DE PALMA ON VHS BECAME A CINEMATIC HERO FOR TUNISIAN DIRECTOR KAOUTHER BEN HANIA
Tunisian film director Kaouther Ben Hania’s satiric The Man Who Sold His Skin made the shortlist for this year's International Feature Film Oscar submissions, after premiering at last year's Venice Film Festival. Via Zoom, Frank J. Avella at Awards Daily asked Ben Hania to name her "cinematic heroes" -- here's what she said in response:
I grew up in a very tiny town in Tunisia, not even the capital. There was no cinema. I’m VHS generation. We rented VHS. And mainly what was available was Bollywood movies…I found this amazing. I was a pre-teenager. But I never thought these movies were talking about me. And one day I went to the video clerk and said I watched all the Indian movies; you don’t have anything else? He said there’s this American horror movie. And I said yes! It was Carrie by Brian DePalma. I didn’t know who Brian DePalma was at the time. So I watched the movie and it was something very strange—it’s not the best Brian DePalma movie—but for me it was something because she’s a teenager, she just got her period, she’s bullied by her friend in high school—it was almost talking about me! She lived in a small city in the U.S. She had a strict mother. I was realizing, oh my god, cinema can talk about stuff (relatable to) me—a girl like me. It was a shift in my mind. So this is how it started, thinking that you can identify with heroes in movies. With Carrie!
Elsewhere in the interview, Ben Hania discusses planning for her "visual ambition" --
I had a lot of visual ambition, but not enough money, so not enough time. I did the usual before shooting, precising every frame and what I wanted exactly. Making storyboards and visual references. Talking about it for days and days with my DOP. It’s like in this famous book by Sidney Lumet, the director of Network, “Making Movies,” talking about the metaphor of the mosaic. When you’re making a movie it’s like you have this tiny stone to paint, it’s like a shot, and nobody understands what you are doing since it’s a tiny stone, but as a filmmaker you should know where to put it, where its place is in the big mosaic. So, when I heard this I thought, Sidney Lumet is right, (I must) prepare every tiny stone because I don’t have time to improvise onset. I have to have my shots done…But there were some things that I changed. For example, the pimple scene. Only the operation on his back was written in the script. There was something missing. I needed the artist in the scene. So we brought the artist in and I wrote the dialogue between them on the same day…But mainly things were prepared before shooting.