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CANNES 2019: WAYS TO RUN

Afghan-Dutch director Aboozar Amini has spent much of the early part of 2019 living and breathing cinema in Paris, he tells Geoffrey Macnab.

Amini has been developing the screenplay for his first fiction feature Ways To Run at the Cannes Cinéfondation Résidence. This has entailed being in a house with five other filmmakers from all corners of the globe. "We spend day and night together writing our scripts - which means we are also discussing cinema day and night," the director explains.

In such a hothouse environment, it is impossible to stick to a "provincial" mindset. Because his housemates are so globally diverse he has to describe his project in terms that they can understand. This, he suggests, "opens a different door to your own perspective."

They are all staying together in a big baroque style building where names of previous directors who've been part of the Cinéfondation are still stuck on the doors. Amini's predecessors in the house include such renowned attars as Nadine Labaki, Wang Bing and Lucrecia
Martel. The filmmakers from the Résidence will all attend Cannes where they will watch films, network and pitch their projects. They will also visit the Locarno Festival later in the year.

In Amini's film, Abas, a scrupulous bus driver, notorious hashish smoker and gambler, wants to maintain law and order in the only place under his jurisdiction, his bus. He does this with the help of his apprentice, Afshin (16).

Amini plans to shoot Ways To Run guerrilla-style with a small cast and crew in Kabul during the Afghan Presidential election, due to take place later in the year. "The election is one of the most important in the recent history of Afghanistan," the director explains, underlining that it is crucial he is ready to shoot as the people go to the polls. "Every corner of the city is going to be exploding with propaganda and campaigning for one party or another. This feeling of transition is the most important inspiration for my film. People lead lives that are flung back and forth between one government/regime to another, life and death, good and bad, staying and leaving ... Nothing is for sure and nothing lasts."

The new film may be fiction but it has obvious overlaps with his documentary, Kabul, City in the Wind (which opened IDFA last November and followed two kids and a bus driver struggling to survive in a society in upheaval). Ways To Run also features youngsters but, as the director points out, "kids in Kabul grow up very quick, actually. During my documentary, I experienced this. First, I saw my protagonist as a 12-year-old boy, then I went back to Amsterdam. After six months, I went back to Kabul and he wasn't the same kid. He was totally grown up, His father had left and he was in charge of the family."

Co-producers from Germany, Japan and France are aboard and Amini has already recruited young Afghan filmmakers to help with the production. He will be using nonprofessional actors. The film is being made through Silk Road Film Salon, the company Amini runs with Holland-based Chinese producer, Jia Zhao, Joost de Vries' An Original Picture and through Kino Kabul, Amini's Afghan company. Chinese outfit Radiance is handling world sales.

It's no surprise to learn that Amini (who divides his time between the Netherlands and Afghanistan) is a passionate fan of Italian neorealist cinema. He admires filmmakers like Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica who worked in similar circumstances to those facing him today. "I don't look for easy jobs," he declares. "There are two different kinds of filmmakers - the ones who work five days a week and are really eager to go on holiday, and then there are the other ones whose life is cinema... I am close to the second group. It's the need to tell stories that gives you power and influence."

SEE NL Magazine #35 May 2019 / Cannes - Annecy Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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