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Social and political considerations

From: 2010 SBIFF Producers' Panel: Movers and Shakers

Video: Social and political considerations

(Music playing.) Patrick Goldstein: Lori, your film, Invictus, is not just based on real life events. You shot the movie in South Africa. I presume that you used a lot of the real life locations, where the events actually happened, and it's a story that's incredibly central to the history of modern South Africa.

Social and political considerations

(Music playing.) Patrick Goldstein: Lori, your film, Invictus, is not just based on real life events. You shot the movie in South Africa. I presume that you used a lot of the real life locations, where the events actually happened, and it's a story that's incredibly central to the history of modern South Africa.

So first up, the logistics. Did the script have to be vetted by the Mandela family, by the current government, by a million people? And how did you deal with that? Lori McCreary: Yes, many people, including all those you mentioned, and the current government, which was changing to a new government during our shooting. So that was a little bit interesting. Patrick Goldstein: So both the outgoing and the-- Lori McCreary: Yeah, both the old and the new, and Zuma, the new guy. We were shooting in the Union buildings, which no one had ever gotten permission to use. It's basically the equivalent of our White House, and it was right during the regime change.

So we didn't really know until about three days before that we finally got permission, after five months of literally going in and asking for permission, parading Mr. Eastwood and Morgan and having them say no for five months. I made a film in 1992 about South Africa, in Zimbabwe, that Morgan Freeman directed. It was my first movie as a producer. And most of our crew-- It was about South Africa, it was an anti-apartheid film, and so I had longstanding contacts with the ANC, who is the political party in power.

And so that allowed a little bit of history. I had been there before. I made a movie that was against apartheid, so that helped me in getting in there now. But also, I have longstanding relationships. The crews in South Africa have been working for years and years and years in a very small community and they all know each other. Not only do they know each other, they have worked in almost every department. Sometimes a grip had worked in the hair department. And sometimes the guys on set had worked in production. And they literally, because it was such a small film industry, knew almost what every other job did, not only knew what they did, but supported each other and knew how hard their jobs were.

So we have this. Of 240 crew members, 202 were South Africans. Not only had they worked together, they lived through one of the most important moments they would say in the history of their country. And so for them it was really important. And when we were interviewing even like the 3rd ADs, they would talk about where they were when the 1995 World Cup was played. Everyone, to a person, would get teary- eyed and talk about what it meant to them and how they are really happy that they were going to be reminded of the reconciliation that the country still really needs.

The hard part about it is everyone remembered where they were and everyone thought they knew what everyone else was doing at the time. So the white Afrikaners couldn't imagine that Mandela was going through such angst with his own people during this time. And the black bodyguards and everything said, no, no, no, that's not what was going on. This is what was really going on. I had to serve many masters. And this was all behind the scenes, so that Clint and Morgan and Matt and all these guys wouldn't have to deal with it.

So I did a lot of meeting with people who had never read scripts before, the Mandela Foundation being one. If you haven't read a script before, you don't really know how to read a script. And so I sat many, many hours with many of the people that we portrayed. Warner Bros. didn't make us or mandate that we got rights from everyone that we portrayed, but we wanted to get rights. One, because we could give them a small payment. And two, because I wanted their support. And so we had a laundry list of everyone that you saw that was portrayed.

That was real, we got their rights. And it took quite a bit of time to explain to them that when it said "crazy drunken white Afrikaners throwing things at Mandela," that it wasn't going to be every single white guy in the stands throwing something at Mr. Mandela, because the Rugby Union had a big problem with that. So that was a lot of my-- Jon Landau: I have heard stories about when you screened the movie for the Mandelas. I thought it might be interesting to share that. Lori McCreary: Zindzi Mandela, the daughter, she is the most outspoken, if you guys follow South African press.

She has had a lot of problems with her father in the past, but has kind of made up with him. And we took a little bit of liberty during the creation of the film. Her scene is really not accurate in terms of the time frame it took place in, so she was really intent on us changing it. So we rewrote the scene, and on the day that I finally convinced Mr. Eastwood to change the scene to the new scene, the actress wasn't able to really realize the scene in the way that it should have been. And so Clint asked her to do the original scene, and she did it perfectly, because she had months and months to practice it.

And I had to tell Zindzi that we didn't have the new scene, and she had already signed the release form, and I hadn't sent it yet to Warner Bros. So long story short, sitting at the premiere in Los Angeles, the opening premiere of the film is Zindzi Mandela in front of me, and it's the first time she is going to see the movie. And she wasn't there when we shot that scene, and I know it's not the scene that she likes, because she read the scene and said we have to change it. And I literally sat there just watching her the whole time, waiting for her either to--.

Now, I knew we weren't going to be in trouble if she had problems with it legally. I was just going to have heart problems if she didn't like it. And I promise you, I mean, every movement, she grabbed her son, and when she turned around at the end of the money, she hugged me. And I thought, okay, I hope this is a good sign. She is not squeezing too tight. And she said, thank you for letting the world know who my father is. So that was a big relief for me, a really big relief. Patrick Goldstein: Everyone remembers history in their own special way.

So what was the reaction in the political circles in South Africa? I have seen documentaries. I know you stayed very close to the story, but did people still see it that way when they saw the dramatization of it? Lori McCreary: I think that probably the most criticism we had, and I can understand why, is that we had to really take a black and white, for lack of a better word, look at the situation and not every Springbok, not all of the national team, was as racist as probably they came across on the film.

They actually, for those of you who have seen the movie, they learned the national anthem. They hired a coach to teach them the national anthem. They were actually quite interested in learning the Xhosa, which is a very difficult language. But for dramatization and for the film, we really needed, especially for some of the world that didn't really know how racially divided South Africa was at the time, we really needed to for dramatic reason show them that way. But everyone to a person, I had most of the Springboks at the-- We did four screenings in South Africa, and to a man, every single person came up to me with tears in their eyes, really happy that we had.

Patrick Goldstein: And Lawrence, I am curious, what was the reaction to 'Basterds,' both in Germany, and then I know you went with the film to Israel? What did they think of its portrayal of the ultimate tough Jews? Lawrence Bender: You mention those, those are the two most cathartic screenings we had. We had great screenings all over the world. But in Berlin and Tel Aviv were these just emotional moments.

Berlin was interesting. Well, of course we shot there. It's their history. A lot of their language is in the movie. The actors from their country, so there was a ownership I think they felt. It was the second biggest territory in the world, in terms of box office. So they loved the movie. I guess Germans are always the butt end of the jokes, or they are the bad guys in World War II movies, so they are used to it. But I think in this movie, there is a feeling, one, that they could laugh with the movie.

And two, at this point-- It was interesting. My parents had never been to German. They came to visit. Eli Roth's parents had never been to Germany. They came to visit. People who are Jewish, from another generation, tend not to go to Germany, because they grew up with this. But what's interesting is we spent seven months there, and people of our generation and younger generations kind of hate Hitler as much as the Jews do, in a sense, because Hitler destroyed their country, and they have grown up dealing every year, and rightly so, they are taught everything that happened.

So this is a weight that kids, or not kids, young people, people in their 20s and 30s have dealt with their whole life. So they loved what happened in the movie. And in Tel Aviv, it was really extraordinary. The opening sequence of course was even more harrowing. Everyone in that audience had a family member that was underneath those floorboards. But at the end of the movie, when Shosanna is on the screen and she says, "This is the face of Jewish revenge," and like spontaneous applause erupted in the theater.

And I turned to Quentin and go, for this moment is why we made the movie. It was great. So I was doing this screening at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and my father was there. My father is a psychoanalyst. So we were talking about revenge and the cathartic feeling of shooting Hitler and all this kind of stuff. And my dad-- and the unconscious desire of having that revenge, and is revenge Jewish? We were having this kind of interesting conversation.

And then my dad stood up, and I was very proud of him, and he said, being a psychoanalyst, he says-- Because the movie was very successful. It did $320 million worldwide. And he says, it's not Jewish people that have this unconscious desire to have revenge, you don't do it because we are a civil society, but the movie was able to release-- you were able to have this fantasy of release, and non-Jews as well. Obviously, you have seen in the box office.

But those two countries were particularly-- that feeling you have at a screening, that you just can't-- It's not just, oh, the movie is great and everyone loves it, but there is something much deeper that went on. So there is one other quick story. In Germany, I wasn't there, but Daniel Bruhl told us a story. He plays Zoller. So there was a screening in one of the not so good areas of Berlin, and there was a couple of like neo-Nazi skinheads that were in the audience and started saying, in the movie theater, some Hitler, Heil Hitler, just saying some bad stuff.

And normally the audiences in Germany are pretty sedate and wouldn't say anything, and also these guys are big tough guys, and most people going to movie theaters, they are not going to get into a fight. And everybody in the theater stood up and told these guys to stand down, they are going to call the police, which rarely happens when these kind of incidents occur, which was a very heartening experience to hear about. Patrick Goldstein: I guess my question to all of you guys is, there is an age old-thing that people ask, which is, can movies change the way we see the world? I would love to hear your thoughts about that based on your films and other films that you admire.

Do you think movies can actually change the way we look at things? Lori McCreary: Absolutely! It's the reason that I love this business. The first movie I made, again, anti-apartheid movie. I grew up in a family that wasn't that progressive, small town California. My dad used the N word more than I would like. First screening of this anti-apartheid movie in 1993, for my father, absolutely 100% changed his outlook on people of other races.

100%. He has been a different man since then. That to me was very personal, and I said, that's the reason I made that movie. I mean, Lawrence said he had the movement of, oh, this is the reason we made the movie. I thought that I was making Invictus because I thought that it was, when we were talking about it, it was right at the time when our country was in a real racially divided state, and 2006 is when Fred Spector first sent us the proposal. What I found out was it was for a very different reason.

It was because South Africa needed to be reminded that divisiveness doesn't work, and reaching across a barrier sometimes seems really difficult, but it's as easy as pouring a cup of tea or putting on a number 6 rugby jersey and supporting your team. I first met Nelson Mandela in 1993 and I thought, if people could see that this is-- He wasn't a saint, but he had this presence that I felt like I was the only person in the room at that moment.

And it was my mission for many, many years to try to figure out the right way to get him on screen, where he wasn't a saint, where he was someone that we could all relate to and say, oh, he is a man. He has men's problems, family problems, but he did something that was incredibly great. And it may have taken a lot of political savvy, but the things that he did were not so outside of the realm of something all of us can do. And my a-ha movement for this movie was I had the incredible pleasure of showing the film to Mr. Mandela right before Christmas.

Morgan and I took it to him in South Africa. He is 91, so he is frail, so we had to wait for the right days to show him. And we actually cut it into two parts and showed him in two days, because he doesn't sit well for long periods of time. And the second day. The first day he was a little tired. The second day, on the second half of the movie, he was so animated. He grabbed Morgan and said, "I know this man," every time Morgan would come on screen. And the smile on his face and the tears in his eyes and again, just like with Zindzi in front of me, I was sitting like this the whole time watching him, because I just-- It's a moment I will never forget.

His aide told us the next week that he said to her, "Zelda, maybe people will remember who I am." I mean, who can imagine that someone as great as a man like Nelson Mandela, who did so much for his country and the world, would be afraid that people would forget him? And so I am really proud that we are in an industry that can remind people. (Applause.) Ivan Reitman: For thousands of years, for as long-- in recorded history, art has had extraordinary power, all kinds of art.

It's why totalitarian governments go to such trouble to try to control it. The art of propaganda is remarkably influential, and the art of the 21st century is really, and the 20th century, has been film. I think it's the most powerful medium ever invented so far. Because it manages to combine all the historical great arts all in one, and when used together effectively is remarkably influential, remarkably powerful.

It moves us both emotionally and intellectually, and can tell great truths and great falsehoods. That's why I am frankly, personally, so proud of my son. He has chosen in his three movies really, really difficult, really difficult stories, filled with difficult characters, and managed to do things that are very interesting, that really have something to say about lots of stuff.

Jon Landau: I think it is powerful and can change people, and I think we have a responsibility as filmmakers to seek out those type of movies and to make them. And if we can make movies that have themes that are bigger than their genres, that's when emotion and ideas resonate with audiences. And I think that's what each of these movies that are up here today really have. They have themes behind the stories they are telling, that are important, that are relative, and are provocative. Mark Boal: I don't know that there is necessarily a direct cause and effect, but I think there is a kind of consciousness raising that film can do, because, Ivan is right, because they are the literature of our time.

I wrote plenty of articles about the war. I spent six years writing about it, and however many people read those articles, they would probably fill this room. Whereas the film has a much more global reach. So I think, hard to quantify, but clearly it can be important. Patrick Goldstein: So listen. Thank this panel for being here. (Applause.) I really appreciate it. Thank you. Lawrence Bender: Thank you Patrick.

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2010 SBIFF Producers' Panel: Movers and Shakers

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