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Friday, June 20, 2014

BAMcinemaFest 2014: Q&A with Amanda Rose Wilder (Approaching the Elephant)

Filmmaker Amanda Rose Wilder’s first feature is already drawing comparisons with Truffaut’s Wild Child for its shimmering black-and-white images and raw portrayal of kid culture. A documentary seven years in the making about the Teddy McArdle Free School in New Jersey, Approaching the Elephant has launched both Wilder’s career and her relationship with one of the film’s main characters, Alex Khost. We talked a bit about both.

What films have served as inspiration for your work?

The Dardennes' Le Fils. All Maysles and Wiseman films. Babenco’s Pixote.

You were a poet before you started making films. What made you choose to work in documentary instead of narrative?

I like to watch the world and put that watching together. It’s a simplistic way of filmmaking because it depends on just a couple people: the person shooting and the person editing. But it’s not simplistic for those few—it’s a heavy responsibility.

©Robin Holland/
I like what comes out of telling a true story through one or a few people's eyes. A concentrated vision. Many poets are documentarians, using language to articulate their perception of life. Working with actors, to me, is a completely different ball game and requires an entirely separate set of skills that I’m not sure I’m interested in developing, although it’s quite possible I’ll try.

Talk about some of your favorite films of the year.

Mille Soleils is an effortless poetic gem. Manakamana lives up to the hype—a film about going to a temple that reminded me of how the act of going to see films can be a spiritual act. Actress is daring and empathetic and reminds me of the everyday neighborhood poetry of poets such as William Carlos Williams. Stray Dogs, Buzzard...

What does it mean to you to have your movie playing in Brooklyn?

Well, Brooklyn is where, years after filming was complete, my Approaching the Elephant subject Alex Khost and I fell in love. We now live together in Brooklyn, about 10 blocks from BAM. Aside from his pursuits in education, Alex is an oil painter.

Approaching the Elephant screens in BAMcinemaFest on Sunday, Jun 22 at 2:30pm.

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