MCN Blogs
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Constant Africa: indelible fiction and nonfiction

The Constant Gardener, a melancholy romance and thriller set in contemporary Africa opens today; Andrew Niccol’s heady satire of gunrunning on that continent, Lord of War opens in September, but still the most haunting piece of work about commerce in Africa this year, Darwin’s Nightmare, is terrifying nonfiction, a movie I’ve tried to shake but can’t. In The Age, Philippa Hawker visits with filmmaker Hubert Sauper as the movie makes its Antipodean debut. “People know that there is a crisis in Africa, [he] says. They don’t need to be told – at least, not in those terms. “If all they see is some specialist saying that Africa is starving, viewers will fall asleep.” But… his new [Tanzania-set] documentary, won’t let its viewers slumber: it’s a haunting, devastating film, a provocation and, in its own way, a revelation. It is the story of a predatory fish and its place in a system that consumes rather than sustains – but, says Austrian-born Sauper, it could equally have been about coffee, or bananas, or oil. The fish, however, is a particularly potent metaphor. At Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake, a few Nile perch were added to the fish population in the 1960s. Gradually, the carnivorous creature with huge jaws took over, killing other species. These predators had a similarly destructive effect beyond the lake, as Sauper shows.” The director, Hawker describes, stays close to the figures involved in the trade, working without voiceover and the distancing of “expert” testimony. “What he shows is simple, but also horribly complicated. It’s a film about people and consequences…. And, while it deals with terrible realities, it’s a film without either scapegoats or saviours, heroes or villains. Sauper isn’t interested in those kinds of definitions. “When I select my characters, I ask myself: do I like this person? Do I want to spend a part of my life with them?” … It’s also too easy to find a nice guy trying to make a difference. “There’s a tendency in American documentaries to do this, and it’s bullshit. It makes you comfortable, instead of aware.” [More of Sauper’s terrible truths at the link.]

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon