Professor Lúcia Nagib
Director, Centre for World Cinemas
SCHOOL OF MODERN LANGUAGES & CULTURES
Tell us about the Centre for World Cinemas.
The project began in 2000, with the MA in World Cinema being introduced in 2003. I was appointed Centenary Professor of World Cinemas in January 2005 and a key aim was to build a centre for world cinemas drawing on strengths of the School of Modern Languages and the University’s teaching and research staff. We have some 20 film teaching staff from different faculties and schools.
World cinema is often defined negatively by what it isn’t, that is, the opposite of Hollywood. I wanted to define what it was, positively. I wanted to develop a polycentric, truly democratic view of world cinema, not the West set against the rest of the world.
For us, world cinema relates to creative peaks and their interconnections across the world. Since the Second World War successive new cinema movements have been launched – in places like Hungary, Japan, France, Brazil, Germany, Cuba – and it’s interesting to study these and how they relate to each other.
We also don’t see modernity as a European prerogative and don’t stress origins and primacies. Cinema has been in the human mind since pre-history, it’s just the technology of film-making which is a recent invention. Whenever a tradition of cinema begins, it draws on an existing culture of things like oral literature, performance and music.
How did the forthcoming visit of director Fernando Meirelles come about?
We’re both from Sao Paulo in Brazil, and I’ve known him since we were students. He studied architecture, before becoming involved in video production and eventually film-making. By that time, I had become a film critic and that brought us together again. There’s a retrospective of his work at Bradford and when I invited him to a workshop and Q&A session at the University he was delighted to accept.
Which country’s films are particularly interesting at the moment?
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall we’ve seen a change in the way that film-making is organised across the world. A number of independent, very exciting film-makers have started to appear in places like Russia, Mexico, Brazil and China. Until some 20 years ago, many of these countries were totalitarian or dominated by dictatorships and their film industries were backed by the state.
The old regimes were replaced by democratic governments that have opened up different lines of financing and enabled independent film-making. Now we’re seeing second and third generation film-makers maintaining the artistic momentum in these countries and also being picked up by international producers.
Why are films important to people?
On one hand, it’s a question of identity, of finding and recognising your own image, culture and language on screen. The opposite is also true; cinema is a chance to learn about other people and cultures. There’s a preconceived idea that people want to watch films in their own language, rather than read subtitles, but our experience of showing international films is that people are fascinated by new cultures.
The way that you absorb cinema is totally different to a book or music – it’s like life itself, because it contains all its elements: sound, image, time and movement.
Which director do you most admire?
I’m a fan of many but inevitably we tend to favour those filmmakers that chime most with our hearts and feelings. I’ve done a lot of research on Japanese cinema and absolutely love Yasujiro Ozu.
If you could make a film, what would it be about?
I cherished a dream of scripting and making a film but realised early on that I don’t have any talent. I’d have adapted a book called Falling Up by Sandra Mara Herzer. It’s by and about a homosexual teenager and deals with drugs, imprisonment and her final suicide – but it’s not as grim as it sounds because she was a poet and describes her life beautifully.
What has the centre got planned?
We have a packed agenda, with conferences, seminars, visits by filmmakers throughout the year. We also have a grant from the White Rose Consortium for a project on interdisciplinary and intercultural approaches to cinema. There’s an international workshop in May for the Mixed Cinema Network, followed by a huge conference at the end of the year – Impure Cinema – which we’re busy organising.
What is your most frequently asked question?
What is World Cinema?
Which five films would you recommend to people as an introduction to world cinema?
It has to be Citizen Kane, then a Hitchcock film – for me, it would be Vertigo. Then I’d recommend Ozu’s Tokyo Story and, because I come from Brazil, a film from the 60s called Black God, White Devil, by Glauber Rocha. It’s one of the greatest films ever made, political and completely original, it goes deep down into the soul of the poor in a way that I don’t think any other film has ever done. Finally, it would be The 400 Blows, by François Truffaut, one of the best French (and world) films ever made.
Lúcia Nagib was talking to Sarah Ward