Cannes Film Festival
Short Film Corner 2021
The habitual monotony of an empty-container storage site is disrupted when a container full of valuable consumer goods is accidentally dropped off.
Hi Jacintho, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these very strange Covid times?
Overall, really well. It's been a devastating period for so many people, so I feel really fortunate to have my health and wellbeing and to have been able to have kept busy.
Is this time offering you any new creative opportunities?
Hard to say, as I don't know what the year would have been like under normal circumstances, but I think I have to say yes. I definitely found it harder to simply have ideas 'arrive', but I was also forcing myself to make things within the given limitations, so I was probably pushing myself harder to creatively 'produce' something.
Congratulations on having Container as part of this year's Short Film Corner, how does it feel to be able to present your film at Cannes?
I'm really excited, especially to be able to attend in person. I live in France now, so I'm really looking forward to connecting myself more with local filmmakers! Every filmmaker hopes their work meets an audience, so I'm hoping the event is something that helps get the film out there. I'm also very excited to see the other films.
Will there be any nerves ahead of a film festival like Cannes?
I get a little anxious in crowds and feel I'm a better one-to-one communicator, so I think I'd even be nervous to go without the film! I suppose a big part of the Short Film Corner is about learning and progressing, and hopefully getting the other ideas you have off the ground. There's always some nerves before exposing your ideas, but there's no option other than getting over it if you want to work with people.
What was the inspiration behind Container?
I don't think I can pin it down to one thing. I can say it's loosely a proof of concept for a feature which is a collection of 6 short stories that reflect contemporary Australian life, with it being the final 'chapter' of the film. Within this context (contemporary Australia), I was thinking a lot about our relationship with people or things that arrive by boats, such as the British colonisers in 1770, or the countless asylum seekers that we've illegally imprisoned over the last decade, and how these events have shaped national attitudes and identity. I think commercial ports are really evocative symbols of modern power structures, and they also happen to be by the shore, so I started to see a link between my ideas and the location. By the time we had a finished film, it had evolved and changed somewhat, but I think the original inspiration still lives in there, somewhere.
When you have written a screenplay, how close do you like to keep to it when you're shooting? Do you allow yourself / your actor's much flexibility?
Some things need to be said for the story, and I can be quite particular about the perceived meaning of precise words, but I don't think I could ever write something as well as someone saying it naturally in their own words. So, if I've cast well, I'll allow a lot of flexibility for actors to do exactly that. Ultimately, if someone reacts honestly and I feel what they've said is genuine, I don't put a lot of importance on precision, so long as it doesn't take the story in a direction that upends the entire film. I've worked without scripts before and I really loved the results, but you can't do it on every film.
"I guess I started out with little confidence or understanding of my own 'voice', so was just kinda throwing things at the wall, but the more films I've made, the more confident I've become in trusting my instincts."
What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
There is one scene in the film that is very dialogue-heavy and emotionally makes several movements. I wanted to shoot this in only a single wide shot, so there was no safety net for any of us, including the actors. It took a while but we got there.
Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?
There are always things you would do differently in retrospect. Yes, so many things. There's another version of this film for me that's more opaque and even a little abstract... maybe I would make that version if I had the chance again.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I've always loved cinema and quietly obsessed over it, but I wasn't exactly brought up in a hotbed of culture and arts, so I can't say I ever seriously considered making films till I was an adult. Although my family belonged to the working class, we still watched a lot of movies as our dad was really passionate about American films from the 70s. I think this is a really important period in cinema history, and I was lucky to have been exposed to it at a young age.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut?
I hope it's changed a lot! It's funny to look back at my early films - there's a lot of cringing, but I also see a lot of things that I was doing instinctually that I still do today. I think I'm just more aware of them now. I guess I started out with little confidence or understanding of my own 'voice', so was just kinda throwing things at the wall, but the more films I've made, the more confident I've become in trusting my instincts.
Now you can be reflective, what advice would you offer a fellow filmmaker?
The trust and belief in one's instincts have been vital for me in understanding the kind of films I want to make, and how I can make them. Understanding your 'voice', or how to synthesise the way you view the world is probably the most important thing, so work on that.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?
I'd love to know that people can take away different things from watching the film. Not to come off sounding redundant, but it's quite subjective and, depending on your worldview, the film's sentiment could be totally different. I hope people walk away feeling 'something' or being intrigued, even if the 'meaning' of the film eludes them. Ultimately, I'd like it to raise questions about ethics within the context of global freight, which is something all of us, as consumers, participate in. I hope they see a side of a story they haven't seen before.