Fyzal Boulifa has been selected to screen in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes for the second time with his short film 'Rate Me'. The last time he attended was in 2012 with his Moroccan-set fable 'The Curse'. He will be joined in 2015 by three other UK shorts in what is a bonanza year for new talent at the world's most prestigious film festival.
What’s your connection to British Council?
Beginning with Whore in 2009, British Council has supported me in presenting several of my shorts at international festivals. In 2013 they invited me to present screenings and workshops as part of British Film Week in Rabat and, last year, to represent the UK as part of a delegation at the Bogota Audio Visual Market (BAM) in Colombia. It has to be said that they've been very good to me over the years!
What originally turned you onto film?
As a kid I was really into horror movies. When my mum was out I’d make myself cry with them, then go back for more for. That evolved into an interest in underground movies and weird asian stuff that eventually gave way to a wider interest in world cinema. I remember skipping college and almost by chance seeing Dreyer’s Day of Wrath in Leicester's only arthouse cinema. There was only me and one other guy in his seventies. I think that movie kind of announced to me a higher power in cinema. Reading Bresson’s Notes on a Cinematographer also had a great effect on me, as it did for so many others. It took me a long time to come round to the idea of making films though. I wanted to be a critic first; I’m quite lazy but opinionated. Plus, having immigrants as parents, creativity is not always understood and can feel like a betrayal. My creative side is always trying to catch up with my critical one.
What has been your career high so far?
It’s hard to pick just one. Shooting The Curse was a great experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect from working in Morocco - but it has a particular energy where things can seem disastrous then suddenly happen. We arrived in a truck stop town on the edge of the desert to live with a gaggle of demonically behaved children and a lead actress who regarded me with incredible suspicion. By the end, though, I think we were all very moved. It was the first time I managed to enjoy shooting.
Taking part in the Cannes Cinéfondation Residence was like some sort of opulent fantasy – living with a group of international filmmakers in a gorgeous Parisenne apartment decorated with prints from Bresson movies with everything paid for. We (kind of) wrote in the day and invited filmmakers and artists for leisurely dinners in the evening. We had a free pass to half the cinemas in Paris, but too often we’d say to ourselves ‘Why not?’ and ended up seeing a lot of really shitty movies. Bruno Dumont came to see us one afternoon for champagne and macaroons – we spoke about the spiritual aspects of Spring Breakers.
What was your first job in the film industry?
I was the most socially awkward production runner ever for one trial afternoon. They didn’t ask me back.
If I knew then what I know now…
Everything is super slow. People are great at telling you what’s not possible. You’ll never be satisfied.
What is your favourite British film?
For me, the best of British is Alan Clarke – the combination of brutality and purity. I think there has been a massive retreat into nostalgia in contemporary British cinema – celebrating victories of the past because we cannot confront the now, or else working with pastiche. For me, this makes Clarke more vital than ever. I think Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin is an incredible achievement, possibly the best British film in decades. It’s nauseating, funny and profound. It’s the kind of movie I can imagine being in film studies textbooks fifty years from now and we’ll be able to say ‘Yes - that’s what it felt like to be alive at that moment’.
If you could have been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
Costume or Make-Up on Whatever Happened To Baby Jane. Can you imagine? I’d pretend to be impartial so I could see everything – but my heart is Team Joan all the way.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
It's an impossible question but here is what comes to mind: Anne’s confession in Day of Wrath. Pixote being breastfed by a prostitute. Petra Von Kant’s birthday party. When they go swimming in The Idiots. The appearance of ghosts in Ugetsu Monogatari and Kuroneko. The opening of Une Femme Douce. The ending of Mouchette.
Favourite screen kiss?
“I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy.’
Who would play you in the film about your life?