Entrevue avec Donal Mosher et Michael Palmieri (« Off Label »)
Et voici une entrevue avec Donal Mosher et Michael Palmieri, les cinéastes de Off Label, présenté cette année en Compétition internationale, en leur présence.
On the surface, Off Label is a film about over-medication in the States. But it’s also a much broader portrait of dysfunctional America. What were you interested in talking about in this film?
We both feel that America is a deeply contradictory place. The American emphasis on individual liberty and happiness, the religious influence in the social sphere, and the power of corporations to exploit basic human conditions such as mental and physical health for profit all come together in the issue of over-medication. As filmmakers we want these kind of social crossroads to be the settings for our films. The rhetoric of the American Dream produces an illusion of opportunity and independent individualism, but we feel that for so many people this dream creates dependence, loneliness, and vulnerability.
There are 8 characters in the film and they all have very strong stories. How did you meet them? Did you follow more than 8?
The characters came to us in almost too many ways to list which we think speaks to the immensity of the issue. Some came to us through the initial research our producers had done. Carl Elliott, a teacher of bio-ethics and a medical journalist, helped us find many characters including Michael Oldani – a former drug rep – and Mary Weiss, who’s story might be the most poignant. Andy, the former vet, came to us through Justine Sharrock’s book “Tortured” about young veterans returning to the US after engaging in torture. We certainly could have followed more than 8 people. Every time we talked about the project potential characters seemed to appear. Mike had a random conversation about the film with a man at the airport whose response was, “You should meet my mother. She takes a lot of pills and lives in a Bigfoot museum.” That’s how we found Paula and put her in the film.
Your film does not take any strong « anti-pharma » stand. Why did you decide to remain quite neutral on the subject?
We are always more interested in personal stories shaped by issues rather than the exposé style of filmmaking. We certainly think these stories show something of how wicked and callous for-profit medicine can be, but we wanted subjects who inhabited the ambiguities of this modern medicated life that we all lead. Our characters may be victims of a corrupted system but, like almost all of us, they are also complicit with that system for many reasons.
Your first film, October Country, also portrayed people living on the margin of society. Do you find marginal (or « invisible ») people more interesting?
The view from the margin is certainly more interesting. Things are more extreme there, more dire. The fact that people on the margins are the most vulnerable and exploited also gives them unique perspectives, strengths, and voices.
You also follow up October Country in the aesthetic chosen, which seems to mix tenderness and horror. Can you talk a bit about your aesthetic choices?
It’s the extreme tension of the two that fascinates us. Horror is moreextreme than the shock and outrage so many issues provoke. Likewise tenderness is a richer, far more open feeling than sympathy. To feel horror or tenderness is to be vulnerable. If the horrors of this world spring from exploitation, greed, and human misunderstanding then tenderness is the best balm that can be given. We like to reflect this not just in the storytelling but in the visuals, the music, even the sound design.
In October Country, there were ghosts, a witch and a lot of Halloween folklore. In Off Label, religious faith is an important theme and Bigfoot makes a cameo appearance. Are beliefs and superstitions another interest of yours, or is your next film going to be a vampire movie?
We are interested in how what is perceived to be metaphysical or folklore can be a metaphor for very concrete social conditions and personal issues. A vampire film? If our next project involves politicians then yes, definitely.