Any film that supports the idea that things can be changed is a great film in my eyes.
What is generally referred to as American-style films are, in fact, studio productions.
Film is a very, very powerful medium. It can either confirm the idea that things are wonderful the way they are, or it can reinforce the conception that things can be changed.
So I am getting a little bored with defining one type of film as American and the other European or from somewhere else because the division is no longer true.
Cinema is a worldwide phenomenon.
I will always produce my own films and avoid finding myself at the distributor`s mercy. You must become a producer if you want any control over the fate of your work. Otherwise, it becomes another person`s film and he does with it what he pleases. I only had one experience like that and I will never repeat it.
In the beginning I just wanted to make movies, but with the passage of time the journey itself was no longer the goal, but what you find at the end. Now, I make films to discover something I didn`t know, very much like a detective.
It`s very hard to find critics or a magazine today that will publish material that is genuinely independent and written without any concern about being cut off some distributor`s list or not be invited or flown into screenings.
Every kid in Cuba knows what the dollar is worth, it is the other currency and there are many things you can only buy with American dollars.
Filmmakers and critics wrote about each other and sometimes very harshly. This no longer exists.
On the contrary a film can promote the idea of change without any political message whatsoever but in its form and language can tell people that they can change their lives and contribute to progressive changes in the world.
In the late 1980s the amount of German films was down to four or five percent of the market, and the remaining 95 percent were American. It is now 20 to 30 percent German productions.
The culture of independent film criticism has totally gone down the drain and this seems to come with the territory of the consumer age that we are now living in.
Originality now is rare in the cinema and it isn`t worth striving for because most work that does this is egocentric and pretentious. What is most enjoyable about the cinema is simply working with a language that is classical in the sense that the image is understood by everyone. I`m not at all interested in innovating film language, making it more aesthetic. I love film history, and you`re better off learning from those who proceeded you.
Ibrahim tells his story without a grain of complaint, and this was true for all of the band members. This is very much part of the Cuban spirit and soul.
But I think that the spirit of protectionism would be the grave of European cinema. You cannot protect something by building a fence around it and thinking that this will help it survive.
Sex and violence was never really my cup of tea; I was always more into sax and violins.
As proud as I am of European cinema, the way to make it survive is not to make it an endangered species but to put it out there in the world.
Many French directors, having now realised there was no more real criticism, that the standards of the past have gone, are very offended about the quality of film criticism.
Of course the French are making very credible movies and it is still one of the greatest nations in terms of world cinema but the real problem is the decay in film criticism.
Most journalists today work for the film industry and not as a sort of mirror of the industry. And that phenomenon has struck the French as well.
I`ve turned from an imagemaker into a storyteller. Only a story can give meaning and a moral to an image.
Many of the critics today get airline tickets, hotel accommodation, bags, beautiful photographs, gifts and other expenses paid by the distributors, and then are supposed to write serious articles about the movie.
Neither Rainer Werner, nor any of us could have succeeded, or produced the number of films that we did, just on our own. We showed our films to each other, discussed them vigorously and rarely agreed.
I`ve never been anywhere in my life like it and I only really noticed it when I returned to Los Angeles and then Berlin. Everybody is much better off in these places, there is not poverty like in Cuba, but everybody complains about things.
Take opera for example - to go to the opera you have to dress up in a tuxedo and pay lots of money.
I really wanted the film to be shown in the US because Cuba, for a huge section of the American public, has been eradicated from view.
Butte was once a grand city. To me, that city is like one big stage for Edward Hopper. You could put your camera anywhere, and you felt you were looking at his paintings.
Maybe it`s the music that enables them to function like that, to always take everything as it comes and never complain about the misery, hardship or injustice.
For years all I seemed to be doing was lobbying politicians and others to persuade them that European culture needed movies, and that we had to protect it.
Entertainment today constantly emphasises the message that things are wonderful the way they are. But there is another kind of cinema, which says that change is possible and necessary and it`s up to you.
Everything is entertainment; criticism is now entertainment and it seems that the French directors have woken up one day and suddenly realised that they were not backed up any more.
Havana is one of the poorest cities I`ve been in the last few years and yet we were never asked for money from anybody during our stay.
Hollywood filmmaking has become more and more about power and control. It`s really not about telling stories. That`s just a pretense. But ironically, the fundamental difference between making films in Europe versus America is in how the screenplay is dealt with. From my experiences in Germany and France, the script is something that is constantly scrutinized by the film made from it. Americans are far more practical. For them, the screenplay is a blueprint and it must be adhered to rigidly in fear of the whole house falling down. In a sense, all of the creative energy goes into the screenplay so one could say that the film already exists before the film even begins shooting. You lose spontaneity. But in Germany and France, I think that filmmaking is regarded as an adventure in itself.
In this age of consumerism film criticism all over the world - in America first but also in Europe - has become something that caters for the movie industry instead of being a counterbalance.
The Cuban people have an amazingly strong and unbroken spirit.
In fact, it is amazing how much European films - Italian, French, German and English - have recovered a certain territory of the audience in their countries over the last few years.
Movies are something people see all over the world because there is a certain need for it.
For us music is mainly part of the entertainment world and is often a luxury.
Any movie that has that spirit and says things can be changed is worth making.
I`m getting a little bored by the juxtaposition of American and other cinema. I no longer think this division is as true as it might have been in the 1980s, or the early part of the 90s.
I was in the forefront of that discussion for many years and as chairman and president of the European Film Academy had many long debates over this.
The more opinions you have, the less you see.
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