Saturday 17 November 2012

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old film director called Roland Joffé

Roland, a film director interested in the the fate of individuals subject to forces beyond their control, is 67 years old today.  Parallels can be drawn between the careers of Roland and the American director, Orson Welles who was mostly remembered for two great film which he directed at the age of 26 and 27, 'Citizen Kane' and 'The Magnificent Ambersons' . Roland was a little older, 39 when he directed 'The Killing Fields' and 'The Mission' when he was 41.
In the years before that, Roland :

* was educated at two independent schools: the The Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in London and Carmel College Oxfordshire and after school studied at the University of  Manchester.

*  leapt into the theatre scene with the 'Young Vic Troupe' after graduating from University and in the early 1970s, attended meetings of 'The Workers Revolutionay Party' and later said : "I was very interested in politics at that time, but I was interested in what all the political parties were doing, not just the WRP, and I was never actively involved."

  in 1977, at the age of 32, was commissioned by the BBC to direct a play, 'The Spongers', when the producer, Tony Garnett was informed that MI5 files listed him as a 'security risk' because of his 'left wing' views and only when Tony threatened to 'go public' had objections to his directing dropped and saw the play go on to win a 'Prix Italia Award'.

* saw his first feature film 'The Killing Fields' dealing with the friendship of an American journalist for The New York Times and his translator, a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge in Communist Cambodia, win three Academy Awards.

* centred his second film ,'The Mission', on a story of conflict between Jesuit  missionaries in South America, trying to convert the Guarani Indians and Portuguese colonials wanting  to enslave them and witnessed it win the 'Palme d'Or' and 'Technical Grand Jury Prize' at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival and six 'Academy Award' nominations.

 * returned to his pet themes of culture clashes, the sometimes-disillusioning effects of altruism and the splendour of nature with 'City of Joy' at the age of 47 in 1992, which although it had a lead performance of an against-type, Patrick Swayze, saw the Calcutta-set film go largely ignored by moviegoers.

* said that Warners was terrified of doing a film about lepers and : 'They said : "Who cares about lepers?" I said it's not a film about lepers, it's a film about life and about any outsider - it could be AIDS, because the way people respond to lepers isn't that different from the way people with AIDS are treated. People say to me, "You're crazy! Why do you go to these difficult locations and lay yourself open to these things?" I reply, "Because it's there and the doing of it will test me."'

*  saw his 1995 adaption of 'The Scarlet Letter' become a critical and financial disaster and his 2007 horror film 'Captivity' wth its advertising billboards, seen as exploitative and misogynistic and receive 'Razzie Nominations' for 'Worst Director'.

* has said : " I understand that there should be a British film industry, and I think it's great, and I think Britain has an awful lot to say. But Britain has never really loved its film-makers much. It likes them when they win things. But it's never really supported them particularly. There is no film industry in Britain. There are just individuals who've managed to do well".

* also said : "The first two movies I made, 'The Killing Fields' and 'The Mission' , I loved making, but in some ways they've been an albatross round one's neck. Everybody thinks that's what you're supposed to be doing."

Roland discussing his most recent film, 'There be Dragons', set during the Spanish Civil War about the life of St. Josemaria Escriva.
trailer :

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