'A director is a storyteller': CIFF head juror, Danish award-winner Bille August discusses filmmaking in Cairo

Ossama Lotfy Fateem , Monday 26 Nov 2018

Director Bille August heads jury of the Cairo International Film Festival's main competition

Bille August
Bille August during a discussion in Cairo, part of the 40th Cairo International Film Festival (Photo: courtesy of the CIFF)

Danish director Bille August, one of the great directors of our time, held a discussion with the audience at the Opera House's Hanager Theatre on 26 November.

August has been chosen to head the jury at the ongoing Cairo International Film Festival's 40th edition (CIFF 21-29 November).

August is also the winner of an Academy Award for artistic and technical merit, two Palm d’Or awards at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Globe.

He has had a career full of distinguished movies over the past 50 years.

During the discussion at the Hanager Theatre, August explained to the audience his vision in making movies.

"A director is simply a storyteller who uses images and scenery to pass along his message, portraying the drama between human beings while engaging the audience in the story. A director should use drama as a tool to relay an important message to his audience, that is his philosophy," August said during the discussion.

August revealed that what pushed him towards the world of cinema was Fellini’s movie La Strada, which he watched in school at a very young age.

“Before that movie, the school's cinema showed dull movies that did not interest me, but once I saw La Strada, I knew what I wanted to do in life, that’s where I wanted to be and I knew that moviemaking was all about creating magic,” he said.

After he received his first Palm D’or in 1987 for 'Pelle the Conqueror,' offers poured in for August from everywhere, Hollywood included.

He visited Hollywood, studied the offers, and decided that Tinseltown was not for him.

“In Hollywood, moviemaking is an industry, it is about the plot, while I think that filmmaking is mainly about relationships between human beings. To work in Hollywood, you simply have to abandon your integrity,” he explained.

For August, life is too short to do something that he does not like. He actually said that he once made a movie that he did not like, and the result was that he shied away from movies for two years to try to forget the mistake.

When asked about the online film and series streaming service Netflix, August surprisingly said that he thinks it is good for the cinema industry. He said that production companies now know that they can recoup online the money they do not make in the movie theatres, which gives filmmakers more freedom to produce what they want without being tied down by many financial and production constraints.

He also spoke to the audience about a technique he uses to get actors in the right mood.

“When shooting a movie we actually live in a bubble, so I try to provide the right surroundings, get the actors interested in the subject matter, and build up their awareness and concentration in the scene to finally produce a few seconds of magic that cannot be reproduced.”

August revealed that he asks the technicians to leave the space, discusses the scene with the actors, rehearses with them if they ask for it, and when he feels that the moment is right, the shooting starts.

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