I did a public interview yesterday via satellite with Costa-Gavras, after a screening of his film “Missing” in the Irish Film Institute. It was the first of a series of ‘Directors in Dialogue’ conversations, run by the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland with the IFI. He has long been a hero of mine, and it was great to find he was so passionate, engaged and charming- and he’s still making films at 78. Here’s a piece I wrote for last month’s Film Ireland magazine about how his film Z inspired me:
I couldn’t sleep that night. It wasn’t a horror film I’d just seen (in my memory it was on a flickering black and white TV, though I know we had a colour one by then) and while it had some violence it was tame enough, even by the standards of the day. I felt something else as I lay there, 11 or 12 years old, replaying scenes from the film in my mind - I was fuming. Why didn’t somebody do something about what I’d just seen?
The film was Z – a searing drama about the injustices of the military dictatorship in Greece in the early 70’s, shot in Algeria by the exiled director Costa Gavras. Before seeing it I knew that films were important, that they entertained me more than anything else could, but I didn’t know just how well they could deal with such serious topics and provoke such uncomfortable responses.
Z has stayed with me ever since, and while I didn’t make One Hundred Mornings to anger people, I definitely hope it will give pause for thought. It’s also very important to me that it isn’t preachy, and it seems the best way of doing that was to make the most realistic depiction I could of a world where society is breaking down— and do it in a way that would show how we might try to deal with that event, rightly or wrongly. By the same token I hope that the film doesn’t lead the audience too much - it’s better to leave it up to them how they might choose to respond. In this way it’s not as overtly political a film as Z is, but somewhere in it still is the fury of a young boy, tossing and turning and wishing so hard that the world could be a better place.