Cinema is the most powerful art form

Could you describe your connection to Slovakia? My connection to Slovakia started a long, long time ago. I first came to Europe alone as a broke student in 1985. I had already seen a few Czech films like Jiří Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains, and I was deeply curious what this country might hide. I flew into Amsterdam, and from there I hitchhiked to Vienna. From Vienna I made it to Bratislava, where the communist regime was still in power, and it was my first encounter with such a thing. I spent two weeks in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and I ended up falling in love with this country. Even then I was determined to come back and shoot a film here, and after the revolution I was able to do just that several times. In Bratislava I presented my films, and once I was in the jury at a francophone festival. In 2006 they invited me to Uherské Hradiště, where I met my future wife, with whom I have two children. At the present I spend more time in Prague than in Slovakia, and it feels like I’ve been cheating on my bygone love.  Would you still like to shoot a film in Slovakia? Yes, it’s always on my mind. Right now I’m making an experimental documentary about the original inhabitants of Canada. If I finish it, I’d love to create something similar in Slovakia about the Roma in the country’s eastern regions. Quebec is the only francophone province in Canada. Does it differ from the country’s other parts in its film culture as well? Canadian films don’t have the same background as Quebecois films. Quebecois films have always been deeply influenced by the NFB (National Film Board of Canada) documentaries (cinema direct, cinema verité) which gave rise to Quebecois cinema. Even when we create fiction films, they are still rooted in documentary, like in the films of Ken Loach or the Dardenne brothers. The American part of Canada doesn’t make films like this. For them, fiction is of the utmost importance. People from the English-speaking parts will continue to watch American films and read American books, because for them there is no language barrier. For filmmakers in the American part, it’s more difficult to find their own particularity, something to differentiate themselves with. In Quebec, culture is essential. With a modicum of talent, you have no problem finding grants for your projects. We are more or less lucky. What do you think about the new generation of Quebecois filmmakers? They come from totally different circumstances from the ones we had. I grew up on the classic Japanese and Russian films of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Today’s youth have the internet; with a computer and a camcorder, they can shoot a feature-length film with their friends whenever they like. We would shoot for a month with a 16 mm camera, and then we would wait another month for payment from the studio. And they also haven’t seen as many films as my generation has. The most have no film education to speak of. It’s good to keep track of these new films, because they are made differently; their stories play out in a totally different way, and they aren’t based in dialogue as ours are. This demonstrates that cinema is the most powerful art form, because it can always be refreshed, and new roads, new narrative approaches can always be found. The compilers of the short-film section have done a brilliant job. Every day we get the chance to see distinctive works from diverse corners of the globe. When I see these films, I realize how alive this art form really is. Have any films so far made you say, "I wish I’d shot this"? No, never [laughs].  But I do remember when I saw Jacques Audiard’s film A Prophet with students. Then I was truly envious. I wished that I’d had that kind of talent, but I never told myself I would like to make that film in particular.