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Provoking Cinema: Films that Marked Me Forever
by Becky Tan

Two directors from two generations discussed how film can make a difference.

Jasmila Zbanic from Bosnia won the Golden Bear in 2006 for her film Grbavica. It was so powerful that the Bosnian government was forced to recognize ethnic rape victims as war victims. Documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzman from Chile considers it his responsibility to keep the history of Chile alive through films, e.g., some about Pinochet and Allende. During their discussion Guzman spoke Spanish with English translations by his German wife with help from the audience and Zbanic spoke English.

Guzman said when he was a young man, a director of documentaries had to be objective and show both sides. In Europe state television was financed by the people who also required objectivity—none of this one-sided Michael Moore stuff. Today documentaries can be only one interpretation of reality, which may be more personal. Ms. Zbanic said that she doesn’t like manipulative films. “All we do reflects our political surroundings. “Even Snow White is a political film.”

Guzman was dissatisfied with The Shock Doctrine, Michael Winterbottom’s unfinished documentary which showed  this year. He said there was too much narration and music, “like listening to a neighbor’s radio.” His films are full of silence. He said that artists have the responsibility to show without putting personal beliefs into the film. Good films have to be more than just left or right politically.” They agreed that one of the best films ever made was the Bridge over the River Kwai.

I had expected to hear about the 100 films which have made marks over the centuries, films which I would recognize. What I got was an interesting discussion between two very unique filmmakers, two generations apart, whom I would never have heard anywhere else outside of the Berlinale.