09 20 Oct '24

Q&A with award-winning filmmaker Norman Jewison

29 Sep 2011
Award-winning director and producer Norman Jewison will receive the Joseph Plateau Award at this year's 38th Ghent Film Festival (October 11 - 22) in Ghent, Belgium. The award is presented to those whose achievements have earned them a distinct place in the history of international filmmaking.
A vibrant force in the motion picture industry for more than five decades, Norman Jewison has been nominated for seven Oscars. Those nominations include three for Best Director (In The Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof, Moonstruck) and four for Best Picture (The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming; Fiddler on the Roof; A Solider's Story; Moonstruck). His films have received 46 nominations and 12 Academy Awards. In 1999, Jewison received the prestigious Irving Thalberg Award at the 71st Academy Awards and in 2010 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America. Past recipients of the Joseph Plateau Award include Catherine Deneuve, Morgan Freeman, Jeanne Moreau, Vanessa Redgrave, Mike Leigh, Jim Sheridan, Robert Altman, Sydney Pollack, Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck and Lord Richard Attenborough, among others. The following was written by Patrick Duynslaegher, Artistic Director for the Ghent Film Festival: "Although he spent the vast majority of his career in the United States making movies with some of the biggest names in the business (Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Cher, Nicolas Cage, Eva Marie Saint, Denzel Washington, Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, James Caan, Michael Caine, Bruce Willis) Norman Jewison, who was born in Toronto in 1926, has always stayed true to his Canadian roots. As a result, he was always considered somewhat of an outsider in Hollywood, a director who invariably took a critical view of the 'system', regardless of its form or ideological underpinnings. Like such contemporaries as John Frankenheimer, Franklin J.Schaffner, Sidney Lumet and Mike Nichols, Jewison learned his craft working in television. After a few light comedies starring Tony Curtis (who personally recruited him in 1962 for his film debut in Forty Pounds of Trouble) and Doris Day, Jewison first made a name for himself and gained a reputation with his Oscar-winning feature film, In the Heat of the Night (1967), a cop film against the backdrop of racial prejudice in the Deep South. For five decades Jewison continued to make movies in the American studio system in the great tradition of Elia Kazan, which always entertained audiences but also addressed key social issues and exposed various forms of injustice. F.I.S.T. (1978), for example, is a surprisingly radical film about the American trade unions; in the courtroom drama, in ...And Justice for All (1979) he exposed the corruption of the American judicial system; in A Soldier's Story (1984) and The Hurricane (1999) he once again focused on racial issues; in his latest film to be released, The Statement (2003), he demonstrated how a convicted war criminal was able to escape punishment with the help of right-wing factions within the Catholic Church. Meanwhile Jewison never abandoned light comedies, the genre of his early years, as is evidenced in the sophisticated crime caper, The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), the deliciously romantic comedy, Moonstruck (1987) and such immensely popular musicals as Fiddler on the Roof (1971)and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). Because we firmly believe there has to be some fun, we have chosen to show The Thomas Crown Affair, the tale of a bank robber from Boston (Steve McQueen) who pulls off the perfect heist and the insurance investigator (Faye Dunaway) who is called in to investigate it, as a tribute to Norman Jewison, in the presence of the director himself. Naturally the two lead characters fall for each other, or do they... because there are quite a lot of twists in this tale. But the real reason why this romantic thriller is still such a hit today with viewers is not the story itself but the brilliant style in which it is told in combination with Steve McQueen's incredibly laconic portrayal of the lead character - he is the King of Cool after all. And how could we overlook the surreal beauty of Faye Dunaway (who wears a new outfit in every scene, each more spectacular than the other). Finally, let's not forget about the split screen technique, which sometimes makes the screen disintegrate in hundreds of identical images to show simultaneous actions, Michel Legrand's jazzy score (with the Oscar-winning song, The Windmills of Your Mind), the famous chess scene with gigantic super-close-ups during which McQueen and Dunaway silently flirt with each other. And we could continue to sing the praises of this classic, which succeeds like no other in capturing the spirit and style of the Golden Sixties. So all we can say is, do not miss this unique opportunity to (re)discover this film on the big screen in an excellent print." Patrick Duynslaegher, Artistic Director for the Ghent Film Festival Q&A Norman Jewison with Patrick Duynslaegher on 21 october, 4PM in Kinepolis 9. Get your free ticket at the press & industry office. Screening The Thomas Crown Affair ('68) on 21 october, 5.30PM in Kinepolis 9. Tickets cost 7 euro. In collaboration with Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds and Cinematek.

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