M. Hazanaivius: “I was very touched by the story of the Chechen people!”
Michel Hazanavicius, the Oscar-winning director of The Artist talked to the multimedia film magazine “Screen Daily” about his latest film “The Search“. A part of his interview is related with Chechnya that we’d like to share it.
Screen Daily: What prompted you to tackle the subject of the conflict in Chechnya in your new film and to take a remake of sorts of the 1948 The Search by Fred Zinnemann as its backdrop?
Michel Hazanavicius: I was very touched by the story of the Chechnyan people; how their story had not been told and how people in France and the USA had the idea that behind every Chechen is a terrorist. That’s what a lot people think because of the Russian propaganda. So, I wanted to do something and I thought it would be useful and great to make a movie about this conflict but I didn’t have the key: how to make that; how to represent that; how to tell that very specific story. And, it was before The Artist.
I had seen the original The Search, and Fred Zinnemann had a very emotional approach. The movie was, in my opinion, a little bit melodramatic but I thought that the cinematic gesture for someone from Hollywood to show interest in a Czech kid was very noble. I therefore put this in relation with Chechnya and I thought there was a movie to make. But, it was an undoable film because it was impossible to find €20m to make a movie about Chechnya. Except that then The Artist came, the Oscar came and we could find the money. Then was really the right moment to make that film.
Screen Daily: How difficult was it to deal with such an intricate subject? Was it conceived as a political message?
Michel Hazanavicius: It’s not conceived to tell anything specific. It’s not a thesis but of course it’s political! You can’t talk about Chechnya and the war there without being aware that you are doing politics. And, the simple message would be that those who win the war have the privilege to tell the story and to make history. So, when the good ones win the war there’s no problem but when the good ones lose the war, history is a lie.
Therefore, I wanted to tell the story but I am not saying who the good ones are and who the bad ones are but at least I am saying that the Chechnyan people are people. It was very difficult for me to accept that it would have been easier if I were Chechnyan in a way because I would have had the legitimacy to tell that story. It’s not my story, it’s not my conflict and there was a chance to be ridiculous. That was the main issue for me.