The ever-provocative British director Mike Leigh ( Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, Another Year ) showed that he has not dampened his sometimes incendiary sentiments as he appeared with the other members of the Berlin Film Festival's jury at a news conference today (Thursday). Leigh, who is this year's jury president, remarked at first that the members have a duty to keep an "open mind ... about the films that we are about to savor and enjoy here." A few minutes later, however, he maintained that the panel could not help but be affected by external influences, including the fact that the festival "takes place in the middle of winter" -- it has been snowing in Berlin -- something, he said, that "informs the spirit." Warming to the subject, Leigh went on to say that "it would be impossible for any of us on this jury to make a serious consideration of any of the films without looking at them each in its own way" and to judge them as much on their "political context as on their cinematic context." (In 2010, Leigh, who is Jewish, pulled out of a film festival in Israel to protest against that country's policies toward Gaza.) That remark brought a quick dissent from actor Jake Gyllenhaal, the only American on the panel, but Gyllenhaal, who earlier had remarked that he had admired Leigh's work since he was a child, did not specify why he disagreed with the director. Nor did he raise an objection when Leigh concluded the news conference by remarking that "there is world cinema and there is Hollywood, and I feel personally for the first time that we can feel a little bit confident that the domination of Hollywood is declining." Moreover, he said, the Berlin Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival are "Hollywood proof." Hollywood "cannot buy its way in."

09/02/2012