Onward and Upward with Alejandro Jodorowsky
On Tweeting the meaning of life, crowdfunding ENDLESS POETRY, and avoiding the talent-destruction that happens in Hollywood.
Poesía sin fin is the second chapter of the series that began with The Dance of Reality. Jodorowsky predicts making three more parts to say everything he wants to about art and being an artist. One thing he wants to say is that revolution is coming—sooner than we think. And that the only thing which can prepare us for it is art. Nowadays, Jodorowsky shares his thoughts not only through art but also via social media. He holds public lectures every Wednesday. During these discussions, he tries to talk to people about the meaning of life and art. His Poesía sin fin debuted at Cannes, where I had the chance to talk to him directly.
Artur Zaborski: Poesía sin fin is your first film financed through donations from your fans. When did you decide to try crowdfunding and how did you like it?
Alejandro Jodorowsky: It was fantastic. Earlier, when I made Dance of Reality, I had Michel Seydoux, who gave me money to make it. With him it was easy. This time it was much harder, because he disappeared, and with him, all the money [laughs]. He is a very powerful man right now, he has a great fortune, but he is focused on football these days. So this time I had only one million for my film. And when the situation looked really bad, especially from the perspective of my assistants, I said to them: 'Listen, don’t be scared. We’re going to start shooting. Miracles happen.' So we started to shoot. And I said to the camera: 'We have no money, so instead of shooting I’ll tell what this story is about.' With this message we became beggars and started to ask people for money. That’s how I got familiar with crowdfunding.
Zaborski: Did you have to wait a long time for the money? How quickly did people react to your request?
Jodorowsky: They started to come very quickly. Many people reacted. They wanted me to make my film in the way I wanted to. More than 14,000 of them reacted. They understand that making movies is my work, but my work is not just a part of the industry. For others, a movie is always industrial. And like all industries, they have only one goal: money. All the pictures are done in order to bring in money. When work is less important than goals, then the work is perverted. The story is only important in the case of money. Actors just star in films for the money. The ideas are run for money, too. Everything for money. I decided to try to take money out of the industry. I wanted to make an artistic, poetical film.
Zaborski: What kind of viewers were you thinking of then?
Jodorowsky: I knew that I could not use the same public that the film industry does. They want movies in order to have fun. They need them to relax. So I needed to create my public. And then it turned out that this public already exists and they are waiting for films like mine. They are not idiots. The only possibility to make ambitious films in the industrial way is to make a film about social problems. The industry accepts them and shows those poor people in this poor country. These kind of films are cheap, because you don’t need costumes and are focused on suffering. I’m not interested in that kind of cinema. Not political films either. I want to make them poetical. Thanks to my films, I’ve become an outsider. So I can manage without industrial money. And I will, because all I need is to make films. I’d like to make a continuation of Poesía sin fin soon.
Zaborski: Do you think Hollywood kills film auteurs?
Jodorowsky: I find Nicolas Winding Refn one of the most talented directors from the young generation. He is really artistic and has great talent. But he has a problem. He has to produce films in the world of industrial cinema. He needs to have a star, he needs to shoot in Hollywood. It is very dangerous. He needs to be careful and protect his talent. Otherwise he will step into the business. He has Drive which was very successful. Now everybody in the industry wants him to make another Drive to earn money. He probably must compromise, which is very dangerous. He is very close to making not art, but publicity. Hollywood destroys all talent, even Orson Welles. I hope he will resist. He is very strong.
Zaborski: For spreading the news about crowdfunding you used social media.
Jodorowsky: Yes, on Twitter I have 1.2 million followers. On Facebook I don’t care, but probably there are more than two million. It took me six years to create that. Every day I share fifteen tweets about philosophy, poetry, not about what I ate or how I digested. I post about the meaning of life, who we are, what is the language we speak about sexuality or materiality. I speak only about poetry and important issues. People often tell me that I am crazy, because Twitter is only for idiots. It’s not true. Many people are not idiots and they need a pull, which I create.
Zaborski: Let’s talk about it then. Tell me, what is the meaning of life?
Jodorowsky: I will answer with an anecdote. Every Wednesday, I hold a conference in my house. One day when I went to a hospital, a neurologist asked me for help. He told me his wife was dying of cancer. She didn’t want to see a priest or a doctor, but me, because she had seen my conference. I asked why. He answered only that she would die very soon, so he just asked me to please visit her. I agreed and went to meet her. All this time I was thinking about what I would tell her. I didn’t expect her question. She asked me what the meaning of life was. I told her: 'Listen, life has no meaning.' 'I wanted to hear that,' she said. 'Life has no meaning, you just have to live your life. That is the sense of it,' I added. Her question was: How to live your life? My answer is always the same: By yourself. Try to be yourself, not what others want you to be. It will make you feel better and improve our future, too.
Zaborski: Are you optimistic about the future?
Jodorowsky: Everybody knows the system we live in is bad. No one is happy. We know that politics is rotten, and that religion is a business. Everybody knows economics has no justice. There are a lot of people who don’t have enough, and a lot who have too much. We know we’re destroying the Earth. Actually, we know everything are we doing wrong. And if we knew everything that will be in the future, we would change it. When I made films in the past, I could kill an animal. I believed that killing animals for art was to sacrifice them, like in religion. But I was not aware of animals suffering. Then many people came out who started to shout about why do we kill animals if they are nice and beautiful. Naturally, now we eat less meat. It is like this—step by step. In the future, the new generation will make a political revolution, because the world is no good right now. Everybody knows that war is a business. How many young people would like to go to a war and get killed today? People right now are global, they don’t want to die for their countries. Violence is now happening elsewhere, especially over access to water.
Zaborski: Can you predict when this revolution will begin?
Jodorowsky: I think one day we will witness a strike. It will be a big catastrophe. Maybe an atomic bomb in Europe, which kills a lot of people, maybe it will be an earthquake, or maybe it will be terrible pollution. Things like this. And then all of the people will say: No more!
Zaborski: What stops us from saying this out loud now?
Jodorowsky: There are a lot of things in many countries. One of them is religion, especially the Church. There is too much power for Catholicism. Religion is already rotten. It is all about power and money. There are a lot of people who know how to use it to make their own profits. They do that and they will continue to. We have to create a lot of things in the new way. Religion is one of them. And family, too.
Zaborski: The way your family looks is very unusual.
Jodorowsky: My family tries to put itself into the future, not into the past. My son has a son. He wants to raise him in Taoism, Chinese philosophy, which Mao Tse-tung destroyed. It’s said that the past is in the future. Taoism is not Chinese anymore. It’s for all people in the world. In the future, it will look like that: We will have no nationalities. We all will consider ourselves humans. In my family, I am not the head of it, nor the father either. My son doesn’t call me that, he doesn’t use the word father. He calls me by my name. Thanks to that, there is no distance between us. We are all equal.
Zaborski: Why did you decide on that kind of relationship with your children?
Jodorowsky: Because I didn’t want to elevate my children to compete with themselves or with me. If you use this technique, then you force your boys to focus on their coming first. He feels guilty. If he doesn’t, he wants to fight with his brothers, and it is a problem. We still have a problem with sex, men’s and women’s equality. Men still have more power. It’s crazy.
Zaborski: So what did you decide to do?
Jodorowsky: I decided to destroy the papa and the mama, and I did it. I have four children, and they all call me Alejandro. No papa, no mama. It was very difficult, because when they started to speak they used mama and papa. But me and my wife stopped them. Now my children continue this model.
Zaborski: You mentioned Taoism, which reminded me that in your film, you recreated great places from your past, but they look as if they were about to be made in the future.
Jodorowsky: I wanted to make a connection between my past, and things which happened then, and the moment of my life I’m at right now. Like meeting Pina Bausch and the consequences of that meeting. We had the same teacher, José Limón, and we met in Chile. That is why I decided to go there and shoot the picture. The café was no longer in the same place, but four hundred meters further. It was magical, it enabled me to make my idea clear and reasonable.
Zaborski: And what about the posters and pressbooks you prepared on your own?
Jodorowsky: Actually, I prepared them with my wife, Pascale Montandon. We painted them together. I made the drawings, she added the colors. We created a painter, Pascale Alejandro. You can find him in the credits of the film, with all the people who collaborated as producers via crowdfunding. It includes more than 10,000 names.