The documentary master talks interviewing Steve Bannon, working for the Oscars, and why Einstein’s definition of insanity still holds water.
“Movies are like a Rorschach test. They provide a way in—a non-standard way in,” Errol Morris told IDFAcademy participants last November. Morris, an old friend of the festival, returned to IDFA in 2018 for the Dutch premiere of American Dharma, stopping in at IDFAcademy along the way for a special Meet the Professionals session. There, he spoke frankly about his unique perspective on filmmaking, and the challenge of interviewing Steve Bannon. “The task of interviewing anybody, and I mean anybody, is finding a way in,” Morris said, “and finding a way in not by asking the same questions everybody else asks, but asking very, very different questions."
Despite being one of the world’s foremost documentary filmmakers, Morris offered a humbling, personal take on why he makes films like American Dharma, which he calls “a movie made out of fear.” For Morris, documentaries are not necessarily about expressing a particular viewpoint, argument, or purpose for the masses. Rather, Morris’ motivation is more introspective. “I know what the purpose is for me. I know why I’m making [the films],” he said. “Because they answer to my curiosity about these characters.” Of course, the US mid-term elections looming over Morris’ production schedule didn’t hurt either. “I made the film because I did not want to be sitting on my hands during the mid-terms,” Morris acknowledged. “I wanted to weigh in in some way.”
Watch the entire talk below, moderated by Filmkrant Editor in Chief Dana Linssen. Filmed at IDFAcademy during IDFA 2018.
Photo by Grasshopper Studios/Joke Schut.