Born in 1963 in Argenitina, Noé spent his childhood between Buenos Aires and New York. At age 12 he moved to France. After studying philosophy and cinema at l’Ecole Louis Lumière de Paris, he released his first short films in the 80s: Tintarella di Luna and Pulpe Amere. In 1991 he made a short film Carne introducing the character of the Butcher, played by Philippe Nahon. An angry man, the Butcher seeks revenge on whoever hurt his disabled daughter. After working as an actor, cinematographer, writer, and director on some other projects with the backing of Agnes B., Noé made his first feature film, I Stand Alone, continuing the story of the Butcher after he does time in jail and abandons his daughter. In 2002 Noé received major public notice and outrage with the controversial Irréversible.
Born in a village of Tyrol, Austrian Alps. He lived in Great Britain, Italy, the USA, and since ten years in France. He studied film directing in Vienna (Univ. of Performing Arts) and in Paris (Univ. de Paris VIII.) and graduated B.A.(Mag. art). Hubert teaches film classes in Europe and USA. The last two documentaries he wrote and directed (Darwin’s Nightmare and Alone With Our Stories) were awarded twelve International Film Prizes.
Gaspard Noé: You have been to Africa severals times? Even before going there to film, right?
Hubert Sauper: Yes, Kisangany Diary was made at the end of a long stay, actually my first. Aside from that I lived briefly in Tanzania in 97 working with a friend that had openned a production company. This was the first such business in Tanzania’s history. I helped out in making TV commercials for the national Tanzanian soap, know as the Findi or Winner, a sort of long yellow baguette that you cut pieces off of. This soap was used to wash yourself, for laundry, cars, boats, airplanes … It was during the shooting of an airplane washing scene that I met these Russian pilots that later played a role in Darwin’s Nightmare.
GN: But that wasn’t actually the town where you filmed Darwin’s Nightmare? Why did you go there initially?
HS: The first trip was for the soap.
GN: Why this town and not another?
HS: It just worked out that way, I don’t quite remember. My friend had landed a bunch of contracts and had asked me to help out in making these ads as he was overwhelmed. We spent a whole month crossing Tanzania. I already had a project in mind dealing with the refugies in the The Congo, as the air lifts had been removed from Tanzania. I had already been in touch with the UN. Then after meeting the Russians, I went back to see the UN, “so there, I know a few pilots, can you take me along in the planes?” and I was off to the east of the The Congo with my partner Suzanna.
“I lived briefly in Tanzania in 97… I helped out
in making TV commercials … It was during
the shooting of an airplane washing scene that
I met these Russian pilots that later played
a role in Darwin’s Nightmare”— Sauper
GN: And what the heck was she doing there?
HS: Suzanna? She played the accordian. No, she actaully did a bunch of things. She took care of the children. We were discovering Africa. We were meeting a lot of people, and I was preparing this documentary. And the only way to get into the Congo, was via the UN transport planes. So the end of my 6-7 month stay in Africa, was a month and a half in the Congo.
GN: Did you use a professional
HS: No, it was this crappy Hi 8.
GN: The thing is that, the sound is surprisingly clear.
HS: It’s clear, since the people I am filming are relatively close, and there are no highways near by.
GN: Because I remember, you have this shot with a bunch of kids and this guy getting up, and the image is rough looking with really big grain, but the sound is super clear.
HS: It’s just the mike from the camera, it’s because the is no noise. That’s the advantage of filming in the jungle, everything is very present.
GN: When making documentary films these days, it no longer crosses your mind to do it in 16mm? The whole process of putting the reel in the camera, changing it, knowing that you need to stop in 10 min, develop the negative … a lot more complicated than using a camera like the Panasonic DVX100 …
HS: I guess it all depends on your level of concentration. Sometimes when you need to film a lot, it is hard to keep up.
GN: Getting back to Africa, in comparison to the west, death is delt with on a daily basis. Everyone is telling you that they have lost half their
children, that their brother is dead… You say it is a sort of general hecatombe, but suprisingly, I don’t have the impression that they
themselves feel they are punished, I mean for them, the hardships they endure, having lost a child, or the wife that has lost an eye … they’ve taken so many blows for such a long time.
HS: Yes, I think this is more so just a part of their life, but the mourning associated with the loss of a child is the same. 100 years ago in Europe, it was just as common to watch your child die.
GN: Have you seen the film Children Underground (Edet Belzberg, 2000)? It’s about these kids that live in the subway in Roumania. These kids that have been abandonned by their
families. This little girl gets raped, yet when you see her hideous step-father threatening her, who’s a meter taller than her, you can understand why she would prefer to live in the subway surrounded by all these other kids that hit her. When it comes to human cruelty, documentaries can go so much further than films.