As the UK's prestigious Sheffield Doc/Fest prepares to open its 2014 edition we grabbed Director Of Programming Hussain Currimbhoy for a moment in our Spotlight.
1. What’s your connection to the British Council?
I have worked with British Council for several years in many capacities. I have appeared as a mentor at several festivals thanks to British Council in Armenia, Mexico, Turkey and most recently Tunisia [read Hussain's Tunisia Blog here]. We also work with British Council to support filmmakers from overseas attend Doc/Fest to present their films and appear at our MeetMarket. This helps directors get the films seen and sold, but also allows a chance for genuine cultural exchange between international directors and British audiences.
2. What’s your current project ?
Sheffield Doc/Fest, 24/7 baby.
3. What/who originally turned you onto film?
There was no one thing. I've always been addicted to it. But I remember loving animation and cartoons when I was young (still do actually!) and realising that editing was an art form. When it was good, it was subtle and simple and was the way films got their points across to the audience. That realisation started a chain reaction of investigation that is essentially a love affair with film.
4. What has been your career high so far?
Gosh! I loved meeting Walter Murch last year at Doc/Fest. I loved meeting Nuri Bilge Ceylan in the hotel lobby in Yerevan in Armenia. But I am most satisfied when we have a new documentary playing in the festival, one that is just brand new, and there is a full cinema for it. You remember what brings you to this job in the first place.
5. What was your first job in the film industry?
My job in the film industry was a runner on a the set of a TV commercial for... health insurance, i think. I had loads of jobs like that before i started making my own films. But in film festivals, my first job was a publicity assistant at the Melbourne Int. Film Festival in Australia. I was utterly rubbish at it. But I learned about the delicate but vital relationship, between film, press: journalists + the right marketing x great film = buzz = full cinema.
6. If I knew then what I know now…
In filmmaking, I would say what everyone says: just do it. It's a craft like anything else and you have to do it, often, to perfect it. Its never as bad as you imagine to be in the end, and its addictive. Gather your friends, make it from the heart, don't try to be someone you are not in your films and just start shooting. Its that easy (yet... that hard).
7. What is your favourite British film?
Either Withnail & I - because it just makes me laugh, it was made on a very small budget but resonated with the whole world at the time - or A Matter of Life and Death because it was the first Powell & Pressburger film I saw in a cinema and I was transfixed by David Niven's performance.
8. If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
2001: A Space Odyssey because it deals with some brilliant and still unanswered questions about life and the Cosmos. It was ahead of its time, innovative and beautiful.
9. What’s the first film you remember seeing?
I saw Star Wars in the cinema when it first came out but I only remember my father being asleep and my friends and I just staring at the screen with our mouths open for a long time while we took this cinematic event in. I was too young to actually be in the cinema but it didn't matter. This was Star Wars man! I do remember seeing The Jerk by Steve Martin in cinema (again i was not supposed to be there as i was about 6 or something) and thinking it was hysterical.
10. What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
The first things that come to mind: either pretty much every scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or the gun battle scene in the streets of LA in Michael Mann's Heat. It knocks me out every time. I can't explain why. It just seizes me.
11. Favourite screen kiss?
Don't have one. Never really thought about it.
12. Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
Can't pick a favourite but I do always love to think of Jason in Shirley Clarke's documentary A Portrait of Jason. So charming, despite what he has suffered. So smart, despite the way he is treated. But man, no one has ever summed up all these things about love better than him.
13. Who would play you in the film about your life?
Prince should play me. We share a deep love of shoes.
Sheffield Doc/Fest runs from 7-12 June 2014 - have a look at the full programme here