Spling Movies podcast with Manjoo on ‘No Matter’ and Lynch

The narrative feature film, No Matter recently completed the screenplay phase in pre-production, funded by the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission.

The script is written by Fin Manjoo, who also aims to direct this movie about Nomatter, a Zulu miner’s struggle leading to the Marikana massacre.

Spling Movies discussed the status of the production, particularly with the current challenges of Covid-19 in the film industry today.

Stephen Spling [pictured in the photo] and Manjoo also discussed the art of cinema, related to his debut film Woodwind (2018) and how different No Matter will be considering it will be made for a mainstream audience together with a taste of what is known as cinema nouveau.

You can listen to the full interview on Spling Movies here.

Stephen Spling

Further to the podcast interview, Manjoo was also asked by Spling about his so-called similar approach to the technique of filmmaking when compared to David Lynch. Fin has provided additional information for context on that point here:

To those reading on the Fin Pictures Studio website, it is evident that since most filmgoers in our ‘world’ are familiar with Hollywood or English language cinema then Lynch is usually known as the only filmmaker for breaking the Hollywood cinematic formula in such dramatic fashion. In the rest of the world there are much more high profile examples, such as in Europe alone there are Luis Bunuel, Jean-Luc Godard or even less celebrated examples like Alain Robbe-Grillet and over 100 others. Though, there are dozens more even in the United States we didn’t hear of. To be truly fair, I’m not saying this type of innovative cinema is superior, nor am I saying that these filmmakers are superior. I feel the film artist shouldn’t be judged or written off just because they have to compromise to Hollywood audience expectations or spend their entire careers making commercials in Cape Town. I’ve mentioned that many talented, creative and imaginative artists are forced into compromising their vision because they have to make a living for themselves, their families, their children’s education… you’d rather bank on an action adventure movie starring a lion than risk your career, and then the director gets typecast where the public think you’re only living to make thrillers, or comedies or whatever. There are directors who’ve made a wide range of films and anyone can be trusted to do so.

In our social lives, there are so many alternative/outsiders who relate to Lynch and he was fortunate in that after what they call an experimental movie, Eraserhead (1977) he got the opportunity to make Elephant Man (1980) where Oscar nominations at the Academy Awards helped Lynch gain relatively better support for his future movies than 99% of the other experimental filmmakers in the English language world out there. It sounds like I’m not giving Lynch enough credit, but his Twin Peaks The Return (2017) is the best motion picture creation I’ve seen in recent years while I similarly rate many of his other productions. So, for starters, I’m not underestimating Lynch’s ability.

I just want to make it clear that the whole objective of making any artistic expression in cinema, shouldn’t be about being compared to Lynch, or that the objective isn’t about trying to make a film like Lynch… otherwise, you’d be using a new Lynch formula and then in essence you’re doing the same thing that Hollywood does, where they’ve created formulas based on the box office success of Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, but others think they’re original and do the same in terms of so-called artistic merit, to be like Lynch or whoever they see as radical in their eyes.

In my interview, I discuss how my film school productions were compared to Lynch’s movies, and this is why I made the above point. This was in the year 2002 when I had already watched a number of Lynch movies as a teenager, and while I wasn’t your typical teenager, his films didn’t grab me as much as other highly rated directors such as the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese when discussing just American cinema. Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) had just come out in the video store and I had not seen it yet. So, when my lecturers were comparing my short films to Lynch’s work, I decided to rent Mulholland Drive and was astonished because the story and the theme were very similar to my short film which was made at the exact same time Lynch would’ve filmed Mulholland Drive. I took my short film to the Cannes Film Festival market in 2001 at the same time Lynch took Mulholland Drive to Cannes, where he won best director in the official selection. It’s obvious I was still a young, new artist experimenting with my craft and Lynch was at the top of his game, dealing with the same subjects but with a massive budget compared to my novice productions (remember that even Lynch struggled to get the financing for Mulholland Drive).

What I wanted to point out in the interview is that I didn’t feel as if I was exclusively praised with the Lynch comparison at film school, simply because most of my fellow students were trying to make movies like Spiderman or some kind of looney comedy or whatever fun. There were a few who understood my rather serious objectives, including my lecturer who clearly did praise me and gave me the highest mark in the class for the said short film. However, I didn’t like being compared to Lynch, as I said in the interview, many even in the film industry and even highly educated friends of mine felt that Lynch’s films were too dark. So, only for a second, I wondered if they thought I was dark. I didn’t care what others thought of me. This was a funny thought to have, since I’d never imagine myself to be dark, but I believe this comparison led me to focus on projects after this that would be completely opposite from anything Lynch would do. So, I was affected by the comparison.

I went for topics that were fantastical, light or magic realism… I don’t want to box them into any genres (as usual). I must also point out, it’s not about Lynch, you see, it’s about making sure I find and develop my own voice and style. This took a number of years to establish through my 20s but I was surprised more than anyone that even when I finished a film and being satisfied that it was totally my own, people still compared it to Lynch and I must admit only long after viewing the end result on the screen, yes, there are still some similarities.

I don’t believe everything Lynch does is ideal anyway. There are weaknesses in every film, which I’d like to improve on. For example, we both admire Kubrick. Episode 8 in Twin Peaks is remarkable but I wouldn’t have inserted such an obvious long homage to 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968), particularly since so many filmmakers are doing the same including Terrence Malick in Tree of Life (2011). I understand it’s a reference and they’re paying back an artist who inspired them, but I wouldn’t use such a homage in such a way to any filmmaker. I feel every moment has to naturally belong to the film I’m making. And yes, I get that Lynch is creating dreams within dreams, illusions within illusions, filming/scanning over a reflection of the television screen as a mirror to society. I understand Kubrick created this language and Lynch is speaking the language to advance the message, but I want to create my own language, which someone else can speak if they want to.

When you create your own language of cinema, it’s obviously going to be a challenge to learn the meaning of the message, but we can discuss that topic another time.

Signing out. Fin.

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