martin scorsese
continued



previous
q:  Your film has engendered controversy.... China not liking it. It's a new territory, this idea of suddenly a filmmaker in .....foreign policy ...

a:  This is a new territory.

q:  Disney calling in Henry Kissinger to advise it about how to -- handle a film -- What is going on?

a:  Money. This is free enterprise. It's what America is based on. They have every right to protect that money-making issue. They have every right to do it. I don't say ethically it's right. I think in terms of freedom of expression it may not be but you know Disney made -- Disney-- I don't know how much money Disney put in, how much UGC in France put in, but you know the picture is made and they're releasing the film. That's one thing everybody has to understand.

And I think also, it is not the first time. I believe there was a film that was going to be made about Japanese baseball at Columbia a couple -- a few years ago when Sony bought Columbia and because it was at Universal, maybe Matsushita had Universal. I may be wrong but I know that there was a picture which was going to be a satiric look at it or something and they felt... it was gonna insult the Japanese and they couldn't make the film. And this was part of the problem of --the studios being bought....

The big danger I think in this country right now is that the corporations are so big and controlled so much and there's so much money to be made that it will infringe on freedom of expression -- and when we're talking about a situation, we're not talking about here-- oh Disney is not releasing the movie and they're causing.... -- they're not doing that. You know, they're not doing that . I think I understand their concern. I totally understand their concern. They're in a corporation you make money and you don't want to jeopardize the six billion dollar potential.

q: Michael Eisner had said the Chinese are doing very intelligently with this, and films have a way of going out, and if you don't say anything, they go away quickly.

a:  I know. We'll have to see. But there's no doubt that every day it's a struggle for any movie and particularly now after all this has happened. A picture like this every day will be a struggle. We all didn't sit down and say -- let's get into some difficulty here but we're in this situation together. I understand their concerns, I understand their position, but they also understand mine and I have to make people know the picture's out there and we'll try our best to get it nicely distributed. It's not a movie with big stars, you know it's a very special picture and it deserves a shot, that's all I'm saying it deserves a shot, I'm going to try to see if I can do that .

q:  Did the Chinese reaction surprise you? Did this all take you by surprise? Tell me about your reaction?

a:  I was shooting about two and a half months in Morocco and one morning I got up, had breakfast, and it was the international news on and financial news and there we were, they were talking about our picture. So I was surprised. I was very surprised and I understand that there could be a great deal of discomfort behind the scenes. Negotiations -- people could stop talking the meetings are canceled, things like that but to go public with that, I was very surprised, very surprised and within a day or so Disney backed the picture and moved on down the line.

q:  What about this idea of Disney hiring Henry Kissinger, what do you make of that?

a:  Well Disney's become a very big corporation. A lot of shareholders, stockholders, and a lot of responsibilities and they have a certain image that's been resuscitated.....And from a movie studio it's gotten into something else. Cruises and something I don't understand, it's something else entirely. That's like theme parks. The first theme park in a way Walt Disney did that -- but it's opened all around the world.. so I think it's a potential for unlimited enterprise, making money.

q:  But it comes back to the studio--this question of a studio finding itself in a position of needing a foreign policy, of needing to hire somebody like Henry Kissinger.

a:  The reason I think is because it's like a new era -- it's not a studio. It's a corporation. It's an idea. It's a presence --Disney. Whether you agree with that or not that's what it is and that's what it's becoming. It has to be sustained that way and therefore it's become a situation where you take people on the level of a Kissinger to advise , consult with.

q:  You talked about it being a struggle, of ongoing day-by-day basis. What is the struggle?

a:  Well it's a special picture -- and that's why it's a struggle. It's not a film with movie stars, it's a film that has a slower pace to it so you have to immerse yourself in that, you got to know what kind of movie you're going to go and see and give yourself to it if you can .

And I think one has to be vigilant to make sure that the picture gets a proper releases. I'm not saying that we're getting phone calls and not releasing the film, things like that -- they're standing by the picture but one has to be very careful. I don't expect a corporation or the heads of corporations to totally underwrite a political cause that I may believe in you know. And so that may affect how the picture opens and what kind of presentation it has and that sort of thing. It's a delicate issue. You have to be a little more vigilant than normal.

q:  But filmmakers like you have always prized this ability to address in whatever way, issues that you care about.

a:  The world has changed, obviously--one has to be very careful. I mean this picture has slipped through in a way -- again not -- I must tell you -- I didn't say, 'oh we're going to put one over on Disney, we're going to make this picture,' --no, we all thought we were going to make a movie, you see, and somehow all this erupted. All right.

So this slipped through. What could happen next? It's very dangerous situation. How much money does a corporation really need ultimately? You know what I'm saying and who's a corporation? What is a corporation? Who are the people you know -- this is a very danger -- and this is a filmmaker like on my level now -- it's probably easier to make these pictures for younger people, independent films and that sort of thing -- it's much easier to say exactly as you please.

But the old traditional Hollywood studios--we're entering another phase here, another whole thing. Paramount is owned by Viacom I believe. Fox is owned by Murdoch, it's a whole other issue. Each studio is , I may be wrong but I think has become part of-- and this has happened the past 25 years -- part of a conglomerate or now a major corporation and there's no doubt that filmmakers are going to have to fight a little harder.

q:  The reality of Tibet.....it's getting very hard. We have somebody in Tibet now trying to get pictures and basically they're telling us they can't. And I'm wondering do you think that there is kind of ironic-- where a picture like yours will ultimately end up being the record of the culture that first of all we had movie images of? That what we're left with in the end is...

a:  Is the movie. ...I think we're in the process of making the picture, Dante Ferretti who did the production design and the costumes, we were conscious, and not to be presumptions because if we had more money we could have built a potala, the palace, we didn't have the money OK, so we made a map painting, computerized certain things, all right fine. We would have gone further with certain look but the picture has to be an intimate film, I wanted it to be intimate and at the same time on a personal epic scale, that's what I wanted to get at .

But while we were doing that, we had a sense that maybe and not to be presumptions and it's a sad thing, I'm going to say but that this may be -- and aspects of "Seven Years in Tibet"--may be the only records left of aspects of this culture.....

We hope not, we hope not, and as I say it's not to be presumptions because one has to take certain liberties when you're making a film and we did the best we could within our budget, budgetary situation. But there was an aspect that maybe a picture like this who knows might become -- I mean an impression of the culture. It's not the culture because it's a movie but it's an impression, a dream-like image, I hope is what I try to create in this picture, a dreamlike spiritual subconscious, subconscious image, impression of Tibet.

q:  Do you think seeing "Kundun" and some other films about Tibet and popular culture--Free Tibet Concerts and CDs-- can have an impact on how people think--on policy.

a:  It may be. I hope it would. But again I can't be as presumptions to say that. That our pictures will change the world. I can't do that. Even as much as I'd like to at times-- can't take yourself that seriously, you always have to keep your sense of humor.

But I am concerned about Tibet and I do get mad sometimes when I think about it. I'm not a Buddhist so I get very very angry at times but as Sam Fuller said, you make a movie when you're angry. That's the way to make a picture. But Free Concerts, Free Tibet concerts they'll make people aware, understand what it is. It helped somewhat with South Africa. I don't know if any movie really helped with South Africa but there was a lot of pressure put on but there was a great deal of violence there and that sort of thing. It's a great deal of violence in Tibet now but the -- it's not the same kind. It's being acted - as I say as I say it's a people --it's an oppression.

q:  And in that sense does this experience with Tibet tell us something about us as Americans?

a:  Yes, I think this whole experience to be able to make pictures about what you want to make them about -- it tests our values as a culture. It really does. As I say I understand the corporate position too. I understand. But think of the values. Think of American values. Think of values of freedom and think of human rights.



home .  understanding tibetan buddhism .  ascending the roof of the world .  interviews .  china in tibet .  chronology .  links .  viewer discussion .  press reaction .  tapes & transcripts


web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation
PBS Online

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Losing IraqJuly 29th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS