Heartland Interviews: MARK GORDON

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Filmmaker Mark Gordon is a world traveler. Between the films he’s made and the Truly Moving Pictures that inspire his filmmaking, he’s been just about everywhere a person can go. In 2002, his film Her Majesty, set in small-town New Zealand, won a Crystal Heart Award at the Festival. His next project, Paper Son, criss-crosses between San Francisco and China. Among the films that inspire him most is the Italian classic Cinema Paradiso, and he counts Chinese director Yimou Zhang as one of his biggest influences.

With such a worldly view of movies and movie making, Gordon’s gained a good perspective on what it is that makes a film a Truly Moving Picture.

“They really transport you to another time and place,” he observes. To Gordon, a film should be about the discovery, about not only meeting but exceeding an audience’s expectations.

How does he know he’s seen a Truly Moving Picture? “When you come out of those films, you feel like, ‘I want to call someone, I want to tell someone right away,” he insists. “Feeling like you just found this gem, and you want to tell people. That’s the highest compliment you can pay a filmmaker.”

There’s one filmmaker Gordon singles out to compliment: Yimou Zhang. The Chinese director has been making movies since the 1980s, and his films consistently deliver the sense of discovery Gordon searches for.

Zhang’s The Road Home, about a man who remembers how his mother and father met and married, is among his favorites, though Gordon is quick to add, “Every time, everything he touches is a wonderful story, wonderful filmmaking.”

“I seem to have an affinity for filmmakers from other countries,” he continues, “because I do like stories that deal with cross-cultural elements, that can take specific elements but make you feel the universal aspect.”

Finding films like The Road Home and Cinema Paradiso doesn’t happen often. If it were up to Gordon, however, they’d be the rule rather than the exception.

“I think [American audiences] want to see stories with meaning, stories that are lasting and enduring, with characters they can believe in,” he says. Continuing on the idea of encouraging Hollywood to make more Truly Moving Pictures, Gordon adds, “The studios are going to follow wherever the audience goes.”

Gordon likens this desire for something enriching in a film to a child who can only live on a steady diet of sugars and sweets for so long, eventually needing some substance.

“I think it’s the same way with a taste in films,” he adds. “There’s room for a wide range of films. But in the end, I think it’s about the films you want to go back to and watch over and over again.”

And Mark Gordon is one filmmaker who’ll continue to work to that end, creating films for audiences to discover time after time.

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