Update - SFiFF 55 - An Evening with Kenneth Branagh
I spent Friday evening in the company of actor/director/writer Kenneth Branagh (along with a couple of hundred other Festival patrons.) Branagh is this year’s recipient of the Founder’s Directing Award, an award given each year to a master of world cinema. Branagh has an impressive resume both in acting and directing and is probably more responsible than any individual in the last 20 years in making Shakespeare more accessible to newer generations.
The evening began with an interview and Q&A session before a very adoring audience. The interview was conducted by Jonathan Moscone, Artistic Director for the California Shakespeare Theatre. Mr. Moscone may be a wonderful theatre director, but he’s a lousy interviewer. Mr. Moscone forgot that the subject of the interview was to be Mr. Branagh, not himself. His introduction of Branagh (after spending too much time correcting his own,) went on far too long, with even Branagh appearing to be waiting for it to end. When Mr. Branagh was given the opportunity to speak, he was entertaining and enlightening - despite Mr. Moscone’s questions, not because of them. The best questions/comments came from the audience when they were given the opportunity to speak. One particularly heartfelt moment came from a Chilean audience member, who spoke of how cold, distant and foreign Shakespeare’s work had been for her as a youth in a non-English speaking language culture, and how much she appreciated Branagh’s films for giving her the opportunity to rediscover and appreciate the Bard’s work. Branagh was genuinely touched by the comment (as was the audience) and it was the type of interaction that makes these evenings’ special for all involved. The audience questions made Moscone’s slap-dash interview worth sitting through.
“Dead Again,” made in 1991 (his second film as a director,) was screened for the audience at the close of the Q&A. An affectionate homage to film noir, this was Branagh’s follow-up to “Henry V.” One wonders how he was able to get it made after only one film – and a Shakespeare film at that. Alas, ‘twas not a question to be asked…