Writer-director Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind follows two small-town friends, Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike (Mos Def) as disaster at a VHS-only video rental store forces them to try to replace the wiped tapes ... by re-shooting the films they once contained. When their ultra-low-budget, ultra-high-spirit remakes of films like Ghostbusters, King Kong and The Lion King become hits with customers (who are told the tapes are Swedish imports), Jerry and Mike's absurd yet logical attempt to save the store becomes an unexpected starting point for their own artistic journey -- and a celebration of movie making and movie watching. Gondry brings Jerry and Mike's collaborations to life with the mix of big-idea film making and intimate wonder he's demonstrated in all his work, including Human Nature, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep and Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Be Kind Rewind will premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival; Gondry spoke with Cinematical about everything from the joy of creation, racism in film and popular culture, and how Sundance feels different from other film festivals: " (At Sundance) ... I felt encouraged to continue; in Cannes, I felt really like people were asking me to stop doing my job."
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Cinematical: I guess the first, and easiest question is where did the idea behind Be Kind Rewind come from for you?
Michel Gondry: It comes from a utopia I had -- do you say 'having a utopia?' -- a belief I have that people can create their own entertainment. I always wanted to create this community that would come and tell their own story, shoot it -- and watch them. The idea is to not have one entity who creates the work, the project, and another entity who consumes it; the idea is people create their own work, like somebody cultivating his garden.
Cinematical: And in the film, we see the characters go from imitation to actual creation; that was always part of the idea?
Michel Gondry: Yes; it's very important to me that they go through this journey; I don't want to advocate imitation; I want to encourage creation. In this case, they start with imitation because their goal is not being creative; they don't realize they're being creative until they become successful and they are forced to be creative. And actually Alma (Melonie Diaz), who's sort of the smarter, the smartest guy of the band -- she's a girl -- tells them that they are much more creative than what they think they are. And then they realize that they don't have to copy movies; they can create their own. And I think it's very important that people not just make their own entertainment, but that they create it, that they really invent the story.