One look at Kevin Macdonald’s filmography and its clear that the director loves telling real life stories. This includes documentaries such as One Day in September (1999) — which won him the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature — and real-life inspired films such as The Last King of Scotland (2006), State of Play (2009) and the recent The Mauritanian.
Talking about why he gravitates towards in such stories, he says, “Maybe it’s lack of imagination. I could never do a science fiction. I will start a movie which starts form some real life aspect. I think that is away I find easy to begin something with and then build the characters. Also I think I made a lot of documentaries, so that could be another reason. I think that real life is far more interesting than any other work of fiction.”
Macdonald says it is rather a challenge to find a balance between the documentary style true storytelling and keeping the entertainment factor in mind.
“First of all, I didn’t want to make movies that will only be seen by people who already believed what I was trying to say in the films. That is the problem with liberal, political films because they tend to only be seen by liberal minded people. I always wanted to make movies that would have an entertainment value as well,” the Scottish filmmaker says.
The Mauritanian is based on the 2015 memoir Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a true story of Slahi’s experience of being held for fourteen years without charge in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The film stars Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
“Obviously star power helps more people to come and watch it. So a broader audience comes and engages in the story. I don’t see it as political film. I see it as a humanistic film. All three characters played by Jodie, Tahar and Benedict are shown to have great human dignity and decency and that is what is very important to me,” the 53-year-old explains.
Asked if he takes any creative liberties when making such films, the director shares, “I didn’t take any liberty in this film for sure. This I what happened in Guantanamo Bay. Luckily we had all real people who were involved in the film including Slahi and they all read the script many times.”