Cult films are tough to top, especially when they feature Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez clad in outlandish ’80s fashion. So we were intrigued to hear that newcomer Detention, now available on DVD, is being compared to one of our generation’s most iconic cult cinema classics, The Breakfast Club – in our opinion the greatest ’80s high-school film ever. But, with constant references to cult flicks such as Scream and Donnie Darko, plus fashion and music from the ’80s and ’90s, this latest cinema mash-up may offer some solid competition. US director Joseph Kahn fills us in.
How do you get funding for something this flagrant about referencing other movies?
Let’s be clear. The movie is not a movie about other movies. That’s just one aspect of it. We’re talking about fashion and music just as much. Ultimately, I wanted to construct a big movie about the nature of pop culture and how that defines kids.
Was it born out of nostalgia?
For people that are over the age of, say, 30, Detention is going to be very nostalgic because of all the ’90s references. But for people under 30, especially under 25, it plays completely different, because retro culture is a big thing. Kids today, because of the internet, have a much broader sense of pop culture.
You’ve embraced technology – you’re kind of an icon on Twitter. Do you feel there’s not enough critic-filmmaker-fan interaction?
The critic in me wants to talk to critics, the fan in me wants to talk to fans and the filmmaker in me wants to talk to filmmakers. Personally, I don’t see any delineation between my filmmaking and my film criticism. I’ll write film criticism myself on a blog and it’s part of my process as a filmmaker. Filmmakers do criticise other things just like film critics do.
In September, you wrote an epic response to critic Jim Emerson’s post on what he perceived as poor action editing in The Dark Knight.
[His post] was worse than wrong. It was arrogant. And mean. And the mean part was the way he was dismissing [Christopher] Nolan’s filmmaking altogether. The thing that really got me was when he was reediting it himself. He actually reedited a sequence and then claimed it was better. I thought that was crossing a line. That was actually disrespectful to the art form.
What were your chief inspirations?
My chief inspiration for the movie was Columbine. There was a life lesson, I felt, in Columbine. I remember reading about those two boys. Everyone said they were bullies and this and that. Ultimately, it turned out that those boys actually had girlfriends. Those boys actually had good families. I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school, so they were one up on me. What those boys had was a complete lack of empathy. If you go through high school and you do extraordinarily well but you don’t have empathy, then you’ve failed high school. Detention is exploring this idea of high school where everybody is enraptured in their own problems. Some people could be living a comedy, some people could be living a thriller. Detention is a lesson about empathy. And it’s a positive one.
Detention is available now on DVD. Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore, various locations including Abu Dhabi Mall (02 645 4858).