Describing himself as a filmmaker who sees the world as if from another planet, avant-garde filmmaker Gerard Courant took the second ‘Gulf Nights discussion, held on the sidelines of the fourth Gulf Film Festival, to a different realm of thought and interaction.
‘Gulf Nights,’ attended by filmmakers, industry experts and the public, is one of the hugely popular public forums held at the film festival, organized under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).
On Saturday night, the session, ‘Gerard Courant: Is This Cinema?’ discussed Cinématon, the world’s longest movie directed by Courant, which he describes a work in progress. GFF 2011 is highlighting the work of the director in its In Focus segment screening 32 feature films, six medium-length movies, four shorts, and samples of six series films from Cinématon, each individual fragment depicting a different tale. They are screened across video galleries in Dubai Festival City mall and Gulf Film Festival venues at the InterContinental and Crowne Plaza.
In a freewheeling discussion where the audience raised every possible query on the film and the filmmaker’s style, Courant said he sees Cinématon as a film that never ends, as he continues to explore people and places, “with no agenda, selecting my themes randomly.”
Courant’s films are at most 3 minutes and 25 seconds long, the duration of the 8mm format he first worked on. Since then, he has worked on other formats and has now shifted to digital filmmaking, but he still maintains the same duration, and continues to have a preference for silent movies. Courant told the audience that his movies are perhaps the lowest-budget films in the world, and he makes them for people who care about art, cinema, photography, human psychology and abstract art.
He enjoys the creative fulfillment of people watching the films he created, and tours the world to meet people and share their way of thinking. Courant’s approach is to film his subjects in single takes. When asked if it bothers him that his subjects tend to ‘act on camera’ as is human tendency, Courant explained that the difference with his films is that “my subjects act the way they want and not how I want. Invariably, at some point of the film, the true personality of the subject comes through, revealing a reflection of his inner self.”
Over the course of the past 33 years since filming Cinématon, Courant has featured 2,347 artists, directors and cinephiles including Jean-Luc Godard, Sergie Bardaghnouf and Youssef Chahine.
Festival Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said that the session with Courant was a new experience for the participants as it shifted focus from ordinary topics, and was an intellectual discussion on the filmmaker’s thought process.
GFF 2011 is being held at the InterContinental Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Grand Cinemas at Dubai Festival City. The Festival includes a Gulf competition, student competition, out-of-competition segments including children’s cinema, and other special events. All the 153 films from 31 nations screened at GFF 2011 until April 20 are free for entry for the public.
The Gulf Film Festival box office is open from 10.30 am to 10 pm daily at the Grand Cinemas Dubai Festival City. All patrons are welcome to up to two tickets per person on a first-come, first-served basis.