Prototype poster image by Enda O’Connor.

NATAN, directed by Paul Duane and myself, premiers in its English-language version at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on February 15th. Fiona and I will be there. If you come, I will shake you by the hand and call you friend.


Terrifying truth — the film is still being finished. Final grade and dub are underway as I type. I’m astonished at what we were able to uncover and get into the film and what we had to leave out. I *think* we’ve taken a dizzyingly complicated story and boiled it down to a comprehensible form without distorting the essence of what happened, and I *think* we’ve finally given Bernard Natan something of his due as a true forefather of modern French cinema, without whom the filmmaking landscape throughout the world might look very different. And I know we’ve evoked something of the injustice of Natan’s being virtually erased from film history — when our voice-over artist got choked up about it right there in the booth (“Is that true? Oh my God!”) — that was a pretty encouraging moment.


17 Responses to “Mogul”

  1. I wish I was in Edinburgh, all the best and I really want to see this film.

  2. Dublin first! Then — hopefully — Edinburgh. And then… the world!

  3. I don’t think they have any insanely lucrative prizes or anything. But we already kind of won the prize, since they helped finance the film in the first place.

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    I can’t wait to see this–congratulations!

  5. Thanks!

    Anyone outside the UK, Ireland and France will have to watch out for festival screenings. We MIGHT snag a TV screening in one or more of the three territories we have TV rights for. I’ll certainly be announcing any further screening dates here on Shadowplay.

  6. Congratulations, David. I look forward to seeing the film.

  7. david hare Says:

    Huge congratulations David! I hadn’t realized, but last year I was having a conversation online with someone I now realize was you elsewhere on the web on this very subject. I had been wondering if the now clearly apocraphyl rumour of Natan playing the “Coolie” in the early 20s French porno “version” of Butterfly” was in fact him. Clearly it isn’t of course. You just need to look at the actor’s face. I said face.

    HIs treatement at the hands of the Pathe people and others whom he saved from financial ruin and the bastards in the VIchy administration is just emblematic of the corrupt stench of hypocrisy and bigotry that ran throughout occupied France, and later with all the post war recriminations….

    Oddly I was in Berlin last September with some pals, one of whom and I decided to record a home edited commentary track for Gremillon’s Gueule d’Amour for which another couple of pals had just completed new subtitles. When I got to a point at which I started to talk about Mireille Balin, who also suffered another hideous albeit prolonged demise thanks to Occupation biogotry. I started to choke up and for a minute couldn’t continue the commentary. My colleague and friend Monsieur Schreck picked up the beat while I regained some composure thank god.

    Anyway I hope we can see this soon. God knows when or how down here in OZ.

  8. Thanks!

    Balin’s story is unbearable. A case of pent-up hatred from the occupation being unleashed on somebody who was simply available, and also a case of it being mixed in with cruelty and misogyny that had nothing to do with the war at all.

    In my crazier moments I dream of a whole series of films/TV about cinema under the occupation… Guitry, Baur, Balin, Cocteau, all have fascinating and in some cases tragic stories.

    The guy playing Pinkerton in Miss Butterfly had a long porno career and has been misidentified as Natan in other films. There’s some slight resemblance but it clearly isn’t him. I think we’ve got the true story about as clear as it can be rendered in our movie…

  9. Best of luck! I hope we get to see it in the States soon-ish somehow — festivals or TV, or even a DVD release, which would be terrific.

  10. Using insanely expensive archive footage has meant we couldn’t buy worldwide rights, so we have no DVD rights, unless more money becomes available. I’m not sure what the legal basis is for sending DVDs gratis to friends, but that might be the distribution system…

  11. Copyright laws, like the rules for proper use of apostrophes, are complicated and almost always great big buzzkills.

  12. Oh yeah. And rights-holders always want all the money they can get. That’s a key thing for filmmakers to remember. Had we never spoken to any of the rights-holders, we could have attempted to make the film using fair use, but as soon as you start talking to the owners you’re committed to paying.

  13. I do hope we can indeed get to see this someday — you could probably figure out a way to enter in the Boston Irish Film Festival, never mind the Independent Film Festival!

    It often seems to me that rights holders have a totally unrealistic sense of the potential money to be made from the vast majority of films, and create situations where they make less income by virtue of setting unreasonably high demands.

  14. You’re spot on. On the other hand, I can’t blame Pathe for wanting to make money from their expensive restorations of fairly obscure movies. When we said we’d spend more if they lowered the price, they did come down a bit. But we still couldn’t afford all we’d like, and we end up with a film with limited distribution rights. But the newsreel sources were also tough, and one presumes they have a realistic estimate of what they can charge (although I guess they use the same rates for popular stuff like WW2 than they do for minority things like Natan).

  15. ooh so glad that you and F are going to Dublin

  16. Ought to be fun! Haven’t been at a festival showing a film of mine in years! Bobo keeps getting shown, but I haven’t been anywhere with a new film in ten years!

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