Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sebastian Doggart talks about his movie on the ex US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an exclusive interview to insidesaopaulo

Courting Condi: Official trailer
Sebastian Doggart, is a producer, writer and cinema director living in New York. He came to Sao Paulo for the 33th Mostra Internacional de Cinema (33th International Cinema Festival) bringing his film Courting Condi and insidesaopaulo had a chance to interview him about his movie.

The entitle musical docu-tragi-comedy is the first one on gender and has been well received in everywhere. Courting Condi won 25 awards on the Festival circuit and it was also acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival.

The idea of making this movie came up on 2005 when Doggart heard that Condoleezza Rice was the world's most powerful woman. According to him, that was fascinating for a filmmaker. Trying to understand the way she reached this status, Courting Condi brings the story of a man (Devin Ratray) aiming to conquest her heart, goes back to her roots on a journey where he talks to her childhood friends, teachers, colleagues and even a Rice's ex fiance before the career drives her to Washington DC to help Bush's administration during a disastrous war and craft policy explicitly endorsing torture. Expert on Reality show format, Sebastian left the film's story following the events as he claimed the reaction of people interacting with the project objectives. That made him discover more about Rice as the news kept coming out during three years invested in the making of Courting Condi.

Sebastian's life story shows an apparent unconnected path. Intrigued with a childhood story of Paddington Bear, he decided to expend some time in Peru early on 90's, where he became journalist. Later he moved to Argentina where he wrote about economics during a tough period of hyperinflation.Two years later he moved to Cambridge, where he studied Social and Political Sciences, and finally became a filmmaker.

Below you can watch an exclusive chat with Sebastian at the Hotel Renaissance in São Paulo about the challenge of producing a film like this or you can read down here the whole transcribed interview.  

Sebastian, how are you feeling inside São Paulo?
São Paulo is great! It’s very welcoming and fun. There are lots of things to do, interesting people… It’s a terrific city.

What do you think about this Movie Festival? How has it been?
It’s a huge Festival, has 400 films from around world so it’s quite bewildering sometimes. A great team of people very well organizes it. The questions arts and the sections are intelligent and interesting. I think it is a world class Festival. It’s a very important Festival.

Is it your first time here on this Festival?
First time to Brazil and first time to this Festival.

How was the application’s procedure?
I think it has a huge amount of films applying for Festivals like this. Thousands of thousands of films... I know this year had 10.000 applications for 130 slots, so we are great honored to be chosen here. But we’ve applied through an organization where you put your information and send a DVD. We were selected inviting the composer, Carol Connors, and me to come down, so we feel very privileged to be treated by such hospitality. The application process could pains.

The movie Courting Condi is a entitled as a musical docu-tragi-comedy and brings the story of a musician’s attempt to win the heart of the world’s most powerful woman, Condoleezza Rice. How did this idea come up to you?
Rice was voted in 2005 the world’s most powerful woman and that is fascinating as a filmmaker. It makes me think about an amazing and powerful God essence, Aphrodite… And he is this woman who not particularly stood and how could she become the most powerful woman? She has also float on beneath the rata of the media. So here was the story that I found needed to be told and I was excited to tell her background and I started investigating from her roots on Alabama through her political coalition, through her relation with the Bush family to become to this position of enormous power. Well, we didn’t realize how dark journey was inside the corridors of power would be and how she would become corrupted by power. Power attempts to corrupt everyone. Even your wonderful president Lula and his wonderful principles, once he comes to the corridors of power, can easily disappear. Where is his socialism now? Where are Rice’s values now? Power corrupts and our story is a classical story for Brazil, for USA… It’s a story for everyone. That’s the story of King Lear or Macbeth…

Could you meet her?
We tried. I met her on my dreams a lot… I slept with her for many years on my dreams. Dark dreams. She does not like this film and she has done everything she can to stop us meeting her. Actually, when we where on Washington DC, she had security guards who were constantly following us to stop anyone in there. She didn’t want her on the shoot with us. So we didn’t meet her, but I sent her the film for a Christmas’s present but she never responded it with thank you and I don’t know why.

You’ve passed through her whole background trying to catch up her feelings, and do you think you did that?
We tried to paint a portrait of a woman, of a human being, her soul, what drives her emotions. I do feel we’ve achieved all her contradictions. It’s not just a portrait of evil. Augustin once said: “There is not something such evil, just a gradual removal of good until nothing is left” and that is what I think is what you see generally with Rice’s portrait. I don’t think she likes this portrait. It’s not a portrait she would agree with, but I think it’s a true portrait from my perspective. She does not want history to judge her like this; she wants to be president of USA; she has a chance of it in a Republican party where are very few women or black women are represented. In 2012 when they will need someone to fight Obama, she is a strong candidate to go up against Obama. So, she doesn’t want this portrait to be shown, but thank goodness the first amendment of the United States, which protects freedom of speech, so I can say these things and give a truth for the portrait and let people listen.

As you just said, she didn’t want this movie to be shown. Do you think Bush Government interfered on it?

Absolutely! We were given US$ 600 thousand from Discovery and one week before shooting I received a call saying they pulled out because Discovered was pressed by Karl Rove in the administration and that would be bad for the good relations with the government and they said to me that that I could either take US$ 150 thousand, of what they call “kill fee” that basically means “go away and be quiet”, or you can sue us and may be you will get the US$ 600 thousand.

I decided to choose the US$ 150 thousand, so with it we could do something with that to make the film. So, that was the first step, and then they blocked us trying to throw us off the Denver Campus when we were shooting in Denver. Rice denied access to some key archive both in Denver and Stanford. Then we were in DC and Rice’s goons raided us... They’ve bugged us and you could see the bug under the table. They’ve done all they could aim to stop us. Thank goodness America is a democracy and not a dictatorship, so they can’t stop.

On the movie, there are people in front of the White House. How did you get that people supporting you?

That was the first musical ever shoot outside the White House. It’s the first musical docu-tragi-comedy in the history of cinema and the first musical outside the White House. Actually, the darts were a synchronized swimming team. A local synchronized swimming team of teenagers who came on darts first. They were there to visit the White House and we just said invited them to come in. Devin said: ‘join the rally!’ and we went down thinking Rice was inside there but in fact she wasn’t inside the White House, she was on the State Department and we had to travel half mile to there. Well, the idea was to create a sort of MGM musical and tried to create that scene, as well as him courting her. He is a man in love with a woman just singing song to her in classic serenaded fashion.

I found a lot of information about your background and you’ve been in Peru and Argentina before you went to Cambridge to study Social and Political Sciences, but ended as a Movie Director. Tell me more about this path you chose.

I guess I’m interested in fascinating characters and that’s probably something that runs through it, either or not when I was studying Karl Marx or King Lear… I did a TV show about Madonna and now about Condoleezza Rice. I’ve always been attracted by very interesting complex laboring personalities and what drives them. That’s probably been the running thin of my professional life. It’s shinning light on this people and telling stories that engage people. Something that touches, make people laughing and think through others people’s lives.

What comes next after Courting Condi?

One of the things we’ve discovered on this film is the extraordinary role Rice has in so many different key events of the last nine years, such as failing on warn properly about 9/11 attacks, in authorizing an use of torture around the world, and was Rice’s NSA who authorizes these techniques. It’s much worst than has been reported so far, which includes genital mutilation, electrocution, includes fingernail’s extraction, done into secret black sides around the world. So, we’ve just created a film called American Faust, which comes out on December the 2nd and will be available for download and it reviews it. It’s gonna be pretty sensational because if it’s investigated she will be tried as a war criminal. That would be the highest-ranking American Official in history to be tried as a war criminal. Others have been tried as it but Rice on the US law and International law should be tried for these allegations. That is our objective: really to get information to the public to have her investigation as war criminal. It premiers in Denver, on November the 21st and then it goes online for download or for DVD purchases on the December the 2nd through this link. We’ll also make available Courting Condi and everyone can download it at this link.

How about the movie industry, I’ve heard you are such pro-self distribution engaged. Tell me a little bit about that.

I think all filmmakers have a brotherhood of independent filmmakers, which we must keep to us and fight for that. I would like to help filmmakers as much as I could. The biggest problem with film making is distribution. You make your film and probably spent all your life savings and then its time to get out there and hopefully see some money back. At this point you have those pirates coming in — “distributors” as they are called — and basically they will take 50% to 80% of your revenue for themselves and not having risked anything and you get nothing. But filmmakers now have a chance of what just happened on the music industry: just distribute themselves. The way to do that is through a website of Indie Direct, so Indie’s filmmakers can put their film up on the website and despite they pay very small commission to us but they get all the proceeds and all that money can be used to pay the next film or to repay the team or whoever put money on that film. So it’s democratizing the process of distribution. Film making has been so democratized by cheap cameras plus editing software’s but still distribution as a dictatorship run by Studios and we wanna smash down the Studio System. We want Disney, Paramount and Sony out. We want the filmmakers switch the pyramid the other way round and have the filmmakers becoming in power. So it’s kind of a revolution and I’m calling all the Che Guevaras filmmakers to come out and roll down the system to find a way to do what they wanna do. Make films with challenge instead of these craps Hollywood format like Transformers and all this sort of thing. We want movies like those on this Festival and I urge people to come and see some of amazing independent films.

It is pretty close to happen…
It’s happened on the music industry. Some music companies have collapsed. The Artic Monkeys pinned it when they said they wouldn’t get the record deal anymore. They said: we are gonna be the people distributing straight to our fans. When they did that, all the Record Companies started to shivering with terror after realized they were caught, as they are, emperors with no cloths. They say to the artists that they need a Recording contract in order to make them musicians but it is not true. We as filmmakers need to learn a little bit about distribution; publicity and then we can use social network and all of these new tools to get the message out. Once it starts, everyone can indicate your film and it starts to grow as a virus until they buy it. That structure, filmmakers have to take on and it will be possible to extend their carriers finding their own market. You can’t universalize it anymore. One of the biggest Studios just bough the Marvel Comics for Billions, because they think using super heroes is the only way to unify the whole world. I don’t agree because I think people want to see stories that talk about their lives and Super heroes just speak on really superficial level.

What have you done in São Paulo? Did you have a chance to go out for a drink or visit the city?
I went to a wonderful restaurant called Figueira Rubayat with has a huge fig tree inside, which is beautiful. I went to the Park Trianon what is a little bit of rain forest in the middle of the city. I’ve also visited the Pinacoteca do Estado, which is one of the most beautiful museums I’ve ever seen in architectural terms. I think it’s a wonderful city.

What is your advice for those watching us? Which one is the place to be?
I think the Park Trianon is the most enchanting. It seems there is all the life in there. There are prostitutes and lovers; drug dealers and businessmen. It is very democratic Park like the seven ages of men would represent it very well.

1 comment:

  1. Really good! I totally agree with the democratization of the film industry! How can I watch the movie from Italy??
    The bug thing is somehow scaring!