The trailer of French auteur Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay (Ma Loute) just dropped. The film is gearing up for an American release. Last year it was in the running for the Palm d’Or at the holy grail of film festivals – Cannes Film Festival. We screened it at the Mumbai Film Festival to rave reviews as well.
Slack Bay is a departure for Dumont – A black comedy starring French cinema royalty Fabrice Luchini, Juliette Binoche, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Dumont is deeply influenced by art, philosophy (he used to teach philosophy before he became a filmmaker), spirituality and literature. In a riveting conversation with Richard Pena at Qumra, Dumont spoke about his process as a filmmaker and why he likes to provoke both his audience and his actors.
He is one of the five masters mentoring young filmmakers at Qumra this year. I met with the Bruno Dumont for a brief chat about the mentoring life…
Smriti Kiran: 20 years ago when you began, mentorship programs did not exist. What were your early influences?
Bruno Dumont: My inspiration and motivation was cinema itself. It was the will to become a cinematographer, filmmaker, to shoot movies that drove me. A lot of people have this wish. When they watch a movie, they want to become a filmmaker. It is something very common. But the difference with me was that I always wanted to, I said so and I insisted on it. I did everything to make it happen. I was so focused on it that I worked everything in my life around it. One of the movie making institutes chucked me out but I found a way to get to my goal. They shut the door on me but I found a window into my dream.
SK: You are wearing the hat of a mentor at Qumra. What according to you is the construct of a mentor?
Bruno Dumont: Everything that starts has to have a master. You start doing things by learning and you learn from people who have done it before you. They become your masters. Cinema is an art that comes with big history. I have learned and been influenced by Fellini, Antonioni and a lot of Italian masters. When you are young you want to copy and imitate. You see this link throughout history.
Every artist has gone through the rigors of learning and has been influenced by someone before them. Nobody starts something from nothing. You see this vertical relationship. It is a top down approach so to speak. You are a child learning from a parent. But there comes a point when you have to cut the cord. In a manner of speaking you have to kill your father, you have to kill your parent to evolve a style of your own. It is important to do that.
SK: You spoke about your unfortunate experience with professional actors and stars at your Masterclass. The best of directors have not been able to free themselves of the temptation to work with stars. Are you ever tempted to go down that road? The popularity and familiarity that people have with stars can give instant exposure to the film and the filmmaker?
Bruno Dumont: Stars only exist because of the audience. How big a role does the public play in your filmmaking is what determines whether you need stars or not. I don’t make films for commercial purposes. This is not my approach. I am not here to please the biggest crowd of people out there. I highly respect actors. But they have to be recruited in line with the subject of the film. There are some topics I feel where it is not relevant for me to hire actors. These characters need the anonymity of regular people. I want a farmer to play the role of a farmer.
SK: Last year you were a part of the jury at the Marrakech International Film Festival. One of the Indian actors Kalki Koechlin was also on the same jury. How aware or familiar are you about Indian Cinema?
Dumont: I know Satyajit Ray. He is a master. It was really nice to meet at the Marrakech Film Festival. I also watched a Bollywood film but I don’t remember which one it was. But the Indian world is just like the Arab world to me. I don’t know this world at all but I would like to get to know it. I would love to go to India. It is a huge civilization. When I studied philosophy I studied the Upanishads. I am a little familiar with the Indian mystical side. But I have little knowledge about the modernity of the Indian World. Nobody is perfect (laughs).
(This interview was conducted in French with the assistance of a translator)