David Cairns’ and Paul Duane’s ‘J’accuse’



For a visitor to the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013, the distance between Lothian Road and the Fountainbridge, where two major screening venues are located, isn’t measured by meters, but by the distance between two films, two ideas invariably influencing each other. The mere act of walking between two venues is a mentally creative act, a celluloid mile of rebellion against boredom and banality.

If ideas  do indeed take new directions in the magnetic field of a film festival, no kind of cinema can so explicitly comment on the nature of a film festival than films about film itself. As in Natan, directed by David Cairns and Paul Duane, which happens to be one of the most compelling examples of rethinking history (of film) via film in recent memory. The film was created to tell the real story of Bernard Natan, the man who changed the course of French cinema and was destroyed because of it. It’s a passionately researched and superbly directed film that, after premieres in Ireland, Scotland (Edinburgh IFF, where this interview took place) and recently Telluride Film Festival, Natan is en route to Cambridge Film Festival where it is scheduled for two screenings (September, 24-25).

Of the duo who directed the film, I could only talk to Cairns (also a Sight & Sound contributor and blogger at Shadowplay) who, in absence of the Dubliner Duane, answered to my questions about once the most powerful man in French cinema who was accused of pornography and fraud, and sent to Auschwitz. If Bernard Natan is the Dreyfus of cinema then, in this case, David Cairns and Paul Duane are its Zolas and Natan their “J’accuse.”

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