And... action! - Talent Campus Durban Master classes with Tom Tykwer and Moussa Touré Durban International Film Festival 2012
The Talent Campus Durban class of 2012 was treated to two master classes by legendary filmmakers whose films have earned massive international acclaim: Tom Tykwer from Germany and Senegalese Moussa Touré.
Touré, who started out as a film set electrician, directed his first film in 1987. After ten years as a documentary filmmaker, he made his first fiction filmfeature in 1991, Toubab Bi, then in 1997 TGV, and in 2012 The Pirogue. He is also the director of renowned documentaries like We are many (2002) on rape, as well as the original and rather amusing look at polygamy in 5x5 (2005).
Seven years Touré's junior, Tykwer begun his career in cinema as a projectionist and made his first feature film in 1993. After several films including the cult film Run Lola Run (1998), The Princess and the warrior (2000) and Perfume - the story of a murderer (2006), Tykwer founded One Fine Day Films, a production company that teaches filmmaking to East African youth. So far the company has supported two Kenyan projects: Hawa Essuman's Soul boy (2010) and David Tosh Gitonga's Nairobi Half Life (2012).
The two cinema giants were invited to exchange and share some of their wisdom with the close to 50 Talent Campus participants representing 18 African countries and others. The topics of the master classes were "The Art of Collaboration" (Tykwer) and "Perspectives on the global film industry - the driving forces for directors and producers" (Touré).
Most of the Talent Campus participants' initiated questions reflected the well-founded anxiety of fresh filmmaking talent facing a global and regional industry that will offer them no favours.
While Tykwer offered practical advice, Touré chose to sugarcoat nothing before the African crowd. "Life as a filmmaker is hard in general, and in Africa in particular, deal with it" was essentially his tough love message that nevertheless resonated with the gathering.
One of the young filmmakers lamented the negative image of Africa projected in films made in the West, and the fact that he, in the absence of local support, has to rely on support from the same countries to be able to make films that restore the damaged image. Touré answered "Adapt and resist". "Filmmakers are fighters, regardless of what issues we deal with or where in the world we operate". "African cinema is resistance cinema, not only in terms of content but of circumstances as well", he explained. A problem in Africa that stifles development and the emergence of a filmmaking friendly climate, Touré suggested, is that Africans are too occupied with their own lives to engage with what is going on elsewhere. "We are all isolated, and that is why our leaders can treat us the way they want".
English trailer - THE PIROGUE
In the absence of movie theatres in Senegal, Touré told the talent, he makes sure his films are screened by organizing open-air screenings that allow thousands to see his films and other local films "Without knowing your own film history, you cannot make films about your countries", he said.
A viewpoint echoed by Tykwer, who also stressed the importance of telling local and personal stories: "You have to start local, with stories that are connected to you". In Tykwer's opinion, and based on his personal experience, it takes a powerful local story to succeed internationally. Using Run Lola Run, the film that made him to illustrate his point, he told the audience: "It is super-German", but resonated with audiences as far away as Japan, because of its truthfulness".
Tykwers offered many invaluable tips to filmmakers on how to turn their filmmaking into serious and successful business. Like Touré, he encouraged the young filmmakers to become masters and mistresses of their own destinies by setting up production companies, but warned them not to think that they can do everything on their own. "To think that you know everything is arrogant. Rather partner with people who are experts in fields that you are not". Tykwer also talked at length about the importance of sharing ideas and allowing the visions of heads of departments such as art direction and cinematography to influence the director. At the same time he reminded them that a collectivist approach to filmmaking should not be confused with a socialist or communist approach. To bring in too many cooks into a project at a too early stage, might lead to the director's vision getting lost.
Despite the strong focus on challenges and obstacles that filmmakers face, the atmosphere at both master classes was everything but defeatist, which is best illustrated by the words of attending Nigerian producer Victor Okhai. In his appeal to the young filmmakers to not waste time waiting for funding that might not come, he reminded them about the dynamics of Nollywood - in his opinion the most liberated industry in the world - and urged them "There is a baby inside you, crying and waiting to be made. Go make it!