x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Longest film gets more scenes in Dubai

One of the world's longest movies, at more than 120 hours, is now even longer after the director used the Gulf Film Festival to shoot extra footage

The French filmmaker Gerard Courant has been working on Cinematon since October, 1977.
The French filmmaker Gerard Courant has been working on Cinematon since October, 1977.

DUBAI // The movie that for years has held the title of the longest ever made became even longer over the weekend as director Gérard Courant shot additional scenes featuring visitors to the Gulf Film Festival.

Courant has been working on Cinématon, which is made up of more than 2,300 segments each lasting three minutes and 20 seconds, since October 1977. Each section features a person shot silently in a single take with a single camera.

The French director filmed himself for the first segment, which he numbered 0. Since then a host of major names from the film world including Jean-Luc Godard, Terry Gilliam and Wim Wenders plus hundreds of people from other walks of life have posed for his camera.

Now the length of the marathon film has been extended to 157 hours thanks to the new material shot at the festival, which is showcasing Courant's work on screens all over Dubai Festival City.

"Shooting here is quite special because I've got an opportunity to film people from the cinema world and the arts in general from countries where I've never shot before," said Courant. "So it's an opportunity for me to approach this region."

The director approaches people he is interested in filming and asks them to appear. The segments - also called cinématons, meaning vignettes - are unscripted and spontaneous and he does not direct his subjects, who are asked to choose a location and decide what they want to do on camera. Gilliam, for example, is seen larking around and eating a banknote.

The first person Courant shot in Dubai was the Kuwaiti director and producer Abdullah Boushahri.

"He set up his camera and he was very quiet and calm, then he just switched it on," said Boushahri. "The first half was a bit awkward for me because you're not talking, you're not being asked questions, there's no direction, it's just you being you in front of the camera.

"Then halfway through I felt more comfortable and started saying 'hello' to friends and playing with my phone, I started taking pictures of Gérard - then he said, 'it's done'.

"You feel part of history, you feel you've been documented, you feel honoured, you feel you're part of the visual memory of a very important filmmaker and cinema."

Courant never set out to make such a long work. "At first I wasn't sure how the audience would receive it," he added. "Only after three months, when the public received it extremely well and it was in demand, then I felt it was something that could be continued endlessly."

The clips should, he said, be about truth and integrity. "It's not about displaying something eccentric or different, it's just displaying your true self even though you look uncomfortable or shy or hesitant in front of the camera."

Courant's appearance in Dubai comes weeks after it was reported that an even longer film had been released by a Danish collective. Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki) runs for 240 hours and was screened for the first time last month in the Finnish capital. But the Frenchman is dismissive of the project.

"I do not consider this a film, it is just a collective project," he said. "My film remains the longest ever by one director only. I would not want to compare my work to that type of initiative, which was created just to be the longest with no other real purpose."

csimpson@thenational.ae