The visionary director spoke with GIFF XXII’s audience
Imaginative, challenging, unique: this is Terry Gilliam. The audience of the twenty-second edition of the Guanajuato International Film Festival had the opportunity to meet one of the most important filmmakers of our era in person. In a keynote lecture, he shared advice and stories regarding his exceptional work.
The ceremony was conducted by Sofía de Llaca and Michel Chauvet, who presented a video tribute that Gilliam himself described as the best retrospective on his films he has seen so far, for which he congratulated the festival staff. Gilliam commented that his career has been very “selfish,” since he makes his films to entertain himself, and he is glad they’ve been able to entertain others.
He also appreciated the opportunity to be in Mexico again. “I always feel excited for life when I come to Mexico. Every moment I have spent here has been joyful and its food is the best in the world.” Subsequently, the founder and executive director of GIFF, Sarah Hoch, bestowed upon him the Silver Cross in recognition of a life and work that have illuminated the lives of many.
Afterwards, Mexican actor, writer, broadcaster and conductor Sergio Zurita took the stage to chat with the director. In a deep exchange of ideas and questions, Gilliam gave his point of view on various topics and showed his particular humor to those gathered to celebrate it.
One of the recurring themes was the intersection between imagination, dreams, madness and material reality. “I don’t hate reality, I’m fascinated by it, but I don’t want to be limited by the idea that other people have of reality. Technology advances faster than us and I think it’s wonderful, but I don’t like it when it dominates us. I would define myself as an anti-materialist. ” Gilliam prompted the creators to trust their imagination and play with it. “You have to be careful with dreams, but you have to use them to travel through life.”
The process behind The Man Who Killed Don Quixote took center stage in the conference. This film, which Gilliam took thirty years to complete, was presented by him on the steps of the University of Guanajuato within the framework of GIFF. Famous since long before it was completed because of the enormous difficulties that its production went through, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote expresses many of the ideas and obsessions that go through his work. He mentioned that his attraction to the character of Don Quixote began very early, but that it was not until he conceived this film that he understood the magnitude of Cervantes’ classic.
The Fisher King, a 1991 film starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges, was also a crucial point in his career. In this regard, he commented that it was the first time that he worked with a script that was not his, and that he decided that if he had to deal with tragedy and madness he would have to do it in a terrible and disturbing way to remain honest and true. About Robin Williams he said he was a very sweet and shy person off camera; “He was like a huge antenna that knew and captured everything. Being with him was exhausting and exciting because he was hilarious like no one else.”
Humor is essential in the world of Terry Gilliam. “I don’t know how you can go through the darkness of life without humor.” However, both Sergio Zurita and Gilliam agreed that humor is going through a difficult time due to political correctness that tries to impose its values in a hegemonic way in our culture. “I hate political correctness. When you can’t distinguish between humor and hate, we are all fucked, ”he pointed out. “Humor is a constant reminder of how ridiculous we are as a species despite our impressive achievements. We are interesting creatures. ”
During the Q&A session, Terry Gilliam was asked about the dreams and nightmares that inspire him, to which he replied that his inspiration comes rather from his waking hours and he tends not to remember his dreams.
Then, prompted by questions, he shared stories and anecdotes about the production of films like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Tideland and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The last question came from none other that our international tributee, Filipino director Kidlat Tahimik, who asked Gilliam about how he can survive in the “nightmare” of industrial film production modes. Gilliam replied: “I am lucky. People come to my rescue, but it is not the realists or the businessmen who make my films possible. ”
Thus Terry Gilliam’s tribute and Master Class ended and the Guanajuato International Film Festival is deeply grateful to him for his talent, vision and courage to bring images and stories that no one else could have brought to the screen, and for sharing his generosity with the people of Guanajuato, who responded with hospitality and affection.