INTERVIEW OF THE DIRECTOR Mathieu Kassovitz (MK) and Jodie Foster (JF)
Author: Ryan Deussing
Date: 02/09/96
Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

This film takes a lot from hip-hop culture, from American "hood" films. How do you feel about that? 
MK
: "I don't consider HATE to be a hood-film. I don't really like these films. Hood films now are made by studios and have nothing to do with the reality they supposedly represent. The first hood-films did good things, in the way that the first hardcore hip-hop, like NWA, did good by letting people know the way things really are. But afterwards it became a money thing and was much different. HATE, even if it's making money, is an underground movie, that's how it was made. It's a film about police brutality in the largest sense, it's about the whole of society and not just about the hood." 

What was it like shooting on location in the projects? 
MK
: "It was nice. Like anywhere, we had to make people understand that we were there with good intentions, and that we were there with respect. We started making contacts with the people in the neighborhood three months before shooting began, so that everyone involved was comfortable. We made it known that we were trying to show the reality of France. People think of Paris as the city of love or the city of light, but where you got love you got hate, where you got light you got darkness. [he chuckles at this phrase, which he has polished through repeated use." 

Did you study hip-hop culture to make this film? 
MK
: "Did I study? Yeah, I've been studying hip-hop culture since 1983, so I know about it. When you talk about young kids living in the hood, everywhere in the world, American music, American dress, American attitude is really important. More people are going to Euro-Disney than to the Louvre. So American culture is really a part of our culture, in the same way the the hood is a part of French culture." 

JF: "The film speaks about the fusion of cultures, the way American culture has pretty much permeated the world. Some of that's a good thing, some of that's a bad thing, but you can't take it away. Part of what this film can do is to help Americans realize the impact of their culture on the world. And of course the world is getting worse. An important theme in the film is that, while the characters and the audience are expecting something awful to happen, and when they've managed to convince themselves that they've avoided disaster, it strikes. This movie is about the solution being love." 

Why do you think so few Americans go to see foreign films? 
JF
: "Oh boy, that's just a big cultural problem in the US. Americans just aren't used to accepting the European influence that they live under. Hopefully America is starting to realize that they really are a part of the globe, and that there are other people out there. We're so huge that we don't have the access to other cultures that they do in France, for example. From watching American television shows, French people know the their way around Beverly Hills better than they know the outskirts of their own cities." 

You've said that you made HATE as a statement against the police, as an anti-police film. Do you anticipate that an American audience will understand that approach as well as you hope? 
MK
: "The thing is I made a mistake in that case. I don't want people to understand the film as being anti-police, but as being against any form of a police-state. In France they spend six months training policemen, then they give them a gun and put them on the streets, and I don't know that that's enough. The film's not against the police - although I think that if someone wants to be a cop there's got to be a problem. I know that there are police that are trying hard to do the right thing, and the film is also about the way that the police are treated by the state." 

How was HATE received by the French government? 
MK
: "Well, a special screening was set up for government officials, so they didn't have to experience of going to see the film. They certainly aren't going to the (housing) projects to see for themselves the situation. It's good that they've seen it, but how can I be satisfied after working for two years making a film which I hope will make a difference, when the government sees the film and does nothing about it? " 

Were they disturbed? 
MK
: "You can't be disturbed by this film, it would be disturbing if it portrayed something as real that was not. But nobody can claim that this film tells anything but the truth. If anything the film takes the situation and tones it down. The government said the movie was not very good, but they couldn't say it was not the truth. " 

Are some people labeling you the voice of the Paris ghetto? 
MK
: "I have a hard enough time speaking for myself - I don't pretend I can be a spokesman for anybody. I have no interest in playing that role. You don't have to be political to make a film like HATE, you can talk about society through the human perspective, something that everyone can underdstand. I'm not a politician; I'm lucky to be a filmmaker and to be able to express myself through the films I make." 

 

"We've moved away from films about people in a kitchen."
French actor/director Mathieu Kassovitz ( La Haine , Gothika), on contemporary French cinema, 
in Daily Variety, Jan. 4, 2004.
Facets Newsletter, Jan. 9, 2004

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