Gideon Koppel: interview

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Director Gideon Koppel’s first feature documentary, ‘Sleep Furiously’ is a lyrical meditation on a disappearing way of life in a mid-Wales community, Trefeurig.

Did you grow up in this part of Wales?
‘I’d grown up there from the age of 13. We’d gone to that area on holiday since I was about eight and I had wonderful memories of working on one of the local farms. I say working, but I didn’t really work, I sort of strolled around behind one of the farmers. And as a child I struggled to find a place for myself. I suppose I felt a bit alienated from the world in many ways. So working on the farm engaged a new part of me.’

Do you think that alienation had something to do with coming from such a different background to other kids (your parents were artists and German Jews who had fled the Nazis)? Or just something in your own nature?
‘I suspect it’s a combination of both. I guess now, parents being artists is kind of fashionable. Whereas when I grew up I suppose it was slightly embarrassing. I wanted to be called John, and wear clothes like everybody else wore. When I first went to primary school and part of the uniform was to wear grey trousers, I was given a pair of lederhosen.’

Did you always want to film something in Trefeurig?
‘I instinctively knew I wanted to make a film set in Wales. Then I happened to be working at my mum’s house and she walked past one afternoon going to the library van. It became very clear that this van was a vehicle of stories. And that it could become a container for fragments of ideas I’d had for a long time.’

How did the locals take to you filming?
‘I don’t know to what extent I did try to enthuse people. I’m not one of these filmmakers who is particularly ethical about the process. For me, when I put a frame around the world I am in effect generating fiction. I’m not Mr Nice Guy and my interest is in what I call the gaze. I love gazing at things. People are tolerant of that because I don’t really interfere with what they’re doing.’

The Aphex Twin soundtrack works brilliantly. How did you get Richard James to work on it?
‘I didn’t get him to work on it. In the editing process I had an iPod stuffed with music. Everybody was saying, “You can’t use Aphex Twin, it’s going to be very expensive.” Then, out of the blue Richard wrote saying he loved the film, but he really didn’t like the way that I edited the music. And he was very funny, asking how I would feel if Warp Films released my work but decided they liked one particular scene so repeated it ten times and cut halfway through? In the end he said, “It’s your film, I really love it and the unfortunate thing is we don’t have time for me to write something specifically.”’

Have you screened the film in Trefeurig?
‘The Aberystwyth Arts Centre put it on for six nights. I was told that in six nights it made more money than… what’s that Harrison Ford film where he wears that kind of cowboy hat?’

‘Sleep Furiously’ opens on May 29.

Author: Interview: Cath Clarke



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