Phillip Noyce interviewed by Francis Leach at the Nova cinema (Photo: Paul Martin)
I've been thinking lately that I need a digital voice recorder, and damn it, I still do! I would have liked to record Phillip Noyce's interview with Vega FM's Francis Leach and Q&A with the audience after the advance screening of Catch A Fire on Tuesday 21/11/06. The screening was well-attended and there were lots of intelligent questions and thoughtful, insightful answers.
I'm not good on remembering details, but the questions by Leach indicated that (1) he had researched his subject thoroughly before the event, and (2) that he is very intelligent and thoughtful. Noyce made a point of thanking him at the end for his thoughtful interview, saying it was the best interview he's had for this film.
I don't even remember all the questions that I asked (I know it was at least two, though I also had some follow-up questions). I'll do my best to recollect (bearing in mind that I'm always keen to ask film-makers about their work, but then get very nervous when I have the microphone in my hand).
My first questions went something like:
PM: Why now? In making this film now, are you making some kind of political statement regarding the current "war on terror", torture, Iraq, etc?
Noyce's answer was quite detailed, but basically he acknowledged that he was making such a statement. "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", he quoted. Patrick Chamusso was a hero, not because he took up arms, but because he renounced them. He (Chamusso) was unsuccessful because he took it to heart not to harm innocent people.
Noyce discussed the characters Vos and Chamusso, both family men with two daughters, both proud of their country. I noted during the screening of the film various editing techniques (like intercutting) that guided the audience to draw this parallel. But one was a torturer and one was tortured.
Vos was a relatively successful interrogator because he wasn't as physically brutal as most of his peers. But he was psychologically effective, using techniques such as taking a suspect home for dinner (as depicted in the film) or to church. Noyce claimed that there are many studies that show that torture rarely produces any reliable or valuable information. Innocent people end up supplying false information (depicted in both Catch a Fire and also in Michael Winterbottom's recent The Road to Guantanamo), and even the so-called terrorists typically do not provide any information of use.
PM: You have a vast body of work to your credit. Some of it is more mainstream and commercial; some is less so. Which film or films are closest to your heart?
Noyce: Rabbit Proof Fence. There is no film that means more to me than this. Everyone said it couldn't be done. I had so many obstacles that I fought every step of the way. They said it couldn't be done, no-one would want to see it, or it wouldn't make any money. I made it, a lot of people saw it and it was successful, and that means a lot to me.
I did ask a question about what projects he has planned, but his answer was so detailed that without a recording I couldn't remember everything. I recall he has a number of things planned, mostly based on books. I got the impression they were Australian stories, and one in particular was going to be shot (if it eventuates) in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. I, for one, look forward to anything that Noyce may do in the future.
There were lots of revealing tidbits of information, such as the wonderful co-operation of the government in getting access to historic locations (such as the power plant), because they (the government) were keen for this story to be told (many in government were former members of the ANC). Or how one person was an expert on the songs of the ANC, and taught these to the film crew. Lots of things I can't recall.
The whole session went for over 45 minutes, and could have kept going but we had to leave the cinema for a film screening. During the Q&A, I was sitting at the front next to Natalie Miller of Nova Cinema and Sharmill Films. I asked her if the session was being recorded, but the answer was no. D'oh! I've got to get me that recorder. It was a great evening. I'll get my review of the film on here shortly (I thoroughly enjoyed it - my favourite Noyce film yet).