interview with Milčo Mančevski, film director
I interviewed Mančevski on November 27th 2001, in the “Bastion” café. We all know that this ma isn’t only a filmmaker, although his global fame he gain through the film “Before the Rain”. His second film “Dust” got many various responds. In Skopje he was called “Macedonian Gernika”, and the Italian romancer Alexander Barico claimed: “I like ‘Dust’ because it’s an open artwork, it has everything and it’s completely in opposite of everything, it combines the linguistic patterns with the archetypes… Critics aren’t ready for such films and books: it is as you go in the mountains wearing a swimsuit, and you wonder why you’re cold. As the people have seen the train locomotive for the first time and they asked: And where are the horses?” The Italian film magazine “Chak”, in other hand, says that “the new millenium in the film art starts with ‘Dust’”. In Asia, after the success in Tokyo, this film is compared with the popularity of the Marcel Proust…
* As for the beginning: How pleased are you with the reception of “Dust” out of Macedonia? Do you think that the focus on some particular historical and cultural determinants decreases the possibilities for those who aren’t familiar with the historical framework of this film?
MM: I think that every film should function on several levels and in this case I this problem is on eof those levels: How it fits into the culture and history that this film speaks of. But, the film shouldn’t function only on that single level. People should understand it even without knowing anything about the particular culture its story is built on. It is so with every good film. For example, to understand and like “Citizen Kane” one must have some knowledge of America at the first half of 20th Century. It’s my motto – always when I’m not working, I try to see the people first. In this film it’s the matter of people, heir destinies, sufferings, relations, strivings… It’s essential to achieve this when you make a film. Everything else will only fulfil the picture. When you make a film about the history and culture of a place, you never get a classic feature film. That’s either documentary or television – CNN. Otherwise, I’m not the one who should comment the reactions of the audience or the critics. As an author I can’t see it objectively and without personal limitations. From those few places I’ve been present at the screenings, the reactions are quite good. In every opposite to the palette of some critics in Venice. Now, after I see how is this film accepted from the critics and the audience in Tokyo, Tai-Pei, Toronto, even in Solun (Thessaloniki), I conclude that what happened in Venice was an attempt for assassination upon “Dust”. The true merit will be how this film will be accepted by the audience throughout the world further. It’s always the only merit.
* In few occasions, in foreign and domestic magazines you appear as an author of columns with political connotation. Do you think that’s the reason that some ultra-right and nationalistic critics reacted like that on the film in Venice, or you think that they were frustrated by the fact that Milčo Mančevski, some director from some land Macedonia, came from the Wild East and made such a audacious film as “Dust”?..
MM: … And attempts to lecture them in esthetics, instead of begging for help among those numerous international non-governmental organizations. I think that the reasons are both you mentioned. I was refusing to believe, and long after Venice I couldn’t believe that one has something to do with the other, but… it seems that I have still much to learn about things. I was naive enough to think that people will occupate themselves with the esthetics of the film. Now I see that those reactions weren’t that coincidental. Such claims I base not only upon the reactions, but upon the researches that were conducted by other people, like Iris Kronauer, who was also a guest in Skopje, and she writes a book on the reactions upon “Dust”. Iris found a text in Germany, a review, where he critic claims that two days before they see the film, they were consulting in what way to review it. Other reviews say that the film is just an illustration of my journalistic text where I attack and accuse NATO for its mistakes. NATO, de facto, isn’t guilty for that what happens here, but it’s partly a consequence of its faults. By this hypothetical situation that is claimed by some people, “Dust” is made in a period of one month. I’m sorry that I realized that a whole segment of the culture – the critics, for which I thought that is pure esthetic matter, actually manipulates with politics. I saw that for the European film critics the politics is equivalent to the Hollywood gossip. It isn’t important who sleeps with whom (as in Hollywood), but who has this or that political opinion.