Monday, October 29, 2007
Rome festival: learning from documentaries
Big, glamorous and busy: I just got back from the Rome festival, where I didn't manage to see half the films I wanted. But two documentaries gave me some food for thought. The first was "The Gates", by Antonio Ferrera. This fly-on-the-wall documentary follows artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude's two attempts to line Central Park with saffron-coloured patches. The film-makers followed them to the various production and administration meetings. So the film was not written or even planned in terms of a final structure. "600 hours of rushes, 2 years of editing into 98 minutes," as Ferrera explained in the bar. So the challenge was to make a coherent story out of a vast amount of material afterwards. "You never stop writing your film," he said. "When you pitch it, you're writing. Editing is re-writing. When you dub it or do subtitles, you're still writing. Basically, you only really stop writing when you start the next one."
The other revelation was "Natural Born Star", a brilliant documentary about the former Norwegian heartthrob Fred Robsahm (photo), who basically fell into superstardom in Italian B movies in the seventies by accident. I won't go into the details of his amazing yet tragic life, but it's one of the most moving stories I've seen in ages. What was interesting was the way the director Even G. Benestad and scriptwriter August B. Hanssen used the mountain of vintage material to tell the story, which itself has the feel of a B movie throughout the parts that deal with the seventies (including a great period soundtrack by Kaada - pronounced "coda"). Inevitably, when the reality kicks in, the effect is all the more moving. For a work of non-fiction, it is also remarkably true to the three-act structure. I strongly recommend this one. The film has its own site called Natural Born Star.net, but you'll find more info on the Rome Film fest page here.
Check the soundtrack on
Incidentally, the Rome festival doesn't have a script award. So the only reference to a screenplay came from director Jason Reitman, who insisted on bringing the scriptwriter Diablo Cody on stage with him to pick up an award for "Juno" as "it is her story". Spoken like a gentleman!