I guess the highlight of my trip to Abu Dhabi and the Middle East Film Festival was winning the BLACK PEARL for 'Best New Narrative Director'. It was a huge honor to accept the award not only because it came with a nice bit of metal, with a large black pearl mounted in the middle of it, plus a sizable and very generous cash prize, but mainly because it was awarded by a jury that was headed by one of the few true masters of cinema and hero of mine, the legendary Abbas Kiarostami.
Abbas Kiarostami (AK) has been a direct influence on me for many years. All his films (that I have seen) are like book marks in my continuing education as a filmmaker. I can recall each of them as a precise and life changing moment.
Needless to say that when I learnt that AK was to head the Jury at the Middle East Film Festival I was excited at the mere chance of meeting and perhaps shaking his hand. I never considered winning a prize or anything.
It was a cool experience just sitting in on the competition screening of Last Ride
knowing that Abbas and the rest of the jury
was watching the film in the audience with me. It could have been quite nerve wracking, but I felt regardless if AK liked the film or not, I could see parts of the film that he and his films had a direct influence on. It was a great feeling. I walked away from that screening feeling that if nothing else, it was very cool to have sat in the same audience with AK and watch my film together (even if we were on opposite sides of the dark cinema).
Any of AK's films are worth seeing, but the film of his that has had the most direct and personal influence on me was actually an extra feature on the DVD for his film Ten
. The film is simply called Ten on Ten
and it is essentially AK's 10 point guide to filmmaking, using the film Ten
as an example, but I dont think you have to have seen the film for it to be valuable, but it would help, as Ten
is an amazing film that I highly recommend! He filmed Ten on Ten
himself with a camera mounted on the dashboard of his car as he drives through the hills surrounding his home town of Tehran. It's like riding shotgun, on a Sunday drive with one of the most incredible film makers, having them discuss their thoughts on technique, process and philosophy. Each section covers a different aspect of filmmaking: Camera, Music, Actors, Locations, Story etc..
As a fan, and as a filmmaker, it is a gift. All ten parts are on YouTube
and if your a film student or interested in learning about filmmaking from a totally different perspective then it's the best hour or so you could spend. It's everything they don't teach you in film school. And if you buy into the rhythm, style and the content, the final two minutes of part 10 'The Final Lesson'
is one of the most cinematic, profound and poetic moments I have experienced.
But it only really works if you spend the time working through the 10 steps. You have to spend the time for the payoff to be effective. And in this way its very much like all of his films. I hope I'm not building it up to much... it's actually a very, very small but in so many ways an illuminating conclusion, for me anyway.
I could go on and on about AK and the ways in which he has inspired me over the years, and not just as a director, but also as a photographer
and as a writer
. If you are really keen to learn some more, I recently found this great interview
, featured on Facebook of all places.
I had the chance to have a good conversation with AK after the awards ceremony about Last Ride and bunch of other stuff. It was very cool to say the least. I'm not one for having fanboy photo's taken with people of whom I'm fans of, but this was one meeting I just couldn't resist.
One of the happiest moments of my life.
I've been lucky enough to travel to many film festivals all around the world, but I would have to say that the Middle Eastern Film Festival would be one of the best. It has been able to strike that great balance between shall we say 'hospitality' and cinema. It's what a great film festival should be. (And I must ad I was feeling this way before I won anything!)
We were made to feel most welcome and there was alot of interest in the film and in Australia in general. The nightly parties were spectacular but most importantly the selection of films were amazing. Such a high level of talent. So again I was as honored to receive any prize, as to just have Last Ride in competition was reward enough.