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3BC

The Diva's interview with

Niki Caro
Director of
North Country (2005)

3BC


Copyright Kamal Larsuel , 2005



.


Who is Niki Caro? You could understandably ask that prior to 2003ís Whale Rider - even though she directed young Keisha Castle-Hughes to an Oscar Nomination. In fact, Iíll even cut you some slack if you ask that before North Country hits the theaters. BUT after North Country is on the big screen, you will have no excuse for not knowing her. You will know her as the woman who directed one of the most incredible movies of the year so far. And in my gut feeling is that in her second major directorial outing, she has directed her second actress to a Best Actress Oscar nomination. And if there is any justice in the world, Frances McDormand and Sissy Spacek will be recognized for their top-notch work as well. Before I walked into the room, I knew I loved and respected her work. I was more than delighted to find her to be an absolute joy on a personal level.



Question:
This film didnít have a title for what seemed like ages.

Niki Caro:
I know it was humiliating. It was the untitled Niki Caro project for forever. We just couldnít find a title for it.

Question:
You couldnít use ďClass ActionĒ..

Niki Caro:
No. we couldnít thatís right and then finally North Country seemed really appropriate because o f the Bob Dylan song girl from the North Country and also it was shot in the town of Duluth where Bob Dylan is from.

Question:
You got all the rights from him?

Niki Caro:
Yes we did.

Question:
Has he seen the movie?

Niki Caro:
Yes he has. I took the film to him while he was traveling. I flew from Auckland, New Zealand all the way to New Jersey in like 2 days. I went all the way there I got there and had a meeting With him about the film it was great.

Question:
I hate to make this a gender issue this and I hope Iím not being sexist, but could a man have directed this movie?

Niki Caro:
Yes. I think so. Look what I know about directing, is it goes beyond gender. You might see some qualities that are inherently female in the great male directors. I think about things like the ability to communicate a vision, strength to create an environment where the actors fell very safe and where they can maybe they can work without e protecting themselves they can really stretch. These qualities are neither male nor female.

Question:
Did you have to separate Woman Niki from Director Niki? Some of the content is pretty intense.

Niki Caro:
No. Look Iím a very simple girl. Iím from New Zealand and we are very simple folk. I take a very straightforward and instinctive approach to my filmmaking. Iím pretty bright, I guess because you have to have a certain level of intelligence to deal with the mechanics of making a film. There is a lot going on itís like being on the inside of a Rubikís cube. But when Iím actually what I do best which is working with actors and telling a story. Itís like Iím not in my head, Iím in my heart. I just instinctively know that itís right. I know, I know, I know when itís really right. I know it in my heart. Because I feel it not because I intellectualize it

Question:
Are you primarily interested in examining womenís issues?

Niki Caro:
No. Iím primarily interested in examining human issues.

Question:
How is it coincidentally that your first two films have explored womenís issues?

Niki Caro:
Because they are the fresh stories now. The female experience is totally under explored in contemporary cinema. And in both of these films saw something that had never been committed to film before.

Question:
But one can point to the similarities of a female going up against a male dominated world.

Niki Caro:
Yes thatís true. The both of them deal with deep and profound resistance to being themselves and to fulfilling their own destinies. Paikea in ďWhale RiderĒ and to take a leadership role, and for Josey of ďNorth CountryĒ to work with dignity both stories that needed to be told, not because they are female stories but because they are human stories.

Question:
I think that Sexual harassment is both a male and female issue so I donít draw gender lines in that regard. But 1989 doesnít feel that far away and to know that kind of blatant sexual harassment existed you appear to be very young to me, when did you learn of this and how did it make you feel?

Niki Caro:
Thanks for saying I look young! Iíll be 40 in two days!

Question:
But you were 26 then, still relatively youngÖ

Niki Caro:
I come from a place that is very politically sophisticated and progressive. New Zealand was the first place to give women the right to vote. The only place in the world where the 3 highest positions are held by women. Weíve had a female Prime Minister for 8 years. She just got in again, yesterday at least I hope so but it was close theyíll have to form a coalition government, but I think sheíll be alright. So Iíve never had a moment in my life where I felt it wasnít an advantage to be female. Now it is very confronting for me to tell a story like this because it forces me to recognize just how fortunate I am and makes me feel a real responsibility to those not so fortunate and the fact that these events happened so recently even firstly, there wasnít even a name for this until Anita Hill that is why we cloistered the film around those events. It wasnít until the Anita Hill hearings that the words ďsexualĒ and HarassmentĒ got conjoined. Before then, there was no name for a phenomena that everyone knew existed.

It wasnít until 1993 that this case was settled. So it wasnít until 12 years ago that corporate America acknowledged that there was a problem. And they didnít do it for social responsibility they did so because they didnít want to be sued this is America. I just felt that it was a bracing reminder of sexual inequality thatís still out there and a good story tell least we forget what itís like out there some time.

Question:
Speaking of 1989 how do you recreate that time with it reference to pop culture etc without getting so nostalgic that it becomes ďThe Wedding SingerĒ?

Niki Caro:
You do it very carefully. Itís really funny. One of the female studio executives rang me up in a bit of a panic and said, Look, itís not going to be all big hair and shoulder pads is it? I assured her that it wouldnít be. When you talking about doing a period piece or a culturally specific film you have to go up there and figure out what it was like there then. In many ways it is so remote up there on the island that itís not like the 1989 you remember here in L.A. It was even if you go up there now, itís like things were a decade ago because things donít change much up there. And we talked to the women, the women who brought about the case and we followed their advice rigorously every important detail.


PAGE 2 -



Interview Charlize Theron

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