Ambrose Heron speaks to the actors and directors behind the latest films.
Saadi Yacef on The Battle of Algiers
The classic 1966 war film THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS got a re-release in UK cinemas back in 2007 and it was then I spoke to Saadi Yacef, who produced and starred in the film. He was one of the leaders of Algeria’s National Liberation Front during his country’s war of independence. Whilst imprisoned by the French, he wrote his memoir of the actual Battle of Algiers, which was published in 1962. After the war Saadi helped produce Gillo Pontecorvo‘s film and he even stars in it as a character based on his own experiences. With its strikingly realistic depiction of modern warfare and terrorism the film has gone on to become highly influential. So much so that the The Pentagon screened it in 2003 as a useful illustration of the problems faced in Iraq. Saadi went on to become a Senator in Algeria’s People’s National Assembly.
Caroll Spinney on I Am Big Bird
The character of Big Bird on Sesame Street has enchanted generations of viewers on the children’s show Sesame Street. A new documentary explores the life and career of Caroll Spinney, the man inside the iconic yellow costume. We spoke to him recently about his childhood, a chance meeting with Jim Henson that changed his life and what it was like travelling the world in a big suit of yellow feathers. The DVD is out in the UK on June 1st and for more information visit iambigbird.com
Alex Gibney on We Steal Secrets The Story of Wikileaks
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks is the new documentary from director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Darkside, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) and explores the organization started in 2006 by Julian Assange.
Charting the various people involved in the leaking of secret information, including hackers, journalists and activists who during 2009-2010 leaked information about the the Icelandic financial collapse, Swiss banks evading tax and toxic-waste dumping.
It then focuses on the case of Bradley Manning, the army private who leaked an enormous amount of classified information about the Afghan and Iraq wars, as well as over 250,000 diplomatic cables.
Since the film premiered at Sundance in January, Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty, some Wikileaks supporters have taken issue with the film and Assange remains holed up in diplomatic limbo at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Added to this, another leak of seismic proportions rocked the US government in early June when a new whistle-blower named Edward Snowden released details of PRISM, a top secret spying program of unprecedented scope and size.
As I write this both Snowden is in diplomatic limbo at Moscow airport, but although some of the events and issues raised in the film are ongoing, there was much to chew on when I spoke with Gibney at the end of June.
Kleber Mendonca Filho on Neighbouring Sounds
Neighbouring Sounds is the first full length feature from Brazilian director Kleber Mendonca Filho and explores life in a middle-class neighbourhood in Recife, Brazil.
With its fine acting, steady pace and distinctive visual style, it is one of the most impressive films to emerge from Brazil in years.
It is out on DVD and Blu-ray from June 24th
Caroline Bridges and Sameer Patel on BAFTA at Latitude
Two short films recently premiered at BAFTA in London as part of a project to support emerging talent.
Me and My Latitude is a collaboration between BAFTA and Festival Republic, organisers of Latitude, the yearly arts and music festival.
Last year two filmmakers were chosen to each make a short film about an artist preparing to perform at Latitude 2011, with the aim of reflecting the diversity and inventiveness of the UK arts scene.
Caroline Bridges has made Knife Edge, which shows dance theatre company Lost Dog in action at the festival, whilst Sameer Patel has directed She Want Soul, a portrait of poet and writer Sabrina Mahfouz.
Both films screened last night at BAFTA’s Run Run Shaw Theatre in London and will also feature in the line-up for Latitude’s Film & Music Arena in 2012, which is partly programmed in partnership with BAFTA.
I spoke with Catherine and Sameer about their experiences making the films just after the screening.
The Latitude Festival takes place from July 12th – 15th and the Orange British Film Academy Awards is on February 12th
> BAFTA: http://www.bafta.org
> Latitude Festival: http://www.latitudefestival.co.uk
Billy Bob Bob Thornton on Bad Santa
Back in 2004 I spoke with Billy Bob Thornton about his role in Terry Zwigoff’s comedy Bad Santa.
The film was produced by the Coen brothers and Thornton played the title character and Tony Cox as his partner in crime.
It was a year after the US release and the film has since gone on to become something of a cult favourite as an alternative Christmas film.
For some reason it never aired on radio but you can now listen to it here.