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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


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.