to keep this medium alive, and keep it enriched and keep it challenging and growing. And I don’t think there’s a simple solution yet.” Haynes’ next project is an adaptation for HBO of the James M. Cain novel Mildred Pierce (famously turned into a 1945 film by Casablanca director Michael Curtiz). “I feel like the small screen is a place where there’s been more opportunity and more risk-taking arguably than we’ve seen in independent film for a while,” he adds.

To read more about what John Sayles and Todd Haynes think about independent filmmaking in the current climate, subscribe to the print or digital edition of the magazine

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