Mumbai: The Dubai International Film Festival honored two of its three 2008 Lifetime Achievement Awards recipients. Tsui Hark, a major Hong Kong filmmaker, and Rachid Bouchareb, an Algerian-French director, were present to discuss their work with the audience.
Terry Gilliam, the third honouree, attended DIFF earlier in the week and received his award in a special award ceremony on December 12.
Moderator Simon Field said, "The idea of the Lifetime Achievement Award is to signal what our ideals are about cinema. The Lifetime Achievement Award figures are people who are extraordinarily unique in their treatment of cinema…they are also filmmakers who’ve crossed borders, which is very appropriate to DIFF."
Field added, "All three of these filmmakers are very much at the peak of their work, their activity and their involvement in cinema. They are all working in popular or commercial forms, and have interesting ideas about nationalism, identity and tradition."
Hark has worked for many years in both Hong Kong and in China, and was strongly influential in the regeneration of Hong Kong Cinema in the 1980’s. He was instrumental in starting the careers of John Woo and Chow Yun Fat, and reenergized the popular ‘wuxia’ genre that became popular around the world. Bouchareb is a prolific producer and director involved with films such as West Beyrouth and this year’s DIFF film Niloofar. His Indigenes: Days of Glory showed at DIFF 2006 had won the Best Actor prize for its entire ensemble of actors at Cannes 2006. His new film London River will show in Berlin in the coming months.
Field pointed out that each director combines an eye for commercial, popular cinema with an intellectual approach. Hark said that he has always had to work in commercial genres, since it would be difficult to survive in Hong Kong otherwise, but Bouchareb said that in France, government support for cinema is so strong that directors may continue to work even if they never have a box office success.
Accordingly, both directors had a very different take on the situation of world cinema today. Hark said that since the Chinese market has opened up to Hong Kong cinema, the situation has much improved, although the future of the Asian market was uncertain: "Everyone is going to Hollywood, so we’re running out of filmmakers and running out of actors to put on the screen…We have to be very alert and concerned about the strength of the industry in order to build up the basis for a future."
Bouchareb expressed his gratitude that since the French government recognizes that cinema is ‘an art, not an industry,’ he can be free with his subject matter. He was concerned about this situation being preserved, since the American government has tried to force the French to stop subsidies of the film industry through the World Trade Organization.
Hark and Bouchareb will be given their DIFF Lifetime Achievement Awards as part of the DIFF Closing Ceremony on December 18.