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CANNES EXCLUSIVE: Ari Folman Talks Fortnight Opener 'The Congress,' Which Predicts Hollywood's Chilling Future (TRAILER)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 14, 2013 at 1:22PM

The Cannes International Film Festival gets under way Wednesday with the international premiere of Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," a perfect opening night choice given its already established hit status stateside (TOH review here). And on Thursday the edgier Cannes sidebar Director's Fortnight (or Quinzaine) will open with Israeli director Ari Folman's "The Congress," a live-action/animation hybrid starring Robin Wright and Danny Huston, which is being screened for the first time not only for Cannes audiences and critics but North American distributors as well.
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'The Congress'
'The Congress'


That's a very specific style.

Yes, this is basically the second part of the movie where she's confronted with the first image I had, which is her coming into Abrahama while they screen in live action in the animated world her new piece. Because this studio that bought her has been manufacturing all those trashy sci-fi films where she's the star and where they keep her forever young, because it's part of the deal, that she will stay 34 years old in the movies. And this old lady now has to confront her being the star, when she's old, and it's not her, it's her CGI character, and nobody recognizes the real her as the big star that the studio made out of her. This is basically the story, it was very complicated to do. First it took a long time to write and understand what I'm doing. And the live action went very smooth in America because I got support from fantastic actors because they love the project.

How much did it cost? And how long is it?

The budget was around $5, 6 million. The movie is exactly two hours.

That gives you freedom. Was it difficult to raise that budget?

It was raised completely in Europe, but it was difficult because it's a co-production of six countries so I had to work in five countries because according to the European co-productions you have to spend the money where you get it. We shot in America, and the animation was done in Israel, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Poland, and that was tough, combining everything together.

Where did your animators come from and how many were there?

They were the same crew I had for "Waltz with Bashir," and we had a very good team in Brussels. They did the line production in Brussels, in Luxembourg, in Hamburg, in Berlin and all the assist work was done in Poland, the Philippines. Believe me it was transgalactic, it was very tough. 200 in total, but all spread around and of course the basic problem was because we were spreading scenes from the movie, it was keeping the consistency of the characters.

How did you do that technically, monitoring their work?

We had a team of Belgian people who came to Tel Aviv for the last year and they were basically re-doing all the stuff just to make it a one-liner, with one style. For example, Robin's lover in the film is portrayed by Jon Hamm; I shot the whole animated part in live action video and the actors were really acting for the animators because we had the transition from live action to animation. It was very important for me that the audience will go with me to the second part of the movie, so if Robin or Paul Giamatti or Danny Huston, if they have a kind of style of acting in the first part of the movie, we wanted it to be consistent in the animated part as well.

The animators were using it as a reference as opposed to following their movements?

Yes, but they kept it. Once you see the video part you will see how much respect they gave to the performances they made. I want to screen it in 35mm because the animation gets new life under the projection. It's very difficult to imitate an old style of animation without the flicker of the projector, because this was part of the animation, the flicker of the light, so we were hoping to have a good 35 print we can screen in Cannes (we have a DCP print), it's part of a statement. I'm flying to Berlin to see what they did.

You were in competition at Cannes with "Waltz with Bashir," so how did that play out with "The Congress," where you ended up opening Director's Fortnight?

I was waiting like everybody else, I would say the very last moment. It was not clear. I got the invitation from the Quinzaine to open earlier because they saw the film while competition was debating and I took it.

It's prestigious to be the opener and you are part of the youthful, contemporary, cutting edge program in the Quinzaine.

Considering the directors who were there before me, I feel really privileged: Francis Coppola, Werner Herzog, who I adore. I do believe that films have some kind of karmic life and this film will go where it has to go.

What is the distribution situation?

Big territories in Europe are taken (UK, France, Germany) and it's part of the financing. Deliberately we have screened to no one in the US because I think the Cannes performance is the right place to do it. This part is the unknown, we're going with Cannes and we hope for good surprises.



This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Ari Folman, The Congress, Interviews, Festivals, Interviews, Festivals, Robin Wright, Jon Hamm, Danny Huston, Harvey Keitel


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.