Interview with Asif Kapadia

by Vittorio Carli

Interview with Asif Kapadia by Vittorio Carli The British film maker, Asif Kapadia is an acclaimed up and coming film maker who has already won many awards and accolades. He made his early reputation on many TV productions, His short "The Sheep Thief," won the Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix at the European film festival. His atmospheric, scenic feature length debut, "The Warrior" won the Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year. It’s opening soon in Chicago. Kapadia allowed me to interview him on the phone on Monday, July. 11. I found him congenial and he was eager to share his experiences and insights into film making.

Can you tell me about your early life and education?

I went to the Royal Academy of Art. I was studying graphic design, and then I helped friend with a short film. I was a gopher carrying boxes. It was very exciting and I kept doing it for the next eight years ended up making some shorts and I got into writing and directing.

Who were some of your cinematic influences?

I was a big fan of Zhang Yimou’s films before he became an action director such as “Raise the Red Lantern,” and “The Story of Qiu Ju.” I admired “Gets” a magical film by the great Japanese film maker, Kenji Mizuguchi. I also loved “Cyclo” which showed an understanding of Vietnam, but from a cool outsider’s point of view. I was aiming for something similar with “Warrior.” I’m a big fan of Akira Kurasawa and Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon in the West.” I wanted to do something in a similar vein but in the East.

What was Tim Miller like to work with, and what did Tim Miller bring to the mix?

He didn’t know how to use e-mail or computers and e-mail. He’s in his 60s and he wrote everything out in longhand. He was very well read. We would meet and he would tell me about me about classical whenever we got stuck with the screenplay writing. stories. There was an image from a Japanese story he told me about a boy who misidentified a severed head to save his father which inspired the movie.

Why did the film say Anthony Minghella Presents? Did he have anything to do with the film?

Well I had met him before and we asked him “to present” the film to help get it made. He was head of the British Film Institute. Quentin Tarantino had helped sell "Chungking Express” and "Hero" in America and we hoped Anthony Minghella would the same for this film.

What was it like to work with Irfan Khan?

When he was cast in the film, he had mostly been doing TV. He always got supporting roles, rather then lead parts. He had exactly what we needed for the warrior role. He had to make us believe that he had done horrible things in the past, yet he had to also evoke sympathy. He’s wonderful---like an Indian Benicio Del Toro.

What did the semi-professional or non-actors bring to the mix?

Well, you don’t prep non-professionals the way you would a professional actor. Some of the street people I saw had the most incredible faces, and I just tried to capture them naturally. I don’t expect the non pros to act I just want them to be.

“Warrior” was disqualified from the Oscar consideration for the Best Foreign Film representing the UK, yet later it won the Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year. Should the Oscars reconsider their qualifications guidelines?

Well “Warrior” was on a list of about 50 films that were being considered for the Oscars, but it was rejected for not being British enough. They wanted a subject mater more directly related to the UK. But “The Warrior” was fully financed by British money, and it has a British crew. It was only shot in India, and Hindi is the second most spoken language in Britain. Another year they accepted a Swedish film that was shot in Russian.

Who would you like to work with in the future?

Many people. Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, and Naomi Watts. I’m a big fan of her work in Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.”

What are some of your future projects?

I’m doing a psychological thriller shot in Austin, Texas. It’s a big studio film. It’s not written yet. I’m going to work like Hitchcock, and with big vistas and I'm planning everything out beforehand. I will also do a film about a love triangle by the same team as “Warrior.”

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