Michael Apted interview

The 71-year-old Brit director was in the UAE to pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award

Hot seat, The Knowledge

He’s one of the UK’s most renowned directors: Apted has directed more than 20 movies over the past 50 years, including 007 adventure The World Is Not Enough, Enigma, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and most recently Chasing Mavericks. He’s also known for directing seven of the eight parts in documentary series Up, which filmed 14 people from childhood, every seven years, for 49 years.

How are you finding the UAE?
I was reading your magazine yesterday and it’s interesting the things you highlight – the singularity of Time Out in the UAE as opposed to [elsewhere]. You can actually judge the cultural landscape very well just by looking at the index.

Seen any good movies at the film festival?

I’ve actually only ever seen the documentaries [I’m judging]. You look at American and European documentaries and you think some of them are so [very] narcissistic. I hoped I’d come here and see some more rawness, because there are many communities here living through very raw times, and I have. And not just the political with a big ‘P’, but women’s roles in societies, the break-up of families – it’s exactly what I wanted to see. Documentaries are a great communicator to the west of what goes on here. The ignorance in the west about [the Arab world] is pretty startling.

Have you made any industry contacts to shoot out here?

I’m interested in doing a film in the Middle East. What’s interesting is how women’s voices are becoming more important in politics here. I’ve done a lot of films about women and I’d like to do one about that.

Why is so much of your work about women?

It occurred to me over my working life – some 50 years – that the most important political event I ever lived through was the changing role of women in [western] society. So I gravitate towards these stories.

So the award has forced a reassessment of your career?
I thought: Dubai is giving me a lifetime achievement award? Have they even seen my films? Have they heard of me? And lo and behold they have.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The fact I kept going – it hasn’t always been easy – and, on the whole, doing what I wanted to do without selling out too much. I paid the price for it domestically, with my marriage. I wonder about that, if it was the right thing to do.

You directed 007 during the Pierce Brosnan years. Do you see Daniel Craig’s Bond as a rejection of your movie?
It’s changed. I’ve always felt Bond changes with whoever plays [the role]. Clearly [Skyfall] is a huge success. It’s always been the power of the series that it does change. Are we going to get stuck in this world of violence; is that what parents want to take their kids to see?

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