Unprecedented interest in Darren Aronofsky's masterclass at Gouna Film Festival

Soha Hesham , Tuesday 19 Oct 2021

The Gouna Film Festival (GFF) moved a masterclass on 18 October by US film director Darren Aronofsky to a larger venue to accommodate a bigger audience following an unprecedented demand for seats.

Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky at El Gouna Film Festival (Photo: GFF)

The masterclass was initially set to be held at the TU Berlin Audimax hall, which usually hosts these masterclasses and panel discussions, but it was moved to the 1,000-seat Plaza Theatre after the seats were all sold out.

Aronofsky was introduced by GFF festival director Intishal Al-Timimi, artistic director Amir Ramses, and the festival’s co-founder and COO Bushra Rozza. The Brooklyn-born filmmaker expressed his happiness to be visiting Egypt, saying his “last time visiting was in 1987. I will keep coming back to Egypt.”

During the masterclass, moderated by GFF programmer Teresa Cavina, Aronofsky spoke about the new technologies and cameras that are making the filmmaking process easier and more accessible.

“There are now iPhones that make filming easier, but back then it wasn’t that easy. When I was young, I saw a film by Spike Lee that really changed my perspective about cinema, which was already different from that of Hollywood. And when I went to college, I finally had the equipment that I really wanted and then I started to write the script for my film Pi. It was important to find a protagonist who would not take money for his role, so I chose one of my friends for that mission, and I had to film in black and white due to its cheaper cost.”

Aronofsky also talked about his film The Fountain, which took a very long time to complete, but he said “that film inspired me.”

In his film Requiem for a Dream (2000), he said that all the techniques of splitting the screen were solutions to keep the budget down, but then it evolved into a style. The film tackled the issue of drug addiction and its destructive effects, and it had a strong impact on a very wide international audience, winning Aronofsky praise for his unique style and vision.

As for his most controversial film, Mother, Aronofsky said that although many people sent him angry messages over the film, many others regarded the movie with hype and excitement.

An audience member asked if Aronofsky had expected the film to be as controversial as it was, to which he said that it was expected, and that he and the cast even joked about it while filming.

He added that the film “was very personal to me. I had the idea and wrote it within five days.” He added that he then worked on it for a long time afterwards, but the main idea was really ready in five days.

His 2010 film Black Swan – starring Natalie Portman, who won an Oscar for her performance – required much preparation. Aronofsky travelled around the world to watch how Swan Lake was performed in different counties, and he said that to his surprise, in Russia it had a happy ending.

The masterclass lasted longer than expected as Aronofsky was keen to answer many questions from the audience, which led to the following event being delayed.

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