INTERVIEW OF THE DIRECTOR Mathieu
Kassovitz (MK) and Jodie Foster (JF)
Author: Ryan Deussing
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
What was it like shooting on location in the
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
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
Are some people labeling you the voice of the
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."