New York director, writer, photographer and artist Milcho Manchevski was nominated for a foreign language and an Oscar for his critically acclaimed debut Before the Rain and won the Golden Lion in Venice . Before that, he pointed a ready The talent bucked the trend, a theme that has been a hallmark of his career.
Since then, his films have received accolades and awards at film festivals around the world as well as in academic analysis. Manchevsky has also taught, published papers and held photographic exhibitions at universities and film schools in the United States, Europe, Russia, Asia and Cuba. In 2002, he directed the first season of HBO The Wire Episode 9 . He’s been involved in major Hollywood productions, but Machewski is unwavering in his own way, a far cry from the studio’s picture structure.
Manchevski’s seventh film Kaymak, is set in his native Macedonia and is a film that explores class, gender, motherhood, family, A black comedy of loyalty and hypocrisy. Named after the cream found in the Balkans, the Levant and surrounding countries, the film is in competition at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
The director sits down with The Hollywood Reporter during the festival to talk about his relationship with his films, across cultures and mediums, and why The Wire is the only TV he’s made, and whether he’ll make a big studio movie.
Your movie Kaymak is competing in Tokyo, and you said before that you don’t care too much about awards and honors. But do you appreciate this recognition?
Of course, I am human (laughs). It helps movies and future movies. But its essence is not recognition. I learned this as I got older. The success of a movie isn’t always about how good it is. Relying too much on the response basically breaks your heart, that’s all. Instead of focusing on work, you start chasing reactions. Before I started making films, I always thought that whatever I write or do is my art, and that’s really the most important thing. When I look back on what I did years ago 30, I want to be proud. It also gave me real satisfaction, so it wasn’t hard to let go of the side effects. You also need to decide what your standards are and who you are doing it for. It’s not hard, but you need to sacrifice a lot. It’s easy to figure out what a distributor or festival wants, but it doesn’t always result in the best film.
I think the trick is to not be greedy and not make everyone want to see your movie. That’s what I tell my students too: you’ll never make a movie for everyone. Know who your audience is. It may sound righteous, but your conversations are with work and not with anyone else. Of course, you need to be really responsible for this. This is no excuse for being frivolous or conceited. It’s just that I can’t make a good movie if you keep chasing current fashion. Others may be.
The subject of motherhood is something you’ve dealt with before, and here it comes again. This is a central theme of human nature, and it is clear that we are nothing without it. But it’s something you keep coming back to.
I do. Even in Before the Rain, the character Anne finds out she’s pregnant. Then in the second movie Dust , one of the main characters gives birth at the end of the movie. But it was never part of my plan, it just crept up on me. I’m not trying to make it less important in my work – I have a movie called Mothers – but it’s not a conscious agenda, and I’m glad it’s in this way way happen.
But, as you say, there is nothing without a mother, so we should study it, talk about it, celebrate it. How society responds, how individuals respond, how society wants individuals to respond, all kinds of pressures, the abortion problem in America is back. When I say society, I mean religion, but not just religion.
I like to explore two things. One is people, everything beautiful and ugly about who we are. This gives us stories, good stories, interesting stories, twists and turns. The other is concepts, but not necessarily ideological concepts, but more artistic concepts. Something that’s not necessarily on your work surface but it tells it. Like intermittent narratives or looping narratives, documentary and fiction are mixed.
When you write the script, do you start with the characters or the plot, when you sit down and write, you already have the plot How’s it going?
Let me start with the plot. The plot needs to offer something fantastic. Then there’s the taste. Before the Rain , is to look forward to, waiting for something to happen. With this, it’s a taste of upbeat black comedy. Then I develop the story, the plot, and just enjoy it and let it take me instead of trying to steer it too much. Let it surprise me and see where it takes me. While doing this, characters start to take shape, and then they really take over. For me, the plot is relatively simple because I’ve always felt comfortable writing. Everything after the writing is the effort, the financing, the technical part, the visualization, the communication with the staff. We continue to refine the character through auditions and rehearsals. We always have a good three-week rehearsal: table reading, and sometimes live rehearsal. In doing so, if you pick the right actors, they will run away with their characters and know them better than I did when I was writing them.
I think Kamka [Tocinovski] made Eva [a driven professional woman] a little sympathetic. Everyone in the movie is a victim and a perpetrator. They are just different ranks of demons and angels. You could say she was trying to make her husband happy, was it manipulation or sacrifice?
I have to ask about the kaymak itself, that cream, why did you choose it as the centerpiece of the movie, and of course its name ?
Cream, we are all trying to collect the essence of life to make the most of our environment. But I also like the idea of introducing the word to the world so people outside the Balkans will know what the word means.
You have filmed and worked in English and Macedonian, does it make any difference for you to work in those two languages ?
I need to work in English when I want to be precise. I work in Macedonia when I want to feel more dreamy. So if I want to write an article or communicate with my DP or editor, it will be easier to do it in English. This is probably because I have spent most of my adult life working in English. With my film, I would go back to Macedonia to shoot, but most of the preparation was done in the US. Even with Kaymak, most of the money comes from abroad.
You work in various media, you are a photographer, a writer, an artist. Do they influence and interact with each other?
both, they influence each other and also make other mediums purer, or cleaner, if you know what I mean . Having done so much photography, I learn more about what I want to do in my films. But I also learned that they’re about different things, so photography is about moments, it’s about visual poetry, and I don’t need to be there to tell a story. It helps me stay pure and not try to create a narrative with photography. Then in filmmaking, I learned that I should be more about telling stories and not just beautiful images. They help focus on each other in different ways. Same with my writing. What really pisses me off is that it’s been a long time since I’ve done any performance art or conceptual art, which is really my favorite (laughs). Because the movie needs to be more traditional, I find it less satisfying.
The only TV I think you’ve ever done is The Wire?
If we don’t count music videos, then yes, The Wire is the only one I directed a TV. Been there, done it, I can’t beat it (laughs).
If something interesting happened, would you consider doing more? ?
Well, yes, if it were as wonderful as The Wire. I’m not actively seeking it, but I’m not actively seeking that either. It was offered to me by Robert Colesberry (co-creator of the series and actor who repeatedly cameo as Detective Ray Cole), I know him because we were trying to put a couple of work room photos together. Then one day he came to me and said he was making a TV show, would I watch it. What makes it so great is the writing. The rest of us just try not to screw it up. It’s like America War and Peace . It’s so confident and grows with each season. get out of there. There is another director before and after your episode. Some of the things I’m proud of doing on The Wire is blocking [the actor’s positioning]; a lot is done with a simple camera setup without the need for Too much cutting. I also have some rehearsal time, which is unusual on TV. For the basketball scene, I researched where the NBA puts their cameras.
You mentioned the music video. You do a lot in 1990, almost all hip-hop, is there any particular reason?
The reason is that the very successful music video I did was hip-hop, and you got picked. I mean, I love hip-hop, and I especially love Arrested Development. Doing this, the budget for the first video is very low, Tennessee for Arrested Development, the budget is very low, so not many directors are willing to do it. But I thought the song was great, and then we had a great concept; it was the era of gangsta rap and we were the opposite of family and it was so soft and beautiful. I really try to use black and white photos to make a connection with the photos of the depression period. For the band and myself, it’s actually a work that really comes from the heart.
You’ve been hooked on several Hollywood blockbusters, but they haven’t made it. If an offer came, would you try to do it again, even if just to fund your other work?
For me, it’s just not wanting to sign other people’s pictures. My experience is that studios get so involved in the creative process that I don’t feel like it’s my film anymore. I’m sure some directors have managed to find a way to make the movies they want to make within the system, but I can’t. For example, I’m looking for the wrong movie from the wrong era. I was watching the movie and thought you could make a movie you wanted to make but had studio money. But I forgot that it is not anymore. So, it’s about finding the right script, but having enough creative autonomy to do what I do, otherwise, what you need me to do. My experience is that studios are involved very early on in very important aspects. It’s not just a matter of art versus commerce. I believe that some decisions made in the name of making movies more commercial don’t necessarily make movies more commercial. So, the answer is, not my cup of tea (laughs). I’m not particularly fond of the process, nor will I enjoy the results. So the only thing you get out of it is money, which is fine, but no more important than work.