As a daughter of divorce, I'm painfully aware of how kids can be made pawns in the games their parents play. But what if out of that pain we managed to created another game of our own, this time as adults, recreating our parent's life? This concept is exactly what made Karim Goury's documentary The Man Inside a wonderfully important and personal film, one that I walked away from at once touched and disturbed by at the recent Gulf Film Festival. The Man Inside follows Goury on a journey inside the room in Kuwait where his father lived the last few years of his life, and places him on the path of several momentous discoveries.
Goury himself is the perfect spokesperson for all well adjusted, now fully grown up and integrated children of divorce. He's boyishly handsome, kind, well spoken and refreshingly insightful on his lack of withheld pain. I'm always amused when people's faces betray a bit of feeling sorry for me when they hear my story. While it's true my father is no longer actively in my life, I'm perfectly fine with that, actually more than OK. So meeting Goury is a bit like looking in a mirror, a balanced mirror, and his film provided an explanation for so much inside me, so much I'd never fully articulated but nonetheless experienced and subconsciously felt.
I caught up with Goury in Dubai during GFF, after his film's success at the Dubai International Film Festival last December. Currently, The Man Inside is at the Cannes Film Festival's Marché du Film, in the Doc Corner.
Why did you choose to tell your story, from inside your father's hotel room?
Karim Goury: Maybe because the film I made before [Made in Egypt] was a documentary done in the classical way, with interviews, with a journey, movement, and as I felt I still had something to say about this story and go further, I didn't want to make the same film. I thought that with the audiotape, the voice of my father and his letters, I wanted to let my father's voice bring the life in the movie, while I'm just standing still in this room. My point was to be in this space, in his place, trying to understand, trying to see the things that he saw, hearing the things that he heard, even with thirty years of a gap.
How do you deal with the hurt of a father you never knew? And how do you go through making an entire film, bringing up that hurt day after day after day?
KG: I'm not sure I suffer still. I used to. It's so abstract, I never met him, I never knew him, I never saw him, it's strange to explain. It's as if he was not my father after all -- but still, he's my father. I'm from his blood, and on the other hand he's just a movie character. I decided to have fun with him, to use him as an actor and to make movies. I got rid of the bad things a long time ago.
You received some post-production help through Enjaaz, part of the Dubai International Film Festival, but what was your total budget for the film?
KG: About 40,000 euros, more or less. I filmed it all myself. I shot with a 7D Canon camera which was challenging when I had to set up the shots.
Now that you've made two films about your father, have you thought about making it a trilogy?
KG: Maybe the religious way is a diptych, so that's an option. Maybe the third part, if there is a trilogy, it will be later. Now I don't have a project about my father, I have to let him rest a bit but you never know. The question is always asked of me, are you done with him, because at the end of the film it's like a liberation and I leave him behind.
But it's not that simple, is it?
KG: It's like a relationship I have with my father, maybe in months, in years, I have to go back to him somehow, ask him something and the answer will be a film. When I made Made in Egypt, I was discovering him, then the situation changed. I got married, had children, and maybe because of my own personal situation I had to refer to him again and ask him "what is to be a father?" What kind of father were you and what kind of father do I have to be? So I made a film maybe to have answers, to ask questions.
What would you say to filmmakers in the Gulf region, young directors who are just starting out?
KG: The first thing is shoot. It's possible to shoot now, and especially for this region the technology is not a problem for them. But also be careful of the technology and don't be seduced by nice images, what is important is what's inside, the content and to be genuine and try to look within ourselves to make something interesting. Often people make cinema by making what they've already seen in films and that's boring to me. I prefer a film that is less nicely constructed or not that well shot but very personal and from inside. "Inside" is a good word for me!
Images courtesy of the Dubai International Film Festival, used with permission