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Sunday, 19 May, 2002, 20:34 GMT 21:34 UK
Top directors tackle time
Jim Jarmusch (left) with Wim Wenders (centre) and Victor Erice
Jim Jarmusch (left) with Wim Wenders (centre) and Victor Erice
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By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online, Cannes

The concept of time has always fascinated people.

From our early ancestors through to the huge intellects of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, we have always yearned to understand how it works and affects our lives.

But it is now being tackled by a group of people without a calculator in sight - they are 15 of the world's leading film directors, including Spike Lee, Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch.

Each director was challenged to make a 10-minute film on their interpretation of time, and the startling results have been compiled into two movies - the first of which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday.

Spike Lee
Spike Lee focused on the 2001 presidential election
The first seven short films, called Ten Minutes Older: Trumpet, deal with birth, death, love, politics and history, and are backed with the music of trumpet player Hugh Masekela.

Jarmusch, whose previous works include Night On Earth and Stranger Than Paradise, joked that he asked if the producers could be "a little more vague" when they suggested the idea to him.

"But I like that contradiction of such a short, specific length for the film and such a huge subject matter," the US director said in Cannes.

Wenders added: "I was happy for once that I could make a movie that was definitely not too long."

German-born Wenders, famed for Wings of Desire and Buena Vista Social Club, was joined for the film by US director Lee, Aki Kaurismaki from Finland, Spain's Victor Erice, Germany's Werner Herzog and Chen Kaige from China.

As well as reflecting the directors' ideas, the movie - dreamed up by British film producer Nicolas McClintock - covers a huge variety of locations, eras and cultures.


One of the most gripping films Lee's We Wuz Robbed.

Lee's films are often politically and racially provocative, including Malcolm X, about the controversial US civil rights campaigner, and Do The Right Thing, which explores racial tensions in Brooklyn, New York.

His 10-minute short is no exception. Lee said he aimed to show "how the Bush/Gore presidential election was 'Bush-whacked' by some gangsters who just discarded people's votes".

Wenders' film is loosely based on his own experiences
Wenders' film is loosely based on his own experiences
He focuses on the 10 minutes it took Democrat candidate Al Gore to decide to challenge George W Bush's razor-thin lead in the 2000 US presidential election.

Lee interviewed some of Mr Gore's closest aides who witnessed the proceedings, and some said they were still convinced victory had been stolen from them.

As well as having huge anger that many of Florida's black voters had been "disenfranchised", many of the aides also fell about laughing as they recalled Mr Gore telling Mr Bush not to "get snippy" as he demanded a recount.

Herzog's film is set hundreds of miles away in the Brazilian rainforest, with the last of the hidden tribes who were "pushed 10,000 years ahead in time" when the outside world made contact with them.

Herzog, who had filmed the tribes 20 years ago, went back to find that most of them had died from chickenpox and the common cold, for which they had not had time to develop immunity.

The children of those who survived felt distanced from their ancestry and embarrassed to be born of "savage" parents.

Jarmusch produced a short called Int Trailer Night
Jarmusch produced a short called Int Trailer Night
Wenders made a more personal film, deciding to explore "three Rs - the road, rock 'n' roll and the relativity of time", and loosely basing it on his own experiences.

His film sees a man race to hospital in his car as he fights for his life, having accidentally taken a hallucinogenic drug in some cookies he found on a table.

One of the most moving shorts was also autobiographical, by Erice, whose film Lifeline was based on his own birth.

It shows a new-born baby begin to bleed to death through its umbilical cord as its mother peacefully dozes next to him.

It was set on 28 June 1940, the day the Nazis crossed the French border in to Spain, but Erice said in Cannes it was just "chance" that his film had such a historic date.

Female voice

McClintock told BBC News Online he had approached about 50 directors for the film, including Francis Ford Coppola, but that many had been forced to turn him down due to other commitments.

He added that he had approached about 10 to 15 female directors, but only one, Claire Denis, had been free to participate and would appear in the second film being released in the autumn.

"I think women don't get enough voice in cinema," he said, adding that "we tried our best" to get more women involved in the project.

Nevertheless, the films are entrancing to watch, giving a fascinating insight into the mind of each director as their concepts of time are explored.

And cinema-goers can enjoy them without having even the remotest idea how black holes are caused - just leave that to Stephen Hawking.

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