On the Opening Night of BBFF2015, our patron and renowned filmmaker Paul Cox made a call to arms to young filmmakers to express what’s in their hearts … and not bend to silly commercial demands. “Cinema is the greatest gift to our times, given to us to become richer in spirit”. His full speech is set out here:
Once again Byron Bay is holding its annual film festival. I’m honoured to be part of this. There’s more future for the cinema in regional small film festivals than in the big international film festival circuit. The true potential of the cinema can only be experienced when one has freedom of expression and finds an audience that’s not conditioned to constantly be entertained.
This is an important festival and for those young people that screen here for the first time it can be a life-changing experience. They will realise the power of the big screen and that they don’t have to be afraid of commercial failure.
Some 35 years ago I made a film about the great Vincent van Gogh. The story of Vincent’s life has many parallels with the fate of the present cinema.
Many have been touched by Vincent’s deep humanity. And passion. Many artists and thinkers – and many of us ordinary humans – found their identity through Vincent and found a soul-mate in their lonely struggles.
Together with Vaslav Nijinsky, Vincent van Gogh haunts our collective subconscious. Both men were seekers of that white light – seekers of the truth, capable of expressing their feelings rather than their thoughts, and both of them were so-called madmen in a world of insanity.
The films that changed my life and had a profound effect on my thinking and the direction of my life would never be released in the present-day commercial cinema. They committed a terrible sin… Not commercial enough for human consumption! But they are the ones that still linger in my subconscious and helped me to see.
The film ‘Vincent’, which was more or less ignored at the time of release, remains popular around the world and is loved by many.
200 years after Johannes Vermeer died he became recognised as one of the great painters of all time. 100 years after Vivaldi’s death he was rediscovered and now rates among the great composers. Johannes Bach suffered the same fate. Mozart died a pauper’s death. Vincent sold only on painting in his life time and killed himself, Nijinsky went insane and so on…
From every civilization only the history remains, and its art. From history we learn that man doesn’t learn from history and thus the arts remain an oddity, a luxury, and the artist usually the outsider.
Who are the film artists nowadays? The Fellinis, the Bergmans and Bunuels have disappeared. Now we have the Tarantinos, with their celebration of death and destruction. The bulk of popular releases that take 90% of the box office consists of mindless violation of body and spirit
What a different world it would be if the arts featured at the forefront of our endeavours, if the artist had a say in the matter and film production companies had a conscience and made room for creation instead of constant exploitation.
Vincent writes to his brother ‘Isn’t life given to us to become richer in spirit?’
Isn’t the cinema given to us to become richer in spirit?
What will have been the point if our short stay on this earth is starved of beauty, of love, dignity and tenderness towards our fellow travellers?
The cinema has been given to us to explore our true potential. It is the greatest gift to our times. It’s also the most abused and misused form of self-expression.
I call on all young independent filmmakers to fight the good fight and express what’s in their hearts, to make their own films without making concessions and then conquer by perseverance and not bending to silly commercial demands. The world has a conscience. Vincent’s legacy shows us that this conscience cannot be bribed. I thank you.