NFF2012: Interview with Hadi Ghandour
LOVE AFTER SUNRISE won three awards at the LA International New Wave Film Festival, and has now also been awarded “Best Student Film” at Norwich Film Festival this year. It’s plain to see just from the trailer that this isn’t your typical, brainless romcom – from the idiosyncratic characterisation to the humour and honesty of the script, LOVE AFTER SUNRISE shows true potential for a thinking man’s look at love.
We caught up with director Hadi Ghandour, the day before LOVE AFTER SUNRISE screened in Norwich, and talked to him about truth and love.
Rosy Hunt: Who are your artistic influences, old and new, within this genre?
Hadi Ghandour: The romcom label is quite a general one, and there’s really plenty of room within that genre to explore. I wanted to play with the convention of a romcom and approach it a little more seriously. I’m mainly interested in relationships, and the complexities of loving and being loved.
The comedy I’m interested in is the one that comes out of a situation that may as well just be tragic.
I’m influenced by so many directors and films. But in this particular film, the films of the New Wave and François Truffaut had an impact. That period was an incredibly exciting time for filmmaking, where all the rules went out the window. It was OK to experiment and just run wild. And I kind of wanted to use that spirit of liberation to tell a personal story. Woody Allen and John Cassavettes have had a profound impact on me as well. I think the best romantic comedy ever made is MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ, by Cassavetes. Its hysterically funny but also extremely deep, dramatic and tragic. The comedy I’m interested in is the one that comes out of a situation that may as well just be tragic.
RH: After you graduated, you worked on documentaries – did this influence your directing style when it came to drama?
HG: You approach a documentary quite the opposite you do in fiction. In a documentary, the situation exists, and you have to find the story within it. But in fiction, you have to create the story from scratch. In a documentary, you use what’s available and squeeze the story out of people, situations and settings; but in fiction, you create the story, people and settings. At first I struggled a bit with the transition. But after making several shorts, working with actors and doing a lot of writing, I started to find common ground. Documentaries taught me to find the truth. And that’s what matters most to me- emotional truth. In fiction, the approach may be different, but its the same goal.
What matters to me is finding an actor who’s passionate, dedicated and courageous.
RH: There are some interesting new talents to be seen in LOVE AFTER SUNRISE. Can you tell me a little about the casting process?
HG: For me, the actors are the most important part of a film. It’s what I pay most attention to. And I feel that casting the the right actors is a massive part of a director’s work. It’s incredibly important. What I look for isn’t necessarily the most technically qualified or experienced actor. What matters to me is finding an actor who’s passionate, dedicated and courageous. Once they’re cast, I then give them space and freedom to interpret the character for themselves. As a director, I’m just there to observe and guide them, not to any sort of definite outcome, but to a truthful outcome that only they can find.
I finished writing a feature film now that’s quite different but deals with similar themes of frustration. I can’t go into details, but what I can say is thank goodness for today’s technology, which allows quality films to be made on lower budgets!
Everyone has something to say, so say it. And if it’s coming from a truthful place, a personal place, [...] people will want to see it.
RH: What advice would you give to someone starting out in film making?
HG: My advice to anyone starting in film making is to make sure you do it for the right reason, which is to express something you need to say. Make it personal. Find a few people who you trust and get along with, find some actors who are hungry to dig into something challenging, grab a 5D camera and shoot the picture. Film school was great for me, because it gave me structure, discipline, time and great working relationships. Everyone has something to say, so say it. And if it’s coming from a truthful place, a personal place, it’ll be interesting and people will want to see it. Oh, and watch plenty of films. Plenty.
LOVE AFTER SUNRISE screens as part of the Saturday evening programme tomorrow, which begins at 7.30pm at the Hollywood Cinema in Norwich.
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