Baris Azman / Filmmaker

CRÓNICAS /CHRONICLES: Sebastián Cordero interview

Posted in Interview by barisazman on April 25, 2010

In 2005 I had the opportunity to conduct a few interviews with filmmakers who were presenting their first, second or third feature film at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. These were done for a magazine called YDN (Young Designers Network). This is the third and final one I will reprint here. (The first and second interview are located on the site too)

CRÓNICAS /CHRONICLES (2005)

A film by Sebastián Cordero

A serial killer who preys on children, but treats his son and wife with the utmost care and love. A journalist who’s out for personal gain, but seeks to find out the truth at whatever cost. Put these two together in a room and you may get some heavy headbutts along the way.

Cordero’s second feature (premiere at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2004), is located in one of Ecuador’s most grimy and poor areas and stars John Leguizamo (CARLITO’S WAY’s Benny Blanco) as Manolo Bonilla. An American based reporter working on a local story about ‘Il Monstro’, a killer who roams the Ecaudorian mainland. When Vinicio, an old victim of a local lynching asks for his help in making a tv item about him that has to prove his innocence, Manolo is not interested. When the man in return offers some very interesting information about ‘Il Monstro’, you know heads are gonna turn.

What follows is Manolo trying to pry as much information out of Vinicio and Vinicio trying to tell as little as possible. Shot mainly in the dungeon-esque cell of Vinicio, the film still manages to hold your interest partially because you actually find out the identity of the killer really fast, but it becomes a search for when it will all be revealed and more than that, how the main character will react to it. The film shares some elements with Michael Mann’s THE INSIDER in that it exposes the media as not really caring about the truth, but just in presenting it to the public. The news show that Manolo works for is even called “Una Hora con la Verdad”; An Hour with the Truth. Recalling America’s famous news show ‘Sixty Minutes’. The interesting element is that neither the good nor the bad guy is actually all good or all bad. They both posses human qualities and they both are incredible bad persons. In the end you just sit back and watch what’s happening and you wonder how far human beings are willing to go to get what they want. Plus the matter of fact is that this goes on everyday, the media and the killings. You end up with a rather pessimistic film that tries to show you the way of the world and better yet, the dark roads many people take while they try to find their way.

Shot in a fashion very reminiscent to the early seventies cinema of the United States, CRÓNICAS pulls you in with it’s hand-held camera work and sweaty film stock. You’re there in the wet jungle and you can smell the stink of the jail cell. What brings CRÓNICAS just over the edge of just being a ‘serial killer and the media’ film is the ending. And that just knocks you down and on your ass and makes you leave the theatre in a rather depressing mood. Because you know that this is the way it usually goes. Because you know that the so called truth is rarely revelead, but still the reporters have to sell you something, so they sell you ‘their truth’.

John Leguizamo as Manolo, Leonor Watling as Marisa and José María Yazpik as Ivan. Picture on top: Damián Alcázar as Vinicio. Copyright Palm Pictures.

Interview with Sebastián Cordero

Baris Azman: Could you tell us something about the themes of the film? Is there too much evil in the world?

Sebastián Cordero: Well, when I started writing the screenplay I did a study on arrogance and how human beings think that they can own the truth. That was my starting point, but at the same time, one of the things as a writer and as a filmmaker, to which I was very attracted to, was, the idea of making a story, with characters who are very complex, who have good and bad sides to them, who can have a very normal side and at the same time be very corrupt or really monstrous in their nature. And yes, it is a film that shows a very depressing world and in the end the idea is to have the spectator be very unsettled and have them ask themselves many questions. As a spectator myself, that’s the kind of cinema that I like.

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LES REVENANTS / THEY CAME BACK: Robin Campillo interview

Posted in Interview by barisazman on November 11, 2009

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In 2005 I had the opportunity to conduct a few interviews with filmmakers who were presenting their first, second or third feature film at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. These were done for a magazine called YDN (Young Designers Network). This is the second of those I will reprint here. (The first one is located here)

LES REVENANTS / THEY CAME BACK (2004)

A film by Robin Campillo

What do you get when you cross a zombie film with a social drama? You get a film like LES REVENANTS, but that still isn’t actually a totally accurate description of Robin Campillo’s directorial debut. Campillo, who has worked frequently with director Laurent Cantet, either as a co-writer or an editor on such films as L’EMPLOI DU TEMPS (2001) and VERS LE SUD (2004) (and four years later on the Palme D’Or winning ENTRE LES MURS) finally has a chance to step up and do his own thing and the toned down and rather offbeat LES REVENANTS shows an interesting look into the zombie genre. Only this time instead of chomping on human flesh, the newly returned dead must somehow get back into society. The harmless zombies have been put in camps at first, but that doesn’t seem to solve the problem, so now the people are faced with the problem of these ‘undesirables’.

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LiteSide Festival, Amsterdam 2009

Posted in Festival, Interview, News by barisazman on July 28, 2009

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On the 15th of August, I will be attending a debate with other up-and-coming filmmakers at the LiteSide Festival in Amsterdam. And I will be showing clips of my films during the debate. Program starts at 8 pm.  There’s tons of other stuff going on too, so I think I will be there throughout the day.

From the press release:

Four remarkable filmmakers will go into discussion with eachother about their personal experiences as a writer of a different ethnicity. Orhan Sahin (GANGSTER BOYS, 2010), In-Soo (CARMEN VAN HET NOORDEN, 2009, MADE IN KOREA, 2005), Baris Azman (THE MAN WHO GOT LOST, 2010) and Fedor Sendak (WOLF 2003, FOR THOSE AND OTHERS, 2009) will share their personal experiences and answer questions from the audience. The debate will be led by Sander Jansen, filmmaker and founder of the Dutch Directors Guild.

Date: 15 Augustus 2009

Time: 20.00

Location: Videolounge @ Machine Gebouw, Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam


The festival is held in Cultuurpark, Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Here’s more about the festival from their website:

“The latest and hippest oriëntal and western cross-overs with international performances of dance, music, literature, visual art and film. And the coolest Amsterdam’s underground DJ’s and delicious oriëntal food and drinks!”


7th Heaven

Posted in Interview, News by barisazman on April 3, 2009

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I was a guest on the radio at a program called ‘7th Heaven’ (De 7e Hemel) of the NMO (Nederlandse Moslim Omroep/ Dutch Muslim Broadcast) in Amsterdam, where I was one of four guests of emerging filmmakers. We were chosen because of our films that dealt with ‘social issues and topical matters’. Alongside me where filmmakers Beri Shalmashi, Bram Vergeer and Camiel Zwart. The host was Abdellah Dami, who asked us questions ranging from why we make films, to what our creative process is. All in all we talked for an hour, which seemed to fly by really fast.

You can listen to it here (program starts after the 02:42 min mark and is in Dutch).
More on 7th Heaven on their website.

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Archive: THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE: James Lee interview

Posted in Interview by barisazman on March 21, 2009
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In 2005 I had the opportunity to conduct a few interviews with filmmakers who were presenting their first, second or third feature film at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. These were done for a magazine called YDN (Young Designers Network). This is the first of those I will reprint here.

MEI LI DE XI YI JI / THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE (2005)

A film by James Lee

What happens when your washing machine breaks down? You get a new one. Only the lead character of THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE, Teoh, a young guy with a simple job, after looking off into the distance for a long while, decides he’s gonna get that used one on discount, yeah that in the corner over there. After installing it at home he cleans his clothes and just goes about his regular business. But when the washing machine starts going off in the middle of the night by it’s own accord you know something’s up.
Only nothing can prepare you with what that is. One morning, there is a young woman next to the washing machine and Teoh just kind of goes with it and asks his mysterious new friend to do the washing of the clothes. When she doesn’t complain, Teoh decides he’s gonna let her do other choirs too. It isn’t before long that Teoh even starts pimping out his new friend. The mysterious woman never speaks and silently goes along with everything.

beaut-wash-machine1People have mentioned that the film has a certain Buster Keaton comedy vibe to it, while Bunuel wouldn’t be misplaced either. Scenes tend to last several minutes and sometimes even in the same shot. You try and predict how a certain scene will end, but more often you’re just flabbergasted and in stitches at what Lee just comes up with for his characters to do. Teoh is the ultimate slacker and the ultimate asshole to boot. He misuses his new friend to the extreme and rarely regrets anything. When a pimpdeal goes wrong he loses his mysterious friend and she ends up in someone else’s car. This ends up being a rather caring father who takes her in and in no time gets used to the fact that she does all the cleaning. The man’s daughter has of course her doubts about what this new ladyfriend of his father’s motives actually are.

James Lee’s ultra low budget digital film is something of a gem. With so many digital films playing at festivals, it’s hard coming across one that actually makes you forget you’re watching a ‘videofilm’. The attention to the framing is something that most digital filmmakers can learn from. It’s beautiful use of space and mise-en-scene is something that elevates the whole look of the film. Usually digital filmmakers just run around with the camera and point it in eachother’s face. Hoping to get some sense of direct contact with the viewer. While in some cases this might work, the audience is usually just left numb and overdosed on immeadiacy. THE BEAUTIFUL WASHING MACHINE is the perfect example of good films that are shot on no budgets with (partially) unprofessional actors. You just need the creativity (and digital video creates that independent freedom) and some friends and time, maybe even spruce up some money and you could make a quality film.

Interview with James Lee

Baris Azman: Being a starting filmmaker myself, I was wondering about the more productional side of the film. What was the budget and how long was the shooting schedule of the film?

James Lee: It was close to 50,000 US dollars and a ten day shoot. Pre-production was about two months and the post was the longest.

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