Tag Archives: Interviews with Filmmakers

CHAOS AS USUAL: CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER (Applause: New York, 1997), edited by Juliane Lorenz,

Today’s Fassbinder is on CHAOS AS USUAL: CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER (Applause: New York, 1997), edited by Juliane Lorenz, the editor of all of Fassbinder’s films after DESPAIR, and his ‘wife’, in quotation marks only because their marriage was not legally binding. They did live together for the last few years of his life; she’s the one who found his body; and she succeeded Fassbinder’s mother as the head of the Rainer Werner Foundation.


After reading it, I wished all my favourite filmmakers would get a book like this, an affectionate but critical account of what working with a director was like, of how the personality impinged on the work, and the various trials and attractions of working with such a compulsive and demanding workaholic. Most of the interviews are conducted by Lorenz herself; and she writes of how in the first interviews she was overly sensitive to perceived slights of Fassbinder and how she learned to loosen up so that people could speak freely. These are interviews by people who knew each other, who all worked with him. Mainly, there’s real affection but interviewer an einterviewee each know the other is all too familiar with the faults as well. In any case, the interviews are about the work, the working together and what that was like and what that produced. Though of course, it’s impossible to leave the man’s personality out of it altogether. And who would want to? Interestingly the only interview that is reproduced from another source is Ingrid Caven’s CAHIERS interview and I did wonder if Caven being Fassbinder’s first wife had anything to do with it.


If my first impulse was to wish this type of book for other favourite directors; the second one was for me to undertake a similar project on Almódovar; and then the third was the realisation of its impossibility. This book can exist in its present form, partly because the subject died so young. If one waits until the filmmaker dies to undertake such a project, most of his collaborators would also be six feet under. Indeed ,even though Fassbinder died when he was only 37, key people in his life and in his work had already preceded him (Armin Meier, El Hedi Ben Salem) and others would die before the book was conceived (importantly, Kurt Raab).


If one undertakes such a project whilst the director is active, producers, actors, dop’s etc will not speak freely if they hope to get work or if they’ve got an axe to grind because they haven’t received work. Thus this remains a unique discussion, a frank discussion by people who knew him well, some who worked with him consistently (Michael Balhauss, Peer Raben, Dietrich Lohman, Peter Märthesheimer); friends from the early days (Daniel Schmid, Hannah Schygulla, Irm Hermann, Ursula Strätz); his actors (Margit Cartensen, Brigitte Mira, Barbara Sukowa, Armin-Müeller-Stahl, Gunther Lamprecht, Gottfried John); his fellow directors (Werner Schroeter, Wim Wenders, Margarethe von Trotta), even a relative (Egmont Fassbinder).  And I found it genuinely interesting about a mode of making cinema and insightful about individual films.


For those who’ve been watching the Arrow collection of Fassbinder’s work, Julia Lorenz is the warm, clear-eyed, organised and liberal woman who appears in quite a few of the extras, talking about the shoots of individual films, their context, and occasionally brining out a copy or two of contracts for particular films to flesh out memory with concrete detail.


José Arroyo

Sound work in Latin America: Interview with Jose Homer Mora Acosta; La Escuela de Diseño; Altos de Chavón, Dominican Republic; March, 2018


I’ve just returned from teaching at the Altos de Chavón School of Design in the Dominican Republic. The Romana campus not only offers a degree in film and all aspects of the audiovisual but has a very particular connection to film history: Charles Bludhorn, who owned Paramount pictures during the years it produced hits such as Love Story, The Godfather films and Chinatown, bought and developed the Casa del Campo, the extensive landholdings in the Dominican Republic which houses the school; the buildings, squares and even the church in Altos de Chavón’s Village of Artists, where the school operates from, were designed by the great Roberto Coppa, set designer for Visconti, Fellini and many other celebrated directors.

Aside from my own teaching, one of my goals for my one-week residency was to come home with three or four interviews with film professionals operating in and around the school. The idea behind it was two-fold: a) to learn about various aspects of cinema usually credited below the line but absolutely essential to filmmaking;  b) to learn about the praxis of filmmaking in Latin America today. My only ambition was to make a record of it so that at least if no one was interested in these interviews today, there would be a record for future reference that researchers on, and students and fans of, Latin American Cinema could consult. Due to various problems, from scheduling to excessive ambient noise, this one with José Homer Acosta was the only one I could complete. The sound is not the greatest, and all my fault: you will hear cats meowl, glasses clink, and my voice much louder than Homer’s. In spite of that, I hope people will find it of value.


Jose Homer Mora Acosta is at 29 years old, only the third accredited sound person in his Honduran homeland. One of the things I was curious about was how some one from a small Latin American country ends up being a sound person, and he tells me how the interest in film really started as an interest in music, which he’s been playing since he was 13. After graduating from University, Homer began working in advertising and subsequently landed at a newspaper. After, the coup d’étât in Honduras in 2008, the newspaper was shut down so the team that ran the newspaper spread out to work in documentaries as a way of re-starting the paper and keeping themselves in work. Homer recounts how there was work to be found in documentary filmmaking in Honduras, largely because NGO’s wanted to record and disseminate what they were doing there, thus documentaries on the coffee crises, rural electrification, poverty. These were all small-scale projects where Homer got professional experience in production management, camera and editing. He also learned how to present and manage a project so as to make it eligible for funding and then how to go about to actually getting that money. During this time Homer earned a Master’s degree in Production Management.

Homer and I then go on to talk about what led him to study sound at EICTV in San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba. Aside from the formal training he says that EICTV has afforded him a family, “I don’t feel alone with that crazy stuff that recording emotions and feelings brings out. The school offers support. It’s a place where others understand. You arrive knowing nothing but it’s OK because cinema is more than technique or tools. It’s another thing.’

Homer and I discuss the various projects he’s worked on and also his goal of recording emotions and feelings. Some of this involves doing research into recording methods, sometimes even restoring old microphones and seeing what different sound qualities result. He talks about how in 3/4 inch tape or celluloid the work on sound can be tactile ‘You can touch the sound’.

We discuss several films as well: Blow Out, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s The Man Who Lies and Lucrecia Martel’s work. Lucrecia Martel had run a workshop whilst Homer was teaching at Alto de Chavón and we talk of her practice of beginning with the dialogue, moving onto structure and then images, something I’d rarely heard of before. Homer points out that you can create a whole world in the film by the use of sound, particularly in the way offscreen sound becomes the world inhabited by  characters within the frame.

Homer also tells me of a particular experiences of working in film. He’s lived in Honduras, Costa Rica, Cuba, now the Dominican Republic; and his work has led him to shoots in Mexico and Peru. A transnational experience of cinema quite common for countries with a relatively small audio-visual production industry.

It’s a late night conversation fuelled by rum and cigarettes, meandering, interspersed with cat’s meowl’s, recorded imperfectly, yet interesting for the history Homer so generously shares, and for the insights into the work on sound in film.

The podcast can be listened to here:

José Arroyo