Director of The Hanging Garden
After undergOing a teenage struggle to conceal his latent homosexuality from his family, American director Thom Fitzgerald decided to illustrate his experience on celluloid.
'Rather than going home and faCing my family for real, I decided to create a movie about it,’ says Fitzgerald, who now lives in Canada. ’I came out to my mom when I was at university, which was kind of late really because I think I was pretty well out at high school. My mother took it very hard and asked me to promise not to tell my brothers and stepfather. The result of that, naturally, was that those relationships became very distant. I couldn't talk about my work, because my work in film and stage usually dealt with sexuality, and I couldn’t talk about relationships. And so what do you have left?’
In order to visually illustrate this inner turmoil and pain, Fitzgerald portrays William, his main character, as overweight in his teenage years, creating an appropriate visual metaphor. ’I had a friend who lost 160 pounds in the year he left home,’ the director adds, 'and all the reasons that William gives his mom about his obeSity are the reasons that my friend
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' Flower power: Thom Fi
tzgerald directs Te Hanging Garden
gave me.’ .
With the misery of a sUicidal young boy, stifled by his family, as its central theme, The Hanging Garden could have been a very depressing film, but Fitzgerald chooses various deVices to make it less bleak, particularly his decision to name all the characters in the family after flowers and surround them With relevant floral colours.
’I called it The Hanging Garden because The Wrist-Slit Garden doesn’t sound as good,’ Fitzgerald jokes. ’No, really it was so that we could have hanging plants, like Babylon. I introduced the flower metaphor to make it pretty and less depressing. It was a little bit of a distancing mechanism.’
Another distancing mechanism is Fitzgerald’s use of word play, which became apparent at a foreign film festival. ‘The film’s not nearly as funny in Spanish because I realised,
watching it for the first time in a foreign language, that it has puns as basic as "What does your Dick do?" and "Mum’s the word” The audience seemeil .0 Iike it, but it was a very different mowe.’
The Hanging Garden certainly does contain a wonderful splattering of dry humour which is characteristic of Fitzgerald’s own playful temperament. No doubt his next project Will reveal the same.
'My next film’s called Beefcake and it’s about this guy Who’s been teased by a bully and who eventually stands up to him because he’s been working out, and when the bully notices this, he invites him round for a soda . . .’
(Beth Williams) ﬁ Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 26 Jun. Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 3 Jul See review
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Jacques Doillon Director of Ponette
Driven by a fascmation With the way young children perceive the concept of death, French filmmaker Jacques Doillon’s research for Ponette took him to schools right across his homeland. ’We spoke to about 15,000 children and asked them to draw a picture about death,’ the director explains. 'With the five-to-six year olds, it was very obvious they’d grasped that death was final. With the four-to-five year olds, it was a bit more ambivalent. But
26 THE lIS'I' 25 Jun-9 Jul 1998
3, ‘5 .¢ K Young pretender: Jacques Doillon directs Victoire Thivisol in Ponette
with the three-to-four year olds, in almost every case, it was clear they hadn’t really grasped it, Death is so distant to them, it’s something that happens to old people, and they Just can’t proiect themselves that far. They were QUite happily draWing things that were very cheerful.’
On realising that he would need a child under four years of age for his lead role, DOillon worried that his proiect wouldn't be pOSSibIe, until he discovered children that young do already have a whole gamut of experience at their disposition. ’They
know about love, they know about being abandoned, about hate, about fear, about resentment,’ he adds. 'It was my work to bring that out, and that’s no different from doing it with an adult.’
Casting four-year-old Victoire Thivisol as Ponette, a girl who has iust lost her mother, Doillon found that she was able to follow his direction quite instinctively. Throughout the shoot, he was prepared to let any child actors who weren't happy walk out, but none of them did. In fact, the experience must have been an enjoyable one because Victoire — now six, and the reCipient of the Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival for Ponette — recently Called him demanding to make another film.
'When she telephoned me I told her I was working on a couple of screenplays and that I hadn’t really thought about making another movie,’ he says. ’But she was determined and said, "Well, if you haven’t got time to think about it, I’ll think about it, and I’ll work out what sort of stOry we’ll do”.’ (Beth Williams)
a Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 26 Jun. See review.
Paul Oremland Director of Like It Is
First love, you can’t beat it. The exhilaration of those early exploratory days when that certain look sets your whole being acquiver. And then, as we’ve all discovered the hard way, it all goes horribly pear-shaped. In Like It Is, one of the hot tips at this year's touring Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, director Paul Oremland explores the heady exotement of an 'opposites attract’ scenario from a gay man’s perspective.
Craig (Steve Bell) is a northern lad earning a living and venting his anger at the world through illegal bare knuckle fighting. But in a macho world where bravado and violence means respect, and a good Saturday night involves getting your leg over one of the local slappers, Craig increasingly feels like a misfit. A chance meeting with Matt (Ian Rose), a smooth-talking Londoner, offers the liberating promise of the bright lights, big City and a whole new set of lifestyle rules. His head full of exciting posibilities, our bit of rough ups sticks to London, only to find a romantic conspiracy of Capulet and Montague proportions awaiting him.
Although inspired by a real-life encounter in 1993, Oremland wanted to create a love story which focused on the angry youth’s sexual awakening. ’This guy was a real fighter, a very tragic character in a way, who was tearing himself apart and I wanted to imagine how he could expend all that anger through emotional fulfilment,’ he explains.
Made on a shoestring and with the cast largely paid equity minimum, the film features Roger Daltrey camping it up as Matt’s music-biz boss and Dani Behr as his fag-hag flatmate and self- obsessed pop wannabe. But Oremland stresses this wasn’t an attempt to gain mainstream appeal.
’We didn’t want to make an arthouse film or an inoffensive crossover film with disco queens and men in frocks. We Just wanted to be as honest and upfront as possible.’ That said, the splendid six-packs on offer provide definite pulling power for the ladies as well as the lads. (Claire Prentice)
a Glasgow Film Theatre, Tue 30 Jun and Thu 2 Jul. Edinburgh Filmhouse, Mon 6 Jul. For details on the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, see Listings and Index.
Dani Behr in like It Is