The Man From London Bela Tarr

As a way of introducing you to some amazing people working in the fields of artist moving image, experimental film and alternative cinema, we have concocted a short questionnaire. Today we speak to writer and film curator Nadin Mai.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Nadin Mai. I’m the voice (albeit in writing!) behind The Art(s) of Slow Cinema, a blog on which I publish articles on Slow Cinema. I’m also the founder and curator of tao films, a VoD platform that releases contemplative films from around the world.

2. What was the first film you remember seeing as a child?

Oh gosh! As a child – that must be The Lion King. I remember this one vividly, because the beginning of the film broke my little heart.

3. What was the last film you watched and what did you think of it?

The last film I watched was Nicole Vögele’s Closing Time, which was superb. It’s set in Taiwan and follows the day-to-day activities of Mr Ku, a middle-aged man who runs a night-time eatery in Taipei. Vögele is a director to follow in future, that’s for sure.

4. How did you become interested in working with cinema/moving image?

It was an accident. Or fate. In any case, I had never been particularly interested in film. When I left school, I wanted to become a journalist. At the university where I did my BA (University of Stirling), you couldn’t go straight into a journalism degree. You had to do a semester or two about media in general in order to learn all the basics, which also meant that I had to take courses on film. Before I even got to the journalism course I initially wanted to pursue, I had changed my degree to Film Studies because the film courses I attended fascinated me. All of this coincided with my new interest in photography, and Film Studies, especially the practical filmmaking courses later on during my degree studies, gave me a chance to do something with this interest, to use it, to enhance it. I’m also aware that I might have chosen film in order to nurture my interest in history and trauma, which I had carried along for much of my life until then, without necessarily having been aware of it all the time. Film allowed me to investigate those subjects in an environment that was more acceptable. Being German, I know that speaking about history can be immensely difficult. But speaking about (traumatic) history in films is much easier. I would say that all of this was a chain of fortunate circumstances, which eventually brought me to film. If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I would work in film one day, I would have laughed. Laughed out loud, in fact.

5. Tell us about a film that has had a profound effect on you?

The Man From London. Béla Tarr. Do I need to say more? This film was the very first slow film I had seen in my life. Those patient, beautiful long-takes; the camera that seemed to behave as though it was a character in the film; the dark Hungarian language – the film simply took my breath away. It stands at the very beginning of my development into who I am today. We’re always grateful for certain people to cross our way and change our life. After I had seen The Man From London, I was convinced that the same can be true for film…or any art form.

6. Favourite books about cinema/moving-image/filmmaking?

I don’t have favourite books as such. Chantal Akerman’s book Ma mère rit has little to do with cinema, but I love it. It’s a very intimate book, just like her last film No Home Movie is an intimate film. I also love Jacques Rancière’s Béla Tarr study The Time After. Much more analytical books, which I recommend are Somatic Cinema by Luke Hockley, The Multisensory Film Experience by Luis Rocha Antunes and Visual Occupations by Gil Z. Hochberg, albeit the latter is not entirely about cinema.

7. What would be your dream double-bill, two films you’d love to see together on the big screen?

Imagining a double-bill is difficult for me. Most films I absolutely love are also pretty long. A double-bill would kill me and all the other viewers. But something I would love to see on a big screen one day is the Living Trilogy by Roy Andersson. All three films were outstanding and I would love to see them all in one go.

8. Which filmmaker/artist are you most obsessed with, the one whose work you return to again and again?

Béla Tarr. There is no doubt about it. There is something so mystic about this director, and I don’t even know why. When you read or see interviews with him, there doesn’t seem to be much of a mystery around him. On the contrary, it all looks pretty straightforward. But his films contained something that, even today, I cannot describe. I cannot put it into words. For some reason, Tarr’s films resonate with me on a deep, almost unconscious level. I have learned to be patient, to wait until a work of art reveals the reasons for why it doesn’t let me go. I’m still waiting, and maybe it’s even better not to know.

9. What are you currently working on/what projects do you have coming up?

At the moment, I’m putting the finishing touches to a French-language book chapter on Lav Diaz. I will submit this in June. I’m also working on my first book, which I’m very excited about. In summer, I will start putting the second issue of The Art(s) of Slow Cinema magazine together as well. A lot of slow work!

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