The rise and fall of a dot.com company may not seem the most cinematic subject, but the documentary Startup.Com proved to be a hit at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Words: Tom Dawson
ocumentary-makers are often the gamblers of
the film world: they can begin an assigmnent
with no idea of how it will end. Take the case of the creators of the Oscar-tipped verite documentary .S‘turmpfom. Several years ago Jehane Noujaim was introduced to Christine Hegedus via a mutual friend. A Harvard graduate. Noujaim wanted to make a film about her flatmate Kaleil lsaza Tuzman. who was in the process of setting up internet company Goonrks. designed to facilitate interaction between local government and citizens. Hegedus. whose film The War Room provided a behind-the-scenes look at the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. was also interested in a portrait of a dot.com entrepreneur. The result perfectly encapsulates the rise and fall of e- commerce.
‘lt felt like fate.‘ reckons Hegedus. whose husband and producer is the legendary l).A. Pennebaker (Don 'I Look Back). ‘Kaleil was extremely charismatic and I knew right off he would make a good subject. and the fact that his co-founder at Goonrks Tom Herman was his best friend from high school immediately turned it into a buddy-story. The film was interesting as long as we could get enough personal story in it. a problem at the beginning. We were saying to each other. “We have to get their girlfriends in". but they were working so hard. they would never see their girlfriends. Business also can be very dry and complicated in its language. and neither of us were from the business or the tech
‘The line between
22 THE LIST 6 Sop-20 Set) 2001
Christine Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim spy on the rise and fall of e-company Goonrks
filmmaker and ‘1 friend became harder to draw’ '9“: :4i
worlds — I always joke that V(‘ for me meant Viet Cong. not Venture Capitalist. So at one point we thought we'd have to put a glossary on the film to explain all these terms.’
Crucially. Noujaim and Hegedus were granted extensive. often intimate access to their subjects. following them around for over a year. filming them not just in the work environment but also in private locations such as Kaleil’s bedroom and bathroom. (Lightweight digital video cameras enabled the dUo to shoot quickly and cheaply; they edited the final cut down from 400 hours of footage.) Thus. the eventual acrimonious fall-out between the e-entrepreneurs makes for compelling if not distressing viewing.
‘We wanted for the viewer to feel the excitement of being dropped into a world they may know nothing about. watching the characters interact with one another in a situation of conflict or risk.’ says Hegedus. ‘The audience brings their own opinions to the film — we see that in the fact that some people feel Kaleil's a villain and some just think he is being as hard-assed as you have to be to survive in that worldf
Viewers may be surprised to learn that (loonrks founders are back working together in a new company. despite the acrimony. But how did the process of making this film affect Noujaim’s personal relationship with Kaleil‘.’ ‘At the beginning it was very easy.‘ she says. "l‘hey were on this huge adventure which we felt part of. But as things got more difficult between Kaleil and Tom. it became harder to film. and the line between being a filmmaker and a friend became harder to draw. We were filming a story about friendship versus business. and my own friendship with Kaleil was becoming a total friendship versus business situation. It‘s strange. you sort of fall in love with your characters because you‘re watching them the whole time. You have to believe in them. otherwise you can‘t follow them 24 hours a day. But it was a relief to finish filming and to sit and talk to him. and for him to know that it wasn’t all being recorded.‘
Selected release from Fri 7 Sep. See review, page 24.
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lights, camera, act/on . . .
IT’S UNLIKELY TO COME AS A surprise to anyone who saw Amelie that Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s enormously entertaining film won the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Audience Award. More of a surprise was Gas Attack (which played during the Festival as The Silent Killer) scooping up the Michael Powell Award for Best New British Feature. Up against inspired competition from amongst other films the FilmFour Lab digital features (My Brother Tom, This Filthy Earth, Jump Tomorrow), Kenny Glenaan’s Glasgow- shot low budget film nevertheless secured one of the Festival’s most prestigious prizes. It’s a tragic fact that the film’s warning about the explosive issue of asylum seekers was underscored by the murder of a Kurdish man in Glasgow last month.
THl-f‘ (ill/WOI/tt‘v’s NE W Director's Av'rartl was split between /a<:har:as Kanuk's Atanaryaat The l-ast Hurt/tor. the first ever Inuit il‘l‘l. and Michael Coesta's l .l.[_'.,. xxxtxch boasts a career best performance from: Brian Cox. Of the short films the Studio Award for Best British Short was soli‘. hetvr'reer‘. Alicia Duffy's Crow Stone and Brian Percivai's; Aooot A Girl, ‘.'/il|l(3 the Met areh Av'lartt for Best British All!tl‘.£li'()tl went to Sit/lo ’iemoteto'i's Dog.
RIDING ON THE WAVE OF recent announcements from the Film Council’s New Cinema Fund of investment in new filmmaking schemes - shorts, digital and Internet shorts - Glasgow’s Short Film Factory is calling for a second round of submissions for 8.5, the scheme backed by actor/director Peter Mullan. For more info go to: www.eightandahalf.com MtANWl-lltl . 8(301 HSH Screen has; also a'ir‘o..ri(:e<f a cat for ably: 753f3l()l‘rf3. for its New HDLJttl l and i(}i(}‘."f3'()ll production se'ierhe ‘.'.'or'»\..'io .h support of Scottish and Scotland hasett filmmakers. to: further info call 0 ‘1‘ .50? 1/00.
Amelie wins audience award