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Baker's Dozen

"Shy People Telling Small Stories, Quietly": Jeanie Finlay's Favourite Films
Adrian Lobb , April 24th, 2014 10:40

Jeanie Finlay, director of Sound It Out and The Great Hip Hop Hoax picks her favourite films, and talks about the final days of fundraising on her next documentary, Orion

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After Life (1998, Hirokazu Koreeda)
Hirokazu Koreeda is my favourite living filmmaker. He is brilliant. Oh my goodness. I write a top ten every year for Directors Notes, and I put two of his films in the top ten last year – I Wish and Like Father, Like Son. His films weave tiny small moments and they are so impactful because of it. He is a Japanese filmmaker; I've spent a lot of time over there, and there is something about his sensibility which I find really appealing.

After Life asks the very fundamental question: what is the one moment in your life that you want to remember? I think it is his first feature, and he was working previously as a documentary maker. He weaves documentary storytelling in amongst the actors telling the fictional story. It is basically a waiting room and people show up and have a week to decide which moment to save. People choose tiny moments, like a lady in her 80s remembers wearing a red dress and tap-dancing for her brother who died in the war. Or a man remembers flying a plane for the first time. And the team that works there reconstruct these memories and bring them to life. There is a discussion about the fluffy clouds – and it is really home-made and Heath Robinson, so they construct the clouds on this washing line next to the plane they have built. It is a film about dreams and memories and filmmaking, the small moments that tell the story of your life.

I am obsessed with the idea of shy people telling small stories, quietly. I did a TED Talk recently, and it was called 'The Big Power Of Small Stories'. I would always rather listen to someone shy in a film, because they are telling you the story for the first time. I think they are the small moments, that point when you look back at something. There is a moment in The Great Hip Hop Hoax when the boys have been American for a while and their friend Oscar comes to see them. He tells a story about the laminate flooring, he looks down and the floor in the studio is different – and it is my favourite moment in the whole film because of the way he says: "laminate flooring". We did a long interview with him, about two hours, and we came out and I said that bit had to be in. There was a point when my producer wanted to cut it out of the film. At my TED Talk I said, in an age of fatter weddings and streets paved with benefits and gigantic testicles, it is a really brave and difficult choice to make small stories. It is the most uncommercial thing you can do, but it is what drives me to make films.


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