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'My Best' – interview with Luigi Maria Perotti


Could you tell me a little about yourself so that we could have a clearer idea of you and your background in film?

I grew up in Italy and I live between Rome and London. I could have been a lawyer but thank God I became a journalist first, then an artist and now I feel very proud to define myself a documentary filmmaker. I admit, I’m a lazy person and the first time I had a camera in my hand, my thought was: “Wow, this is much easier then writing!”. My first work was Factory, a TV series about Art, but the film that changed my life is “The Infamous and his Brother”. Now, among my projects, I work as TV reporter. This job gives me the chance to travel all around the world and to find stories to tell in my films.

Many people will think that this is a film about George Best, the footballer. And although it is not a film about George Best directly, he is present throughout by his absence. Not only his historical absence from his son and wife, his retreats into alcohol, but by the very real physical absence caused by his early death. All of this supplies the melancholic backdrop agains which Calum’s search takes place. Were you conscious of all the films made about George Best and did you have to work hard to avoid certain cliches?

There have been so many documentaries about George Best that there was absolutely no need for another biography. I was sure of that from the beginning. George’s life has been explored in every possible way and I wanted to film something contemporary. 

In one of our first meetings, Calum told me that when he was younger he had no idea of what his surname meant. He grew up in Malibù and he had to explain to all his friends that his charming father (that visited him sometimes), even if he looked like it, wasn’t an actor. He told me that he was proud of the football George did, he watched all the videos, but in the particular moment of life he was in at that time it was not enough. He needed to find more depth in the relationship with his father. George had a special aura. He could see it through the people that loved him, but he never had access to it.

So, what was it that drew you to this father and son story?

I had a charismatic Californian guy, Calum, ready to start a journey to discover the dark side of a British icon. I’m a massive football fan and, of course, I knew George, before I knew Calum. George was more then a footballer, his irony and his taste for beauty transformed him into an iconic figure. I knew his sentences more then his goals. In particular the one that everybody remembers: “I spent a lot of money on girls, booze and fast cars, the rest I squandered”. In general, it makes all people laugh. I asked myself what Calum thought about it and I understood then what could be the direction of the film. This film had to be the story of a son searching for a father. 

Were you inspired by any precedents?

The title of the project is inspired by another documentary, that was also about a father-son relationship: “My architect”, by Nathaniel Kahn. Nathaniel, son of the great architect Luis Kahn, tries to find the father, that he had never known, by looking at his father’s architectural masterpieces. 

How did you first connect with Calum and how did you strike up the trust that is clearly there in the film?

I remember very well how it started. I was in Rome, talking with my friend, the filmmaker Cristina Rajola. A few days before I had presented my documentary film “La via di mio padre” at the Roma film festival. This film is the story of a daughter that decided to meet the terrorist who killed the father she never met. Cristina told me that I should continue to work along that path and I should meet Calum. She knew him because her best friend is married to Erin, Calum’s agent, one of the characters of the documentary. The week after I was in London and I met Erin and Calum at the Botanist in Sloane Square. We built a real friendship from that moment.

What was the process of filming like? The camera in the film is very intimate and at the same time quite unobserved.

At the beginning, we started shooting just to have footage for a short trailer. To support the pitch for the project. Now I can say that it did not work as we expected, but while were waiting for finance we didn’t stop meeting and filming what was happening. He forgot I was the man with the camera and everything came naturally. It was the first time I worked without a crew, but it really helped me to understand my role. 

We live in a time where we can high quality recording about what happens around us for the first time, without being invasive. I have interviewed many people in my life: politicians, gangsters, terrorists, movie stars, sportsmen and a lot of normal people. I could see how their face chanced in the moment when the red light turned on. When we decide a precise moment to start recording, we create an invisible barrier that divides how we are and how we would like to be. In the social media age, people are getting used to be on camera. Even a smartphone can film at better quality then the equipment used when I started working. This age opens new perspectives, new stories to tell, impossible before.

So I understood that it was the only way for the film I wanted to make.

The issue of celebrity is clearly central to the film. Calum of course has just come out of the Celebrity Big Brother House. Does this celebrity hinder the universality of the film or make it more acute?

Celebrity is a critical component of the story. Most of the problems my characters deal with are generated by their celebrity. To be famous has negative sides. Something that George and Calum have in common is that everything they do ends up in the tabloids. It’s public and people love to talk about what they do. This element influences their actions, and most of the facts we told in the documentary.

The other key theme is one of masculinity and ideas of masculinity. Football is a macho sport yet it has been observed that there was a gentleness and femininity about George Best, a vulnerability, that he seems to share with his son. Do you feel that the corrosive effects of the need to conform to ideas of masculinity is one of the darker themes?

George was slave of the image he created but he did not conform at any previous idea of masculinity. He was the blue eyed boy that could make everything possible, the man that never says no to fun. Most people would like to be like him. For example, the guys I met that tattooed his face or his sentences on their body, would like to live his life, but they probably do it just a few Friday nights. He was entrapped in a character everyday of his life. People knew he had alcohol problems but everybody that had the chance to meet him offered him a drink. Because to drink a pint with George Best was something to tell to your friends. He didn’t want to confirm to some masculinity concept, he liked people and he simply never learned how to say no without disappointing them.

Addiction is clearly also at the heart of this film. The absence of George Best was caused by alcohol. Yet, it also seems that the absence of something for George Best led to what seems very like depression. Sir Matt Busy, George Best’s manager at Manchester United said that he thought George would commit suicide. Depression and alcohol are often linked. While making this film were you aware of the theories that suggest a genetic link when it comes to depression? And, if so was this film a sort of protracted therapy for Calum, a process of self-development?

I was very happy when I read Calum in the Sun, saying that doing this documentary was therapeutic for him. I discovered it when googling my name (yes, I do it sometimes). We never spoke about it, but I appreciated it a lot. It gives sense to all the process. Calum moved to London to stay close to his father, but when George died he was 24 years old. He was alone, with nothing. He had to deal with his demons, to find a direction.

I think that his book, “Second Best” has been the first step. He really loved George and to put on those pages all the negativity he has been through, was important. To make this film was the next step, the one he needed to find a self-definition.

Finally, documentary film is often talked about as an agent of social change. However, it can also operate at the personal level, be an extremely intimate, an almost invasive activity. It requires an openness and generosity on both sides of the camera. It is a dialogue that can have some resemblance to the relationship within therapy. Do you think that the process of film, of ‘Art’, the taking part in this process can have unexpected benefits in this direction?

The relationship between who is in front of the camera and who is behind it is very complex. It’s a strange alchemy where everyone follows their own direction, to achieve, sometime, different results in the same film. Honestly it is not the first time that people I have worked with have described their film-experience in a similar way. Sometime I think, we need an excuse to deal with our demons. Probably filmmakers do the same, using the lives they tell, to investigate a part of themselves. I don’t know if we call it therapy, but sometimes it works this way.

Flâneurs – Interview


Interview with director Matthew Lancit

Where are you from and how did you end up in Paris?

I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I lived in New York for a few years, before quitting my job in advertising to bum around Europe until I had squandered away most of my savings. There, I met a French girl and followed her to Cameroon, where I made my first feature-length documentary Funeral Season. Soon after that, Blandine and I decided to settle down in Paris.  

How did you first experience this new city of Paris?

When I arrived in Paris I had no working papers and my French was limited to the names of the fruits and vegetables – maybe a few animals. The time between creative projects was dragging and the line between idleness and depression became more and more vague. I had few friends and nothing to do with my days. When the few French friends I had learned how I passed my days – reading in the park, going to the movies, walking around different neighbourhoods – their response was: “You are a real flâneur!” When I looked up the word online, I could not find a suitable English translation, so my curiousity grew and the question what is a flâneur? became interchangeable with the question: who am I?

Was it already underscored by ideas of flâneurism? Did you know Baudelaire etc?

Well, most of Paris is a museum, and the flâneur is kind of a relic of the past. So, yes, I was aware of Baudelaire as a kind of archetype, but I’m not sure how much of his poetry I had actually read. After doing a lot of research on flâneurs in Paris at the end of the 19th Century, I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Canada Council of the Arts to make this documentary. But I was also in the process of becoming a new father at the time, and I questioned whether I could sustain this flâneur lifestyle while assuming a responsible father-figure role. It seemed that society would not allow it. And it occurred to me that the figure of the flâneur has become increasingly pushed to the margins of our speed and work driven society. So, I became curious to see if there were other people like me on the streets of Paris and if the flâneur is something still relevant today.

If, so what do you believe the flâneur is?

I hope that the film can better answer that question than I can.

What insights can the flâneur bring?

I’m not so sure that a flâneur should concern himself with bringing any big insights to the world. I think it was Apollinaire who defined the flâneur as someone who walks with no particular destination in mind. I don’t want to make people think anything; I just want to stop and give people pause. Then they can decide if something is good or bad, ugly or beautiful, but the important thing for me is to open up a moment of reflection. As for the destination, I trust that people will recognize it once they arrive.

Is the flâneur an insider or outsider?

Both. The flâneur is simultaneously a part of the crowd and apart from the crowd. Baudelaire explains that the flâneur follows the movements of the crowd like a bird follows the currents of the air, or a fish moving in water. We all need to sometimes immerse ourselves in a humanity bath, so that element of the flâneur is very much ‘inside’. But it’s increasingly difficult to find a crowd. And when you do, people are rushing to and from work, with their eyes and fingers entrapped by devices luring them toward the virtual world. Being aware of this, the flâneur pauses to look around and consider this phenomenon, which ultimately places him ‘outside’ of it. But then he wants to get back ‘inside’, but by his terms. He seeks interactions with passers-by; he marvels at obstacles along the path; he makes the street into his own home. And so, he slows down the pace of the crowd, and we have no patience for that in our work driven, modern society. So we push him back to the side. The more he wants to get ‘inside’ the further he finds himself ‘outside’. Even today, when he can’t really get away with refusing to work, the flâneur is always borrowing the world’s uniforms and uncomfortable in all of them.

For Walter Benjamin the flâneur heralded an incisive analysis of modernity, an investigator of the city, but also a sign of the alienation of the city and of capitalism. As such the flâneur is also a symbol of resistance, an antibiotic in the bloodstream of the alienated city. Do you feel that flâneurism can only ever be a private act, an isolated subjectivity, or can it be part of a wider social movement?

I think that the two are intertwined. Historically, the flâneur has been a pivotal influence on many social movements that came after: the surrealists used to wander around forgotten parts of the city in the daytime and through the Buttes Chaumont Park on the outskirts of Paris at night; the psychogeography of the situationists and the practice of the derive sometimes extended a flânerie for days on end and into a space beyond a walker’s accepted limits; even today, there are countless groups of urban explorers, urban artists, and urban developers attempting to convince us to rethink the city. But I believe that which differentiates the flâneur from the badaud is always personal. What you put into an experience and what you get out of an experience is always going to be your own, but hopefully it will have a positive contribution to the world around you. 

Before I began shooting this film, I went to an exhibit on Walter Benjamin at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme to further research his writings on the flâneur and Paris at the end of the 19th Century. But it was a little notebook that grabbed my attention instead. On this notebook he had marked the phonetic development of his son. This was about a week before my daughter was born, and I promised to keep a similar notebook tracing her own development. About four pages in, I quit. But I picked up my camera and began to make this film instead. And it was only when I found myself slowly pushing her stroller down the street with a camera braced to my shoulder that my search for the flâneur entered the present.   

Your film is interesting not only because of the encounters within it but also because of its sense of duration. It appears that you found an internal coherence and matched subject and form. Do you feel that this sense of duration is in itself a message?

I don’t know if it’s a message, but the slow pace of the film is certainly intentional, and very much against the grain of most of the films we’re exposed to today. It was important for me and my editor that the film be its proper flânerie. Ideally, I suppose that I’d like for people to come out of the film feeling like they’ve just experienced a flânerie for themselves. It’s okay with me if your mind wanders at times while watching this film. I don’t need you to be gripped every couple of minutes by some piece of action or dramatic revelation. On the contrary, I’d prefer audiences to step off their tenterhooks; to lean back and take a moment to breath; to feel free to drift around in their own thoughts for a bit. That’s what I do when I’m with a good book or in front of a painting I like. The challenge was making the film light enough that people would want to come back into it, and that the feeling of coming in and out of the film would be seamless enough that an audience wouldn’t be bored by the slowness of the film. Many people come out of the film telling me that they appreciated it because it reminded them of when they used to have the time to flâner. Others tell me that they are not at all flâneurs, but that they appreciated the opportunity to have entered my world and that they now feel they understand me better. I don’t know if audiences return to their flâneries or decide to begin flâning after watching the film, but this film opens up the possibilities.  

How difficult was it for you to adapt to a new city, a new life? Were you a natural flâneur or was flâning forced upon you?

Firstly, I’ve noticed that Parisians tend to be bored by their city, and when you’re a foreigner you look at things with a sort of enchanted gaze. But it’s not the same as being a tourist because, without a return ticket home, you’re set adrift into a world of uncertainty. If you want to, you might just get lost. I think this goes back to what I was saying before about coming to Paris without mastering the French language and not really having the necessary papers in order to find a job. But most unemployed people don’t feel the will to spend their time flâning. That’s not to say it’s impossible. We must acknowledge the social conditions that make things like leisure and beauty possible without designated them to the privileged few. It takes more than circumstances to make someone a flâneur, and I have always maintained that essence precedes existence.

Two minutes with Anna Marziano- director of Mainstream.

Joshua Zeman on process, guilt and the creation of legend.

One half of the directorial duo responsible for the fantastically creepy documentary Cropsey, gives us an insight into the film making process…

1. Did you have an aim, or a specific point of view you wanted to get across when you decided to make Cropsey? If so, did this change at all when you began filming?

We had always wanted to tell the story of these events that affected us growing up on Staten Island as residents of a community…the facts behind jennifer’s disappearance, and then the discovery that other kids that had gone missing before her, and of course Rand’s connection. A very cut and dry, but engaging whodunit about our hometown. However, it was also important for us to tell this story in the context of the fiction that pervaded these cases, the local legends, the folklore, the whispered rumors that taint any crime – because this is where we connected with the story emotionally. We wanted to frame these crimes in the context of a ghost story because that’s how we rationalized them as children growing up. On top of that, I think we wanted to show how the two, the fact and the fiction, overlap in any crime, especially in a small town like Staten Island. As we were editing, we slowly began to pull out the fiction, but by the end of the film, we threw caution to the wind and decided to put it back in. The response has been interesting from both sides. Some people think it really adds a creepiness, and other people think it takes away from the crime story. Personally I love it. Its like the opening scene in Blue Velvet….Who knows what evil lurks beneath the surface of suburbia.

2. When you began your investigations did you believe Andre Rand to be guilty of the crimes he was accused of? How did you feel at the end of filming?

Its interesting. Barbara and I had different opinions about Rand, whether he was guilty or not. During the course of the filming, we both changed our opinions. I think that helped us remain neutral, or at least consistent in our portrayal of Rand.

3. You were exchanging letters with Rand during filming, was there any further correspondence between you after the last rather frightening letter we see towards the end of the film?

Yes, in fact there have been quite a few correspondences with him after the case. In one letter he was quite angry that we had missed some important “facts” about the case. Once the film comes out theatrically, I hope the District Attorney and the Prison Warden allow us to show him the film. I’d like to get his opinion.

4. Have you had any feedback from residents of Staten Island? How do they feel about how the film turned out?

A good question. I think people really liked the film, and the portrayal of Staten Island – warts and all. There’s no doubt that we are a bit harsh about the Island, but I feel it’s justified, and more importantly we have license to do so – after all we spent 20 years of our lives, growing up there. It’s not easy to forget that you lived next to the largest garbage dump in the world at one time! As for the people portrayed in the film, I think dealing with these missing children was one of the most intense experiences of their lives, so I think they were happy to finally see someone telling their story.

5. The most unsettling thing about the film to me was the footage from the children’s psychiatric unit as it brings to light all that we, as a society, try to cover up- anything that is not beautiful or ‘normal’, and it seems as though Rand’s experience with this under-belly has been a large factor in shaping him into the person he is. What would you like, if anything, viewers to take away from experiencing this reality?

That footage is by far one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. And it was proof, at that time, that as New Yorkers, we failed in adequately caring for the mentally ill. We knew better, but it was easier and better for the community as a whole, if we dumped these people in Staten island, and threw away the key. Yet, we reap what we sew, and it seems to me that Rand, if you presume he was guilty, was the physical embodiment of fate coming back to take our children. Unfortunately, Staten Islanders  had to endure the tragedy of those decisions made by politicians generations before them.  I’m really fascinated by urban politics, and it makes total sense in the context of history that, as a major and overcrowded urban centre, you ship your mentally ill to the “country” – Staten Island was the country at one point. The Island also had one of the largest sanitariums in the world and where they cured Tuberculosis. Before that, one half of the island was a walled quarantine for immigrants coming over from Europe before Ellis Island. And as mentioned previously, it was one of the largest dumps on the world. Now one might say its overkill for one place to become such a ground zero for dumping, but that’s the past. The problem I have is when politicians try to gloss over the past with asphalt and strip malls as they have done today. You have to adequately recognize the past before you can move on, or the mistakes will only be repeated. Its like Poltergeist, where the developers removed the headstones, but never removed the bodies.

6. Do you think your film will add to the legend of Cropsey or diminish it’s impact?

Haha. We went back on Halloween night to one of the abandoned buildings just for kicks, and met some kids who told us a new urban legend – one that involved a documentary called CROPSEY, and all this “stuff” that went on in these buildings that they never knew about. One of their friends had gotten a “bootleg” copy of the film and so although they hadn’t seen the film, they had come here to check it out – to legend trip.

That’s happened to us quite a bit. It’s the same urban legend, all we did was add another chapter to make it more contemporary, more believable. Or maybe all we did was make the monster seem more real.

Interview: Don Boyd

Patrick Hazard (director of the LIDF) talks with Don Boyd.

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Interview: J P Olsen and Luke Walden

The Narcotic Farm

Kate Vlckova talks to J P Olsen and Luke Walden about their film ‘The Narcotic Farm’.

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Interview: Gustav Hofer


Katerina Vlckova talks to Gustav Hofer about ‘Suddenly, Last Winter’

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Interview: Alexandru Solomon


For six months Alexandru Solomon followed five drivers in Bucharest, sat in their cars with them, listened and filmed them driving around this busy city. But Apocalypse on Wheels is not really a film about the traffic. The director talks to Kamila Kuc about cars, consumerism and contemporary society in Romania

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Interview: Ale Corte

Ale Corte (Director, Colours at the End of the World)

Ale Corte’s Colours at the End of the World exposes the legacy of colonisation on the example of Benetton’s dispute with the Mapuches in Argentina. In this interview the director provides us with more of an insight into the conflict by Kamila Kuc

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Interview: Sam Liebmann


In Voices Across the Wall, through a series of personal accounts of the day-to-day impact of conflict and occupation, Sam Liebmann attempts to reveal some of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict complexities, often unseen by the outside world. He tells Kamila Kuc about his reasons behind making the film

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