I am from South Africa, went to first grade in Ithaca, New York, spent three years in France attending university and am currently living in Prague, Czech Republic.
The first movie I ever saw was Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it transported me – so much so, that when I left the darkened theatre with my mother after the screening, I was convinced my experience had lasted an entire night. The dimming of the lights and the flickering of the images had changed my life forever.
The next landmark came in 1999, when the American Film Institute published their “100 Years… 100 Movies” list, and the 10 TV episodes with excerpts from these works held me in rapt attention. This year and the next were also the (ultimately short-lived) turning point of American filmmaking, and my late teenage years were the perfect time for me to be immersed in the unconventional stories and storytelling approaches of Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, The Matrix, Three Kings, Dancer in the Dark, Memento and Requiem for a Dream.
And so, I started during this flowering stage and worked my way back to the very beginning of the cinema in 1895. I took a deep breath before I watched the Lumière Brothers’ Arrival of a Train and Workers Leaving the Factory, the realisation dawning on me that there is no pre-Lumière, at least not in any way that resembles film today.
My French honour’s degree thesis focused on the cinematic development of François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel character across five films.
My first master’s degree thesis examined the scope and significance of tracking shots in Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba, Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. Staying with Anderson, my second master’s degree thesis tracked the inclusion of extraordinary moments (from puddings speaking to characters seemingly hearing a non-diegetic song being played on the soundtrack) in Punch-Drunk Love and Magnolia.
My Ph.D. dissertation, which primarily concentrated on a handful of films by Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People, In This World, 9 Songs and A Cock and Bull Story), considered the definition of realism within the context of combinations of so-called “real” or archive footage with reconstructions or dramatisations. I reached the conclusion that “realism” is no longer tied to the experience of the viewer in the world alone but also to the experiences with which the viewer is confronted in the cinema.
I have worked as a professional film critic, first at a print newspaper and then at an online news service, and I am a member of FIPRESCI.